In the past week we have seen a swarm of negative commentary about Tony Abbott in the media. I say, enough is enough!
Firstly, we should all exude an immense pity for his predicament. At heart, Mr Abbott originally wished to be a more infrastructure building right-wing politician. However, he has found himself leading a party whose official policy is the opposite of this, in dogmatically pushing for small government austerity. That is a task Mr Abbott has taken up with dog like obedience, while not forgetting to grumble as a contradictory aside that he originally dreamed of being remembered as an infrastructure prime minister.
Austerity measures have gone down with all the popularity of bomb with the Australian voting public. Add climbing unemployment to a waning mining bomb, and you have a cauldron of seething discontent from the public. This will only get worse as the mining boom continues to wane.
If politicians really had power, rather than being puppets within the macroscopic structure of a larger system that props them up in the puppet theatre of parliament, then perhaps Abbott might have gotten his way to start Keynesian infrastructure building measures to stimulate the economy. The Party, however, will not permit that.
Instead, the Party shows itself increasingly willing to sacrifice Mr Abbott for his failure to sell austerity to the public. Mr Abbott has been warned that he is expendable.
Meanwhile, it is certainly true that Mr Abbott’s caustic and divisive style is more suited as leader of the opposition than as prime minister. I actually thought that the Liberal Party would replace him with a more conciliatory and uniting centrist figure just before the last elections—effectively stepping down the opposition attack dog in favour of someone who could provide stable leadership over two terms of government.
Admittedly, it is true that Abbott was a frightfully effect leader of the opposition, and a perpetual thorn in the side for Labour and the Greens. However, if Abbott was an effective leader of the opposition for the Liberal Party, as Prime Minister, Abbott has proved an equally effective leader of the opposition for the Labour Party. In fact, Abbott is a an infinitely more effective leader of the opposition than the ineffectual Bill Shorten.
Abbott played on the growing discontent towards Canberra during the Rudd-Gillard years, a discontent that was the result of the socio-economic destabilisation from the GFC. Now, as the mining boom wanes, and Australia loses the buffering effect it had on the Australian economy, the economy finds itself increasingly exposed to the stormy seas of the international market, simmering discontent towards Canberra looks set to explode.
Australians were deceived into thinking that the prosperity of the Howard years had even an iota to do with the economic management of the Howard-Costello team. Voters imagined that by returning the Liberals to power that China would start purchasing billions of dollars of minerals once again, and that the prosperity of the mining boom would return. The voting public has now discovered that Tony Abbott is hardly the leader of the Chinese Communist Party!
Supremely effective as leader of the opposition, Abbott’s supremacy as leader of the opposition even now remains uncontested. He has yet to step up to become the Prime Minister of Australia. Everything that made Abbott an effective leader of the Liberal opposition makes him a toxic liability as “Prime Minister”. I imagine many of those in the Liberal Party regret not having made a change in leadership before the elections, and feel stuck with Abbott. Now, it is too late, and they know they are damned if they change the leadership, just as they are damned if they don’t.
If truth be known, a change of leadership to Turnbull or Bishop would have been a disaster for the Left. Unless, of course, they managed to appoint Christopher Pyne or Scott Morrison as Prime Minister. They would be even more effective than Abbott as leader of the opposition.
Then again, even if the Party leadership is changed, it will hardly change the Liberal Party’s overall set of dogmas. It will merely be a different leader who will be forced to push them onto the public even where it is contrary to their personal principles.
There nonetheless remains no doubt that the Left should heartily welcome the fact that the Liberal Party has chosen to stick with the highly divisive Tony Abbott. He is a free gift served up on a silver platter, even if on this occasion it was not done in the manner of John the Baptist. Abbott is the best chance that the Left has for a one-term Liberal government, when a mortally wounded and highly divisive leader drags a fractured Party towards electoral slaughter at the next federal election.
So with that, a tribute and toast to our beloved Prime Minister—the Right Honourable Tony Abbott. Ladies and gentlemen—God save the Queen!