I must now have read any number of articles written by conservatives about the demise of Abbott and the elevation of Turnbull, including here at Quadrant Online. Most of the points they make I agree with. I, too, am disappointed at the outcome. I don’t think there has ever been a leader deposed by his colleagues who has been nearly as successful as Tony Abbott. Maybe, perhaps, Margaret Thatcher; I am not sufficiently knowledgeable to gauge that finely.
I ask who else, but Abbott, would have had the courage to protect our borders by taking on the Labor Party, the Greens, Fairfax Media, Their ABC, the refugee lobby, the Australian Human Rights Commission, the United Nations, Q&A audiences, Geoffrey Robinson and the rest of the limp-wristed bleeding hearts, not to mention the Indonesian Government. No one is the answer.
Scott Morrison got the credit for administering Operation Sovereign Borders, but there is absolutely no reason to think that he would have had the necessary courage to lead the charge. Look around at the leading lights in the Liberal Party. None of those who voted Abbott down would have taken it on; laden as it was with such high political risks. Abbott is a giant in my eyes.
Under his leadership, the government had many other significant achievements. And the starker they become when set against the shambles of the previous six years. And to tell the truth, I don’t give a fig in the scheme of things whether he stuck overlong to his madcap scheme to enrich working mothers, or that his chief of staff was nasty to a few precious souls, or that he gave a knighthood to Prince Phillip, or dithered over sacking his old friend Bronwyn Bishop for, let us remind ourselves, doing nothing more disreputable than had a lot of her hypocritical parliamentary critics.
But, and it is a big but, ultimately it was not his Liberal Party colleagues – ninnies though many of them are – who did Abbott in. Some 487.000 voters (based on the polls) have changed their allegiance since the last election. They did him in. I would suggest that most do not read conservative commentaries — or any commentaries. All of the conservative angst about what has happened will pass completely over their heads.
Broken promises resonate. In this case, that comes down to the budget. The first one was a disaster. Sometimes I feel like a broken record, but hitting pensioners and poor people visiting the doctor – having given no hint that you would – simply loses you all of those voters not rusted on.
Not once in the 26 federal elections since 1949 has the Coalition gained less than 46% of the two-party preferred vote. All of the opinion polls, month after month, had the Coalition’s support down to 46% (from 53.5% at the last election). Only the rusted-on were left. The rest had deserted the cause and with good reason to their way of thinking. I am surprised the dip wasn’t more pronounced; after all, many pensioners are loyal Coalition voters.
Abbott needed to address the situation. He had to admit the mistakes made and reverse course. Instead, his government through Joe Hockey and then, more recently, through the unduly-lauded Scott Morrison, issued threats: We will only change course if we are allowed to introduce other onerous measures, they said. Morrison then proceeded to do just that by attacking 327,000 older people on part pensions. How delusional can you get and remain outside a mental-care facility?
I predict that if the Labor Party changes leader it will win. Malcolm Turnbull can be as collegiate and consultative as he likes with the political in-crowd and business leaders. The common folk will not vote for a government which has broken its promises and which is not willing to reverse course and admit it was wrong. John Howard has freely provided a script that can be used in these situations. We have listened to the people, he would have said before sharply changing direction.
The great pity is that Abbott was burdened with people around him with tin ears. Joe Hockey, for example, believed his own spiel that the age of entitlement is over. It isn’t and those who believe it is, and act on it, are destined for electoral oblivion.
Of course, Abbott should have had the nous to understand what was happening. But how many leaders have been saved by having savvy people by their side? I suspect that no leader is successful for too long with fools in their retinue. Think of Whitlam’s ministry, compared with Hawke’s. Abbott clearly had fools about him and a lot of them are still around to undo Turnbull, if he lets them. I have to admit, that won’t give me unbearable pain.