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March 04th 2017 print

Peter O'Brien

Abbott, the Antidote to Turnbullemia

The cure for the condition that sees Liberal Party rank-and-filers battle nausea at every latest serving of the PM's trademark waffle is obvious: Tony Abbott. Yes, the media will smear him, but they will do that because they recognise him as the last, best hope to foil Shorten's march into the Lodge

fizzaMore than a week has now passed since Tony Abbott delivered what the newspapers have been calling his “manifesto” at the launch of the new book Making Australia Right and the reaction to that address has been a genuine eye-opener. A few months ago, who would have rated the ousted PM’s chances of regaining the leadership as better than very slight indeed? Now it’s a possibility. Why?  Well, the first prerequisite for his return has been met: the media are now seriously talking about it – most, admittedly, in negative terms, but they would say that, wouldn’t they? Whatever their motives and reactions, Abbott Redux is now a topic for discussion. He is no longer unthinkable.

The most common objection to Abbott’s return posed by commentators of both Right and Left is that he is said to be widely ‘hated’ by the public. It’s true he is a polarizing figure but he was just as ‘hated’ prior to his 2013 landslide election win and, indeed, has been throughout pretty much his entire political career.  So scratch that one as a serious objection.

Another refrain is that Abbott has no credibility because he is now proposing policy planks that he walked away from as Prime Minister.  To some extent that is true. But, as Andrew Bolt has pointed out, that fact does not render his proposed policies invalid. Let’s cut Abbott some slack on this point and recognise that he was a new PM coping with an intractable and obstreperous Senate.  He made concessions and broke some promises, expecting to get a bit of quid pro quo.  His debt levy, in particular, was a sop to Labor, enacted in the hope that it would make the opposition more amenable to the spending cuts he and Joe Hockey were proposing. More fool Abbott for that, but it is unlikely he will make the same mistake again if given the chance.

Doubters also point to precedent. Replacing Gillard with Rudd didn’t work.  Well, actually it did if the intent was to “save some furniture” at the 2013 election, which is what happened.  Who’s to say Abbott couldn’t go one better, given more time than Rudd enjoyed to lift a sagging government’s stocks?

Commentators — the same commentators who touted and pimped for Turnbull — are flaying Abbott for breaking his promise not to snipe, wreck or undermine. But was that promise open-ended? Is Abbott forever disqualified from speaking his mind? Is Abbott obliged to ignore the dire poll number and massive rank-and-file desertions from his party, most particularly the swelling volume of former Coalition voters moving to One Nation? Many of those defectors hold grave reservations about Hansonite economic policies but are switching their allegiance anyway because one party, and only one party, is prepared to identify Islam as antithetical to our Western traditions — the same party, just by the way, which understands the madness and inherent corruption of the green energy debacle and is prepared to say as much in blunt, clear language. The national grid is faltering, blackouts becoming the new normal and jobs going by the board, but from Labor we hear only more demands for extra wind turbines; from the man who plotted and schemed so long and hard to seize the Liberal leadership, rosy-eyed nonsense about so-called “clean coal”.

And here’s another point in Abbott’s favour. If he is indeed sniping — if that is how you choose to stretch the definition of the word — he has at least aired his concerns openly and in public, not behind the scenes as was the case with Rudd and Turnbull.

There is now no doubt that Turnbull must go.  It was blindingly obvious at the time of the Coalition’s near-death experience at the last election that he was unfit to preside over the party he had led to the very brink of disaster. The longer Liberals resile from the hard decision to send Turnbull packing, the slimmer their chance of clawing back ground with the voters. And don’t forget, with its one-seat majority in the House, an election could be no more than a heart attack, a resignation or a scandal away from being called.

Yet parliamentary Liberals sit on their hands or, worse than that, accept and embrace the likelihood of a thumping defeat. In the days after Abbott’s speech, the Australian Financial Review quoted a senior conservative as saying, “We’d be better off losing rather than turf out another leader. It would break the party.”

What “party” would that be exactly, Mr Unnamed Source? The party that in NSW is the house pet of lobbyists and influence peddlers? The party that in Victoria is at war with itself? The party that in Queensland survived but a single term? The party that in Western Australia agonised for years about whether it is a prime role of government to regulate the growing and sale of potatoes? The party that in South Australia cannot make ground against a cretinous green government that plunges the state into darkness and drives off industry? The party that, given an opportunity to defend free speech, cannot bring itself to form an opinion on the iniquity of Section 18C.

