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Most of you will already be aware that I am not a fan of Tony Abbott.  If you raise the topic of Paid Parental Leave with me, for example, you may wish to brace yourself for a diatribe about the “calibre” of the women our Prime Minister privileges above other hard-working women who stay at home without any pay at all for years rather than months.  I will probably also make liberal use of the words integrity and backbone in a less than flattering manner.

Nevertheless, I am disgusted by the plethora of groundless attacks on Tony Abbott that have increased in recent days instead of abating.  In particular, a photo of Mr Abbott in his fire-fighting gear seems to have drawn a ridiculous amount of ire.  I must say, as a photographer, that it’s a great portrait.  No matter how his term as Prime Minister turns out, it’s a photo that he and his family should be proud of and treasure.  It is no surprise that his official Facebook page has it as his profile picture.

Many, however, have used this photograph as any opportunity to attack Mr Abbott.  It seems he can do no right.  If he didn’t fight fires he’d be accused of being out of touch with the ordinary Australians threatened by the bushfires.  When he does, he’s accused of using it as a photo opportunity (even though he’s done this for over a decade).  When some photos turn out to be from previous fires he’s attended, thus proving it wasn’t just a photo op’, he draws criticism for allowing old photos to be circulated.  It’s symptomatic of the sort of people  – more than 170,000 of them – who’ve liked the defamatory Facebook page Tony Abbott – Worst PM in Australian History.  Not bad for someone who’s only been in office for less than two months.  And there are others, of course, such as Abbott ‘the Maggot’, the content of which is too obscene for me to repeat.

My point is that, whatever his faults, of which I am sure there are many as he’s an imperfect human being like the rest of us, very few people are giving Tony Abbott a fair go.  Even those who consider his volunteer fire fighting “laudable” have criticised him for not getting his priorities right, suggesting he should be in his office on the end of the telephone at a time of a major fire emergency.  I beg to differ.  At a time of unparalleled wireless communications, there is no need for our Prime Minister to be sitting in an office on the end of a landline.  A good leader knows how to delegate responsibility to those with the expertise and resources to deal with the situation.  I’m glad we don’t have a micro-managing control freak in charge of our nation.

Tony Abbott, in the past few days, has demonstrated we have an Aussie battler and hero as Prime Minister.  I may not be an expert on bushfires, but I do know what it’s like to hear the pagers of two work colleagues go off simultaneously and see them scamper off with hardly a backward glance… then hear my own go off sixty seconds later summoning me to the ambulance for a trip into the fire-ravaged bush.  I remember all-too-clearly the overwhelming fatigue after hours standing on burnt-out ground in unimaginable heat surrounded by smoke and ashes.  Merely donning fire-fighting gear in such conditions is an accomplishment – the actual work that follows is a feat most of us will thankfully never truly comprehend.  And that’s what makes volunteer fire fighters like Tony Abbott heroes.  They risk their lives in the worst of conditions to protect us.  They don’t get paid, and they drop everything they’re doing because it’s an emergency.  When Tony Abbott answered his callout with his local brigade, he set an example to all of us to buckle down and get on with the job.  It’s about time we did the same and gave him a fair go.

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