With his job on the line and many voters in his own electorate desperate to see him ousted, Tony Abbott is seeking credit wherever he can take it.
His latest claim? That he helped to bring about same-sex marriage in Australia last year.
“When all is said and done, I helped to make the thing happen,” the former prime minister told The Sydney Morning Herald . “I set up the process which opened up the possibility and even the likelihood of change. Now that it has happened, I absolutely accept the outcome. It’s the law of the land and that’s the way it is.”
Mr Abbott was one of the nation’s most relentless crusaders against legalising same-sex marriage.
The day the postal survey on marriage equality began in 2017, he urged people to vote no.
“I say to you if you don’t like same-sex marriage, vote no. If you’re worried about religious freedom and freedom of speech, vote no, and if you don’t like political correctness, vote no because voting no will help to stop political correctness in its tracks,” he said.
Less than a month later, he published an opinion piece in then-Fairfax newspapers arguing that legalising same-sex marriage would “fundamentally change society”.
“Already, indeed, same-sex couples in a settled domestic relationship have exactly the same rights as people who are married,” he wrote.
“To demand ‘marriage equality’, therefore, is quite misleading. Same-sex couples already have that. This debate is about changing marriage, not extending it. And if you change marriage, you change society; because marriage is the basis of family; and family is the foundation of community.”
He went on to chastise supporters of same-sex marriage for showing “little love for anyone who disagrees with them”, accused them of wanting to “subvert marriage” and that it ultimately “remains a different love” to that between heterosexuals.
“It’s time to say that political correctness has got completely out of hand and to vote ‘no’ to stop it in its tracks,” Mr Abbott wrote.
And then — after all that — he didn’t even vote.
While 75 per cent of Mr Abbott’s Warringah electorate voted in favour of same-sex marriage, he was among 10 Coalition MPs who chose to abstain from putting their vote through.
No Tony, you didn’t progress marriage equality, you mendacious newt pic.twitter.com/hJ6KCK0KUp
— Amy Coopes (@coopesdetat) February 11, 2019
Anti-Abbott sentiment has been building in his own electorate for several months now.
As news.com.au reported in November, the level of rising anger and support for change in Warringah has shocked even organisers of several groups that have emerged to campaign against Mr Abbott.
Louise Hislop, convener of Voices of Warringah, said the same-sex marriage plebiscite and Wentworth by-election result last year had woken people up.
“It’s got to the point where people are saying enough is enough,” she said.
Voices of Warringah was launched in October and is modelled on the Voices for Indi campaign that saw Cathy McGowan take the rural Victorian seat from Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella.
Ms Hislop acknowledged that part of the group’s aim was to create a groundswell for change in Warringah to encourage an independent candidate to stand against Mr Abbott because “if people see there is a movement they are more likely to put their hand up”.
But she said it wasn’t purely about getting rid of Mr Abbott, it was also about electing someone who would represent the community’s views.
“Many feel he’s not representative of us, that’s part of it,” Ms Hislop said. “We’ve tried to get him to engage on issues like climate change, but he’s become less representative of what we want. We’ve also tried on same-sex marriage and the ABC.”
The “anyone but Abbott” sentiment appears to be uniting people of all ages and across political views.
A ReachTEL poll published in The Sunday Herald and The Sunday Age over the weekend suggested voters are well and truly switched off him.
In the poll, 60 per cent of the residents canvassed rated Mr Abbott’s performance as a local member as “poor”.
Of those who voted for him previously, 78 per cent said they would vote for someone else.