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Thursday, 5 September 2013

Crabb draws a more human Abbott out of the closet

Things looked unpromising, at first, on the ABC's Kitchen Cabinet last night when it appeared that the tightly-scripted Tony Abbott would prevail in the face of Annabel Crabb's relentless domesticising. In the early parts of the program Abbott's daughters somehow got mixed up in the melange - shunted into action, no doubt, by wary spinners intent on softening Abbott's image for the benefit of female voters - and were suitably cast, taking responsibility for the salad. And helping dad put butter on fish (really, Tony? That's it?). In this part of the show the conversation remained similar to any other stage on the hustings, now, three days out from the poll. The conversation was stilted, unremarkable, and wooden.

The way things panned out once the kids were shunted off-stage demonstrated how inappropriate the set-piece political mentality is for a program such as this, where a congenial, sociable tone tends to edge out the more ghastly forms of verbal utterance, those which we are delivered day-in and day-out through the media on doorstops and in shopping malls and in press conferences.

Abbott clearly hates this kind of unscripted performance, but he soldiered on regardless and delivered something more human than we're used to. There were bits and pieces about his early years, about life in the Liberal Party following the Ruddslide of 2007, and plenty of other topics of discussion that enabled Abbott to show how uncomfortable it is possible for a politician to be once you get him or her away from the backroom minders. Abbott looked distinctly uncomfortable throughout the show but at least it was a genuine sort of uncomfortableness. He hates scrutiny, it's clear. (He really hates it.) But Crabb managed to let us see aspects of the aspiring leader that we rarely ever see.

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