Break the party indeed! In root, trunk and branch the party was broken, philosophically and practically, a long, long time ago.

So, if you accept the evidence that the Liberal Party has become a hollowed-out shell of gormless cowards and feckless poseurs, of intramural feuders and weak reeds, the only question is who might present the best chance of inspiring its rebirth and and leading its revival?  The current front-runner seems to be Peter Dutton.  He has done pretty well in Immigration, but so what? Scott Morrison also impressed in that portfolio and few would now regard him as the antidote to Turnbullemia, that condition which sees rank-and-filers battle nausea at every latest serving of the PM’s trademark waffle.

The more the media talks about the impossibility of Abbott’s return, the greater will be the impression among voters that he is, indeed, a viable option. When you compromise your integrity and reputation as thoroughly as did the media in extolling Turnbull as something akin to the Second Coming, there is no credibility left once the electorate has figured out that the purported messiah is no better than a mischievously incompetent, silver-tongued skite. To the extent that anyone can grasp the mindset of Liberal MPs, lost and adrift from their party’s core principles, we can assume the primal instinct to survive is probably still at work. A few more bad polls and, sure as eggs, objections to Abbott’s return will recede.

Abbott may be acting out of self-interest, as his detractors would have it, or out of conviction, as the authors of Making Australia Right would prefer to believe, but for my money he is the last, best hope of saving the nation from a Shorten government.

Winston Churchill, with all his faults and egocentricities, recovered from near-pariah status within the Tory establishment.

You will say that Tony Abbott is no Churchill. But then Churchill was no Churchill until the times demanded it.

Comments [53]

  1. Jody says:

    Wrong, wrong and wrong. Abbott will never return as leader of the Coalition. He had the opportunity to “improve” and failed to do so, instigating absolutely none of the reforms he’s now advocating for the Coalition. Hypocrisy on steroids.

    • en passant says:

      Now that Jody has sentenced Abbott to ‘neverland’ it is predictable that he will now inevitably return so that she can maintain her perfect record.

    • Guido Negraszus says:

      “He had the opportunity”

      This is where you are wrong I’m afraid. Tony Abbott already had to defend his leadership in January 2015 (the spill which wasn’t), just a bit over a year into his job. The constant pressure from Turnbull and Bishop (the loyal leaker) was unacceptable. Your statement would be true IF he had his full term but he was never given that chance which he clearly deserved after leading the Liberals back into government. Once you have evil forces breathing down your neck (Turnbull/Bishop/Pyne) leadership becomes extremely difficult.

      • Jody says:

        Don’t be naive; politics is ALWAYS like this for every leader.

        • Guido Negraszus says:

          Whatever but there is another huge flaw in your thinking: Tony Abbott to this day is the only Liberal leader who won seats during an election since 2004! Both Howard (2007) and Turnbull (2015) lost BIG TIME. Abbott on the other hand won (2010 and 2013) BIG TIME. That makes Abbott the most successful Liberal leader since 2004. It can not be disputed. Make of it what you want.

    • Lawrie Ayres says:

      How on earth could he improve when everyone was against him? He did his best against overwhelming odds. While Turnbull and Bishop were orchestrating to take over the government that neither could have gotten into power Abbott was attempting to slow the ship of state and turn it around. Would Turnbull have stood up to Putin? He has difficulty even having a point of view let alone defending it.

      The Liberals are toast unless Turnbull is dumped and Abbott is the only solution.

  2. SJones says:

    Peter sounds right, right,right to me. I hope he is.

  3. Warty says:

    Pauline’s One Nation isn’t the only party to condemn rising Islamisation, Cory Bernardi’s the Australian Conservatives does too. They are also opposed to RET in any form; pro traditional family and pro life, pro small government, pro Trump yet a little more favourable to fee trade. Some commentators talk about Pauline attracting ‘fruit-loops’ to her party, which is a little unfair, but Cory intends to proceed with the utmost care.
    With regards to the Coalition . . . well, it is nigh dead in the water.

