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.
21 thoughts on “Trapped inside his own feedback loop”
Towards the end of the Howard era Peter Costello delivered a raft of changes that largely benefited the rich. At the time I thought that what he was about was not about trying to buy an election costello didn’t expect to win. It was about delivering a lot of goodies to the LNP’s affluent base before the LNP lost power. Goodies that, at that time, could be paid for by the mining boom at its peak.
The problem is that these concessions to the affluent have proved unsustainable over time.
The other problem is that both Labor and the LNP behave as though doing anything about these unsustainable concessions is too politically toxic. To be fair, the ALP tried to bring in the carbon tax and mining tax to boost revenue.
On the other hand, we see Abbott in the ridiculous position of talking about the alleged budget crisis while boasting about getting rid of revenue raising taxes like carbon and mining taxes and now sees part of the resolution of his popularity problem in the form of further tax concessions to business that the country cannot afford. Hockey last night was in the absurd situation of supporting the costly complexity of a GP co-payment that takes account of income instead of an simple increase in the Medicare levy that adds nothing to admin costs.
What I am waiting for is a party that treats us like adults, admits what Costello did is unsustainable and starts talking about dropping the sacred Costello concessions.
As I pointed out here Labor’s last budget had the whole thing on a virtuous path. Sure it would have fallen apart (again, as usual) because the revenue stream really is buggered and Treasury forecasts don’t seem to be able to model the future receipts. That kept happening and Swan kept fixing it, by making $160 billion worth of cuts over the years.
Swan was prepared to let bracket creep take receipts up to 25% of GDP. The biggest source of revenue is straight income tax, so that would have fixed it.
Hockey has put himself in a straightjacket by adding $68 billion to debt over the four year period and ruling a line on receipts at 24% of GDP. Something had to give and he decided to soak the poor, the unemployed, the old, students and make cuts that tore at the fabric of our basic settlement between state and individual responsibility.
I think it needs a new pair of eyes to look at the whole mess.
I think Chris Bowen could do it.
Fall out from inside the feedback loop – Phillip Ruddock pushed out of his position as Chief Whip – the new Tony Abbott looks a lot like the old one except more aggressive
Yes Doug, another brutal assessment by an impartial ABC commentator Chris Uhlmann ( husband of ALP MP Gai Brodtman )
I wonder how Barry Cassidy ( former Hawke press secretary ) sees it.
Or Kerry O’brien ( Whitlam press secretary ) ?
That would be the Chris Uhlmann who unsuccessfully contested the ACT 1998 general election for the electorate of Molonglo with the conservative Osborne Independent Group.
KN @ 4, Chris Uhlmann has alsways struck me as conservative in his politics.
O’Brien and Cassidy tend to over-compensate to avoid being accused of bias. They are always tougher on Labor.
There is also an element of fear, I think. ABC journalists have more to fear from conservative politics, who are the ones apt to cut funding. There must be an explanation, for example, why Leigh Sales ripped into Chris Bowen the other night, not giving him a chance to speak, yet the previous night she ended up having a friendly chat with Joe Hockey.
Apart from that she’s an airhead.
Well zoot maybe should have included the rest of that Wiki copy and paste, the bit where he left that conservative party due to his advocacy of killing unborn babies.
I totally,respectfully, disagree.
I stopped watching 7.30, but if you link them I’ll watch them and decide.
My local ABC radio ” Host ” of a morning is Kim Kleidon.
Every interview, topic or joke oozes Green, every one.
Sorry Chuckles, if there’s to be any communication you’ll need to tell me your definition of a conservative.
Aren’t they allowed to support freedom of choice?
PS: Glad to see you’ve discovered Wikipedia. You’ll be able to do your own research soon.
zootsticles ( since name play has been OKed for a while now )
And nice to see your comment immediately follow mine, again.
Pro Life is a bedrock conservative Pillar, also Libertarian.
Perhaps everyone needs to examine their own feedback loop.
And their information input regime, ( with an open mind ) which is not easy.
PS. Thanks for the research mentoring, Grasshopper is gaining strength,
Libertarians don’t believe in the liberty to choose.
Autonomy is not part of their philosophy.
Got it! Thanks Chuck.
Autonomy is a bedrock principal of Libertarianism, the Right to choose ( so long as it doesn’t harm other humans Liberty ) is of utmost importance.
Do you have Kids snoot ?
Also zoot, I must say, your combative tone may be outside Brians guidelines of ” congenial ”
You nearly gave me a choking fit.
From this distance John I’m guessing that your choking fit is probably a manifestation from within yourself, although I’m no doctor of course, just a mere Tradesman.
I do hope you recover, I’m a fan of yours.
Ohhh Chuck. Did I hurt your feelings? I’m so sorry. Really, really sorry. Can you ever forgive me? Would it help if I kissed it better?
KN @ 9:
Frankly, I’d prefer it if chosen names are used. It’s netiquette.
zoot, KN has dropped the ‘call me Chuck’. Presumably he thought better of it.
At the same time, KN, Kolobok Norris invites parody, I think.
KN @ 12:
zoot, probably just a tad. To me you’re coming across a bit paternalistic. If I were KN, I think I’d find “Would it help if I kissed it better?” a bit offensive.
I’m enjoying the repartee, but could the tone be calibrated a bit, please? Tone without body language can be problematic.
Brian, I apologise unreservedly. Your request will be honoured.
KN @14: Thanks for your kind concern. I only nearly had a choking fit.
That’s great John.
I heard the other day that Korinne Grant almost choked on a tablet.
It was a Samsung Galaxy.
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