Gerard Henderson on Mitchell’s hatchet job on Abbott

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Susan Mitchell’s Anti-Catholic Sectarianism

In the Acknowledgements section of her book Tony Abbott: A Man’s Man, Susan Mitchell praised Scribe managing director Henry Rosenbloom “for his impeccable taste and fine-tuning”.  Dr Mitchell’s book is essentially an anti-Catholic sectarian rant in which the author claims that the Opposition leader “never left the Catholic Church”. Mitchell’s anti-Catholic sectarianism was analysed by Gerard Henderson in his Sydney Morning Herald column on 4 October 2011 – here.  The focus of this MWD analysis turns on Mitchell’s factual errors – which Rosenbloom left uncorrected in the text – along with some tendentious claims which are not supported by evidence.

Susan Mitchell’s Howlers

? Page 3.  Susan Mitchell writes that Tony Abbott is “also opposed to RU 486 (the morning-after pill)”.   In fact, RU 486 and the morning-after pill are not the same.  Abbot publicly opposed the former (RU 486) – but not the latter.

? Page 4.  According to Susan Mitchell, “an analytical study of the results of the 2010 election show that Tony Abbott had “a woman problem”.

Since the last election was nearly a dead-heat between Labor (led by Julia Gillard) and the Coalition (led by Tony Abbott) – if Mr Abbott had a “women problem” at the August 2010 election then, to be consistent, Ms Gillard must have had a “men” problem”.  Yet no such claim is made in the book.

? Page 5.  Mitchell claims:

Even now, when the polls demonstrate the Coalition’s lead over the Labor Party, and Abbott’s current dominance over Julia Gillard as the country’s preferred leader, there is still a consistent lack of approval for him from women.

Tony Abbott: A Man’s Man coincided with the release of Newspoll’s reanalysis of surveys conducted over July-August 2011 (The Australian, 27 September 2011). According to Newspoll, some 39 per cent of female voters think that Gillard would make a better prime minister than Abbott – compared with 37 per cent of female voters who think that Abbott would make a better prime minister than Gillard. In other words, Susan Mitchell’s assertion is not supported by evidence.

? Page 5.  Mitchell claims that “every one of Abbott’s policies has been reduced to simplistic mantras beginning with the word ‘stop’ or ‘kill’”.  This is mere hyperbole – unsupported by any evidence of any kind.  For example, Abbott’s parental leave plan does not commence with mantras such as “stop” or “kill”.

[.....bulk of article .....]

? At Page 138, Mitchell writes:

On 14 September 2010, Julia Gillard was sworn in as  the first Australian female prime minister by the first Australian female governor-general.

Once again, this is hopelessly wrong.  Julia Gillard was sworn in as the first female prime minister on 24 June 2010.  She contested the August 2010 election as the incumbent prime minister. Mitchell and Rosenbloom should know this.  Clearly Scribe does not employ a fact-checker.

? At Page 139, Mitchell writes that, following Julia Gillard’s formation of a minority government:

His [Abbott’s] first reaction, born of rage, was to declare that Gillard’s government was illegitimate, and to consider refusing to grant supply.  This was the equivalent of throwing a bomb into our system of democratic government.  Wiser heads must have dissuaded him from considering this course of action, as he didn’t pursue it.

Tony Abbott never spoke about refusing supply to the Gillard Government.  No source of any kind is cited by Mitchell for her wild assertion.

? At Page 163, Mitchell writes:

It took the news of a massacre of more than 70 innocent people in Norway by a white Christian far-right extremist to stop all talk of killing anyone.  Chilling, too, was the praise of John Howard, Archbishop Pell, and Keith Windschuttle that appeared in the murderer’s manifesto.  This man was not mad; he just saw himself as an instrument of a cause far greater than himself, and he believed that his mission was to destroy those who opposed him.

Anders Behring Breivik, in his manifesto 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, wrote favourably of Australia’s border protection and unwillingness to appease Islam. He then murdered scores of non-Muslim Norwegians. For the record, the Norway judicial system has yet to determine whether Breivik is sane. Once again, Mitchell just made this up.

? At Pages 168-169 Mitchell writes:

The previous Liberal leader, Malcolm Turnbull, is so broadly popular with both Labor and Liberal voters that he may ultimately defeat those conservative members of the Coalition who have taken control of the party under the leadership of Tony Abbott.

There is no evidence to support Mitchell’s assertion that Malcolm Turnbull is popular with Liberal voters.  Moreover, the leader of the Liberal Party is elected by Liberal MPs – not by the Coalition, which comprises Liberals and Nationals.  Susan Mitchell is one of many Labor or Greens voters who want Turnbull to lead the Opposition at the next election.


Apart from her evident sectarianism, Susan Mitchell clearly dislikes Tony Abbott because she regards him as a proud-and-out heterosexual who once expressed views that the focus of women should be on domestic duties and who had older male role models.  Apparently, according to Dr Mitchell, this makes Abbott unsuitable to become prime minister.  However, she is not on record as finding that such traits should have hindered the likes of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating – and John Curtin –  from making it to The Lodge in Canberra.

In her 1982 book Robert J Hawke:  A Biography, Blanche d’Alpuget wrote about Hawke’s “emotional relationships with older men”.  In his 1996 book Keating: The Inside Story, John Edwards recorded that in his first speech in 1970 Paul Keating suggested that governments should act “to put the working wife back in her home”. Keating then believed that, wherever possible, mothers should be at home with the children.

Both Hawke and Keating became successful prime ministers. Yet, according to Mitchell, the case against Abbott includes the fact that he “has been very reliant on a series of older male mentors throughout his life” (Page 3) and because he once supported the idea that “women belonged in the home and the kitchen as wives and mothers” (Page 22).

On the Showdown program on Sky News last Tuesday, Susan Mitchell acknowledged that her book on Tony Abbott was “a polemic”.  She should have added that it was replete with errors and should have confessed that Henry Rosenbloom at Scribe does not have a fact-checker.

Read the whole hilarious issue here.

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