  4. Bill Martin says:

    Peter O’Brien’s spirited promotion of Tony Abbott’s return as Liberal leader and PM is admirable but misplaced for various reasons, many of which contained, if unwittingly, in the article itself, such as “… if you accept the evidence that the Liberal Party has become a hollowed-out shell of gormless cowards and feckless poseurs, of intramural feuders and weak reeds …” What difference a new leader could possibly make to change that? Sack all the traitors on the front bench? Expel all the scum from the parliamentary party? While Abbott could probably make some positive difference, it would be far too little and too late. He could make himself much more useful by joining Cory Bernardi in establishing a new, genuinely and carelessly conservative party, just as Menzies did all those years ago.

  5. Don A. Veitch says:

    Abbot does not have a clue!
    Abbot should think big or stay home on his generous pension and stop wasting conservatives time,
    He must go beyond the usual ephemera and ‘sizzle’ (e.g. climatism, migrant bashing, union bashing, royal honours) and get some sausage.

    What is the key word to understanding the rise of the revanchinists, Trump, Hanson, Le Pen? The key word is: ‘TARIFFS’.
    ‘Tariffs’ is populist code for, populist ECONOMIC policies, with mass appeal:
    defence of the nation state;
    protection for real jobs;
    dirigisme,
    ‘make banks pay their share’’;
    national credit, infrastructure;
    the right to work for decent wages.

    Le Pen, will probably win in France as she has mass appeal economic policies:
    • harnessing credit from the Banque de France for the nation;
    • a national currency/leave the Euro;
    • ending so-called free-trade;
    • reintroduce the Havana Charter;
    • a Glass-Steagall Act for France;
    • full employment;
    • home production/home consumption;
    • pull out of NATO;
    • separation of church-state;
    • a privileged partnership with Russia.

    Abbot needs to go beyond the usual ephemera and ‘sizzle’ (e.g. climatism, migrant bashing, union bashing, royal honours) and get some real sausage. Abbot should think big or stay home on his generous pension and stop wasting conservatives time,

    • exuberan says:

      At the top of your list should have been to ‘Halt the Islamisation of France’ which looks almost impossible now. If any country ever needed a Glass-Steagall Act it is this one

  6. Ian MacDougall says:

    Abbott is all blowfly and no barbecue.
    There is not unity even amongst the ‘conservative’commenters around here. If the anti-Turnbull, pro-Abbott crowd can’t even muster the numbers at QO, what hope in the population at large?
    As for Abbott’s “generous pension”, it is about time ex-pollies’ incomes from super were means-tested, to make them more ‘representative’ of the population-at-large.

    • Jody says:

      Bravo. Completely agree. Abbott is a waste of space.

      • PT says:

        Bravo Jody? Come on. Abbott did “stop the boats” which “experts” said couldn’t be done. The truth is he lost his mojo in office. In part due to unrelenting media hostility, and also due to pressure from so called “moderates” within the Libs – Turncoat particularly, but not only him. As PM Abbott would be infinitely preferable to Turncoat. You should really be looking for another replacement for Turncoat. Christian Porter? Dutton? Old Mal is LESS likely to win the next election than a second chance Abbott would. At least Abbott is a good campaigner, which Turncoat clearly isn’t. Turncoat also showed he is a threat to your super. Why back him?

      • en passant says:

        As are some who infest this site as trolling naysayers on everything

        • Bwana Neusi says:

          Whilst some of those who infest this site can and do make some valid comments, we lament that they continuously resort to ad hominem retorts, thus detracting from and diminishing their arguments.

      • Elle says:

        Abbott is a waste of space? That’s the type of comment a leftist would make. Mr Abbott has many successes under his belt and more recently he successfully launched a book that our host here contributed to. Have a read. You may learn something. Edited by James Allan, who is a genius.

    • Steve Spencer says:

      As a Lefty, why would your opinion on Abbott count for anything?

      • Jody says:

        I’m a small c “conservative”. Abbott is and was a throwback to the 1950s. The Prince Philip Fiasco was only one such example. He was a good campaigner in opposition but the government was already on the ropes. Abbott’s main problem was he never knew what to do when actually in government, and after his initial successes with borders, mining tax and carbon tax. These were knocked over quickly and after that he froze like a deer in the headlights. Oh, he was going to ‘shirt-front’ Putin. Very courageous and statesmanlike. NOT.

        • Steve Spencer says:

          “….after his initial successes with borders, mining tax and carbon tax.”

