How much longer can the Australian prime minister last?
This morning former Costello staffer Niki Savva concluded an article on his blowing up on backbenchers by saying they didn’t give him extra time, but rather “they gave themselves extra time to weigh up the alternatives”.
On Sunday night as he tried to ward off the leadership spill Abbott said “I accept that all prime ministers are, in a sense, on probation” and after surviving the ballot, the PM said he knew he would be tested daily in his job and pledged he was “determined to do better in these tests in the next few months than I have in the last few months”.
The came question time today and you could sense the national jaw drop – foreign minister Julie Bishop’s face froze like an Easter Island statue – when he attacked Labor for causing a “holocaust of jobs”.
Labor was pressing for the PM to “deliver on his promise” to build Australia’s subs locally ,asking about today’s unemployment figures, especially the 7.3% figure in South Australia, home of the Australian Submarine Corporation.
“Under members opposite, defence jobs in this country declined by 10%,” Abbott responded. “There was a holocaust of jobs in defence industries under members opposite.”
The Prime Minister realised his error almost immediately, especially as howls of protest rose and apologised quickly.
“In answering one of numerous questions about submarines, I should not have used the term holocaust,” he said.
“I shouldn’t have used it. I did withdraw it, I do apologise for it.”
He repeated the phrase as a “decimation of jobs” under Labor.
Language pedants would be pleased that for once, this is the correct use of decimation, since the Latin term means one in 10, and etymologists would enjoy the wry irony in Abbott’s word choice. Decimation was a form of capital punishment used by Roman leaders on soldiers guilty of offences such as mutiny or desertion.
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