Tony Abbott is trapped inside his own feedback loop, understanding the world is still out there, but not really comprehending how to reconnect. He’s been gone so long now – for years. What is the pathway back?
That’s from a brilliant article by Katherine Murphy. It can be lonely at the top, but Abbott is still prime minister.
The opinion polls are shocking. Newspoll has Labor ahead 57-43 in two-party preferred terms. Fully 68% of people disapprove of the job Abbott is doing while only 24% approve.
The personal disapproval would not matter if the LNP was in a winning, or even competitive position. But it is not, and won’t be unless Abbott can fix the economy and the budget. On the 7.30 Report Abbott explained that he would complete “fiscal repair” by abandoning spending cuts, “putting money in families’ pockets” and giving small business a tax cut.
This has panicked the right in the party who can see the restoration of a balanced budget, or “fiscal consolidation”, disappearing over the horizon. Paula Matthewson reveals that there is a subterranean battle taking place within the party “between the right-wing conservatives who want to protect the Government’s current agenda and the moderates who seek to change it.”
Abbott is trying to play to both sides, so is adopting contradictory positions and basically floundering in an attempt to save himself. Jettisoning Joe Hockey has apparently been contemplated.
So far the only spending cut abandoned has been the parental leave scheme, which no-one except Abbott in the party seemed to favour. The conservative right will try to hold the line. The GP co-payment is actively being pursued and yesterday in parliament university deregulation, with swingeing cuts, was being vigorously defended.
Since being in opposition is unacceptable, the right will need to be desperate to go for Turnbull. Julie Bishop is not considered competent enough by the right according to Matthewson, and the right still have the numbers.
I suspect, however, that Bishop as PM and Turnbull as treasurer may ultimately prevail.
Most seem to think six months of poor polling will see Abbott gone, sooner if he stuffs up again.
Ben Eltam sees the spill motion as Tony Abbott’s last gasp. There will be no ‘clear air’.
Laura Tingle has been emphasising the dilemma with the budget. The revenue base is “buggered”, there are no more big saves to be made, and the ones the Government chose are locked up in the Senate.
The economy continues to struggle to reach even its long term average growth levels. Commodity prices continue to slide. The world economy is not looking great. Confidence is mediocre and not being helped by the ludicrous spectre of the implosion in Canberra.
In this milieu the government is trying to remake itself as voters fear for their jobs. The strategy of having an early tough budget and locking in “reforms” has spectacularly imploded.
Having sprung radical overhauls of education and health funding on an unsuspecting electorate and been comprehensively rejected, the government is going to have to re-prosecute the cases, and restructure its policy offerings, much closer to an election – even making them mandate issues.
Peter Hartcher tells the inside story of how the Liberal leadership duo of Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop cracked. All Tone’s handiwork. And he’s going to have to get by with less direct minding from Peta Credlin, if she stays. Apparently she will no longer attend cabinet meetings or veto ministerial staff appointments.
Finally I’d like to return to Katherine Murphy’s article. Impossible to summarise, but she is saying that to become PM he has suppressed his real nature and moulded himself to fit the role in service to others.
Being a man for others has seen Abbott lose himself, and squander the opportunity to grow beyond his superstitions and self-soothing rituals to something approximating genuine self-expression. Abbott has denied himself the chance to be interesting. His confidence and judgment have taken a hit. The prime minister conducts himself less as a prime minister and more as a prisoner who can’t persuade the screws to give him early release.
But rather than admit defeat, he fights, and swaggers, and swings between bouts of brutal introspection and outright defiance. Rather than reach out he retreats, and roils at the fickleness of everything – entreating media boosters to validate him, telling the colleagues they have no right to desert him, while pondering who he can jettison in order to save himself.
Sad, but tragic for the nation.