          It doesn’t sound like much if you say it quickly enough. However, those are three extremely big successes and we could also add three big trade deals, setting up the medical research fund, approving the 2nd airport for Sydney and more. That he managed all that while facing the most hostile press and senate Australia has ever brought to bear on a PM, is astounding.

          By comparison, Turnbull truly fits your “deer in the headlights’ analogy, though I’ve never seen a deer wearing Turnbull’s trademark rictus.

          • Jody says:

            Not enough of a ‘big success’ to run a government for 3 long years. More than this is needed, particularly when you’ve cast the economic debate in terms of a ‘national emergency’. As it happened, I agreed with the medical co-payment but this wasn’t sold to the public; not a hint of what might come to soften the blow. And for the price of 2 bags of dog bones Australians consequently rejected a co-payment for going to the GP. Neither party is smart enough to tell the people that if you pay peanuts you get monkeys.

  7. madd320 says:

    Just to correct an error in the article. Peter you keep stating the “Liberal” party. The Liberal party is dead. The party in Govt is the “Turnbull Coalition.” I can’t for the life of me understand why the Nationals are still in coalition with this mob.

  8. Bran Dee says:

    Towards the end of Peter O’brien’s article and the paragraph starting with ‘Break the Party Indeed!’ there is much with which it is easy to agree. But overall his hope for Tony Abbott is completely misplaced. Tony Abbott has only shown himself to be conservative as in Catholic Conservative and as in Conservative Westminister tradition. Apart from some poorly articulated scepticism about manmade global warmming he has been Labor/Greens light:

    Is it forgotten that he: removed the debt ceiling, appointed Malcolm Turnbull Communications Minister as an assurance of his promise ‘no cuts to the ABC or SBS’,picked Natasha Stott-Despoja instead of a conservative, implemented Gillards devious schools indoctrination program called Safe Schools but could be called the [Not so]Safe Gillard/Abbott Schools Program. Then there was his blind insistence on the value of his hugely generous PPL – too much taxpayer largess even for Labor and Greens, and on and on – -. He wanted to be loved, and seemed prepared to attempt to buy it.

    Peter Dutton, unlike Tony Abbott, is one articulate and tough genuine conservative. Also unlike Abbott he takes no stick from the ABC. He is the obvious choice to replace Turnbull. End of story.

    • Jody says:

      Ain’t goooona happen. Dutton has had a charisma by-pass and is a one-trick pony.

    • Warty says:

      Peter Dutton as replacement? I think not ‘Mr touch of the good stuff’ (brandy). Here I reluctantly agree with ‘Establishment Jody’: Dutton simply doesn’t tweak my button. I wouldn’t mind an Andrew Hastie, but he is not considered sufficiently mature, despite his capacity to blow a certain AOTY out of the water.

  9. Bran Dee says:

    For the moment I forgot to mention Abbott also inexplicably picked Greg Combet for a government appointment.
    With hindsight it could be said that after failing to negotiate majority government from the 2010 election result Tony Abbott seemed a broken reed. He has never recovered.

    • Jody says:

      I still have a mental image of him at the Press Club that day swearing at Nicola Roxen (I never liked her) for being late. Appalling bad manners and lack of sophistication. He’s a boofy man’s man who does well with his surfing, pollie pedals, bushfire volunteering and work with indigenous communities. That’s where he excels, but a people person he ain’t.

  10. Warty says:

    Contrary to some of the arguments put up here, in response to O’Brien’s article, Abbot still has a significant role to play in conservative politics. He may not regain the leadership prior to the next election, though it is amazing what a drubbing can bring about, and I think next time around it will be a thrashing, though little Billy will not have the parliament he’d like. In fact the senate will be such that it would be good timing to book himself in for that triple bypass.
    I think even your Don A Vietches would agree that our Tone is at his best when he takes on the role of Rottweiler, and he’s only nibbling at the moment. As Bronwyn Bishop (no longer an Abbot admirer) said on SKY, the Tone has a tin ear, i.e. not a good listener when PM, but again there is nothing like Forum stabbing attack to bring back perfect pitch, and all indications are that he has learnt a few ‘tings’, as the Irish like to say. He has picked up a few tricks from the Don; he has listened in to Brexit; he has learned to sidestep the identity cow pats and he is learning to take a few MSM biffs to the chin (i.e. not caring two dingo’s droppings what they might say about him). He did some bad things in office as Jody will readily tell you, but he will not do them again, should he get the chance, post an election or two, coz the Libs haven’t got any leaders left.
    Perhaps he should swallow his pride and join Cory, though I don’t see that happening.

