Speaking as a Tasmanian, and a proud one at that, I can confidently say that the worst thing my state has ever contributed to our national political discourse is Eric Abetz. The Liberal Senator for Tassie is entirely pointless, has achieved nothing of note despite nearly three full decades in office, and represents the most base motivations of conservative politicking at its grubby, shitty worst. Thankfully, however, his lengthy (and entirely unworthy) stint in the political sun may be nearing an end. And on this note, he is somehow blaming it on the fact that he is male. Not with a bang, etc.
The story goes that Abetz has long coasted his way to repeated re-elections thanks to his cozy spot at the top of the Liberal Party senate ticket in Tasmania. That spot has meant, since his election in 1994, Abetz hasn’t ever really had to test his own individual popularity amongst voters; the party ticket has comfortably kept him in office for 27 years.
But that cushy ride is over thanks to a shock party pre-selection ballot, that will see him fall to third overall on the Liberal ticket, meaning retaining his seat at the next election becomes a very difficult task.
Abetz lost the preselection vote to sitting senators Jonno Duniam and Wendy Askew, who will occupy the top two spots on the Tasmanian Liberal ticket come the election.
In a radio interview in Tasmania yesterday, Abetz conceded that this was something of a “huge problem” for him as far as keeping his job went.
Remarkably enough though, Abetz tried to fob his woes off on the fact that he is old (he’s 63), and on the fact that he was born male. Which is… certainly a choice.
On Triple M Hobart, Abetz stated that “the thing that encouraged me immensely was there was no criticism of work ethic, energy, capacity, advocacy skills, getting things done for Tasmania, being a voice for reason in this silly politically correct world at the moment.”
And then came the kicker: “None of those things were criticised. When people want to make manoeuvres, they have to find something that you can’t do anything about. And one thing I can’t do anything about is the day I was born, nor the sex that I was given courtesy of the chromosome interaction, whatever, which caused me to be a male.”
While third billing on the ticket isn’t entirely unwinnable, it certainly becomes far more difficult for him, and could see him turfed out on his ass. So in that regard, here’s a handful of Eric Abetz fun facts:
- Born in then-West Germany, Abetz’ grandfather was a high ranking official in the Nazi Party’s forestry office. His great uncle, Otto Abetz, was a member of the SS who was convicted of war crimes for his role in transporting French Jewish people to Nazi extermination camps.
- In 1994, Abetz attacked the push to decriminalise homosexuality in Tasmania, stating that “[The Keating Labor Government] is telling Tasmanian families that their value system is wrong,” that “this legislation is an affront to Australian democracy,” and that the bill would lead to incest being normalised.
- In 2009, while serving as opposition science spokesman, Abetz was asked to contribute a message that would be beamed to a planet 20 light years away that researchers theorise may have conditions that are capable of supporting life. Abetz (allegedly) wrote “The Coalition dreams that by the time you receive this message in 2029 Australia will be free of Labor debt. Sadly we’re not holding our breath.”
- While appearing on The Project in 2014, Abetz asserted the repeatedly disproven claim that there was a link between breast cancer and abortion.
- During a 2015 radio interview, Eric Abetz referred to US Justice Clarence Thomas as “the negro American on the supreme court of the United States.”
- In 2016, he bemoaned the fact that media doesn’t celebrate gay people who “come out” as straight.
- During the marriage equality plebiscite, Abetz argued robustly in favour of the No vote, asserting “only dead fish go with the flow,” which somehow, in this context, meant people who voted Yes.
So yeah, look. Probably not a bad thing that he’ll have to actually get the public to specifically vote for him this time around.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article attributed a quote concerning Brittany Higgins to Senator Abetz. Senator Abetz denies having said it. It has been removed from the article.