  11. Dave Carter says:

    Peter, don’t mistake the easy hokey line about potato market regulation for a defining government failure here in W.A. There was no issue about whether the government should have a role- and in a way, it didn’t, the Potato Marketing Corporation was an independent board, and hence could not publicly defend itself- but the very real consideration of how to deregulate without doing the damage of the rushed Dairy deregulation, which was in the very near past for a lot of communities in the horticultural south west.
    I am a spud grower, and I will testify that the whole blame must be sheeted home to spud growers collectively, who flat-out failed to come together in any sort of grower-owned industry body, despite the government’s extended term.

  12. ArthurB says:

    I am sure I am not alone in my dismay at the current state of the Liberals, and at the abysmal standard of debate in this country. Federal Labor is a bunch of opportunists, beholden to the unions, and with the chutzpah to be threatening a Work Choices style campaign against the proposed cuts to penalty rates, even though it was the unions themselves who were responsible for trading them away (see Grace Collier’s article in this morning’s Oz).

    Labor in South Australia is a disaster, refusing to guarantee a reliable supply of power. Labor in Victoria is quite openly imposing a radical social agenda via the education system. When Labor and the CFMEU move into the Lodge, the borders will be open again, the people smugglers back in business, and the unions running the nation.

    But where are the protests? The Liberals appear to be lacking a spine, unable to attack Labor for what it is doing to Australia.

    Some commentators, both on QoL and Catallaxy, seem to think that the best thing to do would be either to dump Malcolm and reinstate Abbott, who would gain the respect of the voters and win the next election, or to allow the Liberals to be destroyed at the election, and that a true conservative party would arise, phoenix-like, from the ashes, regain power, and rule the nation for many years.

    I can’t see either scenario occurring. Another change of leadership would be an electoral disaster. A likely outcome of the next election will be that One Nation will hold the balance of power, possibly in both houses, guaranteeing a permanent state of instability.

    Am I being too pessimistic, or am I merely a realist?

    • Jody says:

      A realist. I only hold out a 5% hope of the government winning the next election. The problem is one of identity; yes, the Coalition is “labor lite” but that’s because the society is saying gimme, gimme, gimme. No government is game to stand up to the national cargo cult we have in this country.

      Take note; nobody is getting a red cent from this little black duck.

    • Steve Spencer says:

      Maybe an Abbott government that relied on One Nation for support would be no bad thing. It might mean Tony remembered his principles and regrew a spine.

  13. ianl says:

    ArthurB

    > ” … the abysmal standard of debate in this country”

    We’ve never been further away from hard, detailed, costed, accountable policy. It’s simply a different galaxy.

    The observation that Australian public debate resembles an over-crowded aviary in full throat seems apt.

  14. Keith Kennelly says:

    Jody Wrong quoting odds now there bs out in the open.

    Let’s see Jody

    Trump never to win nomination.
    Trump never to win President .
    Trump mp will lead the Rupublicans to defeat in the Congress.
    Trump will be ditched as President.

    Abbott will never return as PM.
    The Liberals are only 5 % chance of returning as government.
    Christian who? for PM.

    For a supposed right wing voter Jody’s beliefs are truely revealing and mirror those of the bed wetting centrists.
    Jesus Jody you were given the chance to back up your wild claims and not once have you had the courage.

    Like Trimbil you’ve squibbed more than once.

    You should join the Labor Party and be done with it. They’d look after you.

    • Jody says:

      Do some in-depth reading of your own and see how complex the issues are. All you can do is abuse because of your defensiveness over a lack of education; surely your handicap.

  15. Steve Spencer says:

    For clues on whether Abbott could be revived, and whether the Libs’ chances would thus be improved, keep an eye on America. Trump is America’s Tony Abbot, not because they are philosophically aligned, but because they are both supreme hate figures for the Left and the MSM. Abbott MKI was brought down by the media and their stooge, Sir Waffle of Wentworth, following an unrelenting negative and unhinged attack that soured his polling (plus he went a bit populist and thus lost his base). If I was Tony, I’d be watching Trump and how he deals with the antagonistic, Leftist media, which I think Trump will neuter by getting more and more Americans on his side, leaving the media to look stupid and out of touch. If Trump succeeds, Abbott has his blueprint.

    • Jody says:

      This is hilarious! Most of the Coalition dislikes Tony Abbott.

      • Jimbob says:

        “Most of the Coalition dislikes Tony Abbott” – so what!

        All together “most of the coalition” are about 140 or so votes (forgive me, I haven’t bothered with the actual numbers) which anyone can see is but a small part of a small part of a small drop in the vast ocean of the 1,000,000 + voters(and rising) who have given the “coalition” the proverbial birdie in very short time.

        He doesn’t have to be “liked”. He just has to be effective in bringing a large swathe of those disaffected voters back to a centre/right, traditional Liberal party so that the nation isn’t ransomed to the “fruitcake” elements of either the extreme left or extreme right (i.e. the insane components of the Greens on one hand and the insane components in One Nation or even further afield on the other).

        I say that respectfully to Pauline Hanson who though personally, has matured and become an experienced and capable addition to the Australian political scene, has yet to prove that all the disaffected and in some cases, possibly deranged “desires” of Parliamentary privilege and largess haven’t ALL gravitated to her.

  16. ArthurB says:

    Re the standard (or lack of) of debate in Oz: recently I had a overseas holiday, and didn’t see any television, or read a newspaper, for nearly three weeks. Since returning, I have watched three episodes of Q&A, the first had the spat between Yassmin whoever and our own Jacquie, the second had Brandis besieged by a string of gotcha questions, the third (last Monday) was so dull that I felt like switching off. I also attended a day of the local Writers’ Festival, on one session I attended a tattooed feminist ranted on about how males are the source of all evil, and the other guest accused Australia of cruelty over its treatment of asylum seekers (illegal immigrants, they should be called). I should add that both speakers received applause from the audience for any comment critical of Australia.

    Really, our national broadcaster is a disgrace, its current affairs programs reek of smugness, sanctimoniousness and censoriousness.

    Over the past week or so I have watched a number of video clips of Tucker Carlson debating with all sorts of people, what an interviewer he is! I would love to see him on Q&A, but ABC management wouldn’t allow it.

    I do a lot of online reading, and have discovered many websites which are worth visiting. One I recommend to QoL readers is http://www.unz.com, the proprietor is Ron Unz, I believe he made a fortune in Silicon Valley. There is a curious mix of articles, some on politics, and a number on demography. In this country you are forbidden to question the consequences of immigration from countries other than Europe, but Unz himself has written some long and thoughtful articles about the demographic future of the US, he says that on current trends whites will be a minority in their own country, he also discusses how some groups (Chinese, Koreans, Indians etc) integrate rapidly, while others don’t. Anyone who wrote similar articles about Oz would be lynched by the ABC and Academe.

  17. Keith Kennelly says:

    Jody Wrong, the leftie.

    You’ve earned the title.

    Now you’re saying Trump hasn’t lead the change in The USA. It was lead by the right wing media.

    Again you meld the facts to suit your wrongheadedness..

    All I’ve ever don’t to you Jody is point out your centrist elitist carping and you call that abuse.

    Your opinions on most things are coloured by your belief, shared among all the educated elites,, that you hold all the truth and can never be wrong.

    How can you reconcile your beliefs about Trump when those right wing media types you now quote as authorities, all supported Trump.

    Laughable the lengths you are going to.

    Where is that bet you promised?
    Lost in your ‘nuance’ and in depth reading?

    I’ve told you before, let me repeat it. I am practical, and read and interpret in a straightfirward manner. I express myself in a straightforward manner.
    Your nuance and education doesn’t help you much. You are always wrong. And I thank god I didn’t let teachers like you influence my education and thinking.

    I know I hold some of the truth. I know everyone holds some of th truth and I know nobody holds all the truth.
    You think only educated elites hold all the truth.

    There has been a shift in the media over the last week with articles and voices suggesting only the return of Abbott can give the coalition a chance at the next election. After next Sat watch the Liberal bedwetters dump Turnbull.

    The West will be the catalyst for dumping of Turnbull and the return of Abbott.