Federal Politics just got a lot more interesting

I was at a Council for Christians and Jews meeting on Sunday (guest speaker, Rabbi David Rosen – very interesting!), when I made a comment to the gentleman sitting next to me about the Parliament about to begin tomorrow night. I was, of course, talking of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, but in the din of the restaurant, he thought I was talking about the carry on in the Federal Liberal parliamentary party. “I’m glad I’m not in the running for the leadership,” he replied, before I realised that he had misheard me and our conversation had gotten off on the wrong foot.

But polls at the time, of the general Australian public, were showing that most Australins (41%) wanted Joe Hockey to take over from Mr Turnbull (27 per cent). Tony Abbott scored a bare 26 per cent. Yet yesterday he became – by one crucial vote – the leader of the Federal Liberal Party, and, at least in my opinion, Federal politics just became way, way more interesting.

After John Howard’s defeat in 2007, I really lost interest in Federal politics. Little Johnny was gone, Tim Fischer (with whom I met this morning, btw, and is doing a great job as our Ambassador to the Holy See) was gone, Peter Costello was on the back benches. I liked the new Liberal leader, Brendan Nelson (I met him on the ferry across to Gallipoli in 2007), but unfortunately, he was too decent a bloke to last long in the hurley burley of party politics (see here for an interesting article by Peter Costello in The Age revealing the respective merits of Nelson and his successor). I never, ever had any personal liking for Malcolm Turnbull. A party led by him was never going to have my sympathy or my vote, and it wasn’t just his republican ideas that did for him in my mind.

But, as I have said, yesterday Federal politics just got a lot more interesting, when against all the odds, the party ballot chose Tony Abbott as leader. I guess I should complete my name-dropping to say that I have met Tony too, but then, so have a lot of people! For those of you who don’t know much about him, you will get the general idea from this article in The Australian.

As for his politics, this article in The Canberra Times gives you one point of view. I don’t agree with all of it – especially the bit at the end about the inevitable destination of the Liberal Party under his leadership being “over a cliff”, or the bit about his (and his former leader’s) habit of throwing money at any problem (Kevin Rudd has outdone all political leaders in Australia’s history when it comes to “squandering” surpluses). But the article does show why, in the months leading up to next year’s Federal Election (which could be sooner or later depending on whether the PM decides to go for broke with an early double dissolution over the Emmissions Trading Scheme bill), Federal politics will be very interesting. Like the old quip about finally getting the mass in English with the upcoming new translations, we now, it seems, will finally have a Federal Opposition, and some real differentiation between the two leading parties.

And of course, how can an addict to all things ecclesiastical such as myself fail to be attracted to a political party led by an “Abbott” and a “Bishop”?

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67 responses to “Federal Politics just got a lot more interesting

  1. Peregrinus

    It will be very interesting.

    Abbott speaks his mind, which is both refreshing and admirable in a politician. It can also get him into trouble, which of course adds to the interest.

    The received wisdom is that a party led by Abbott is unelectable. Whether the perception is true or not, it’s extremely damaging. Clearly, Abbott is going to have to work very hard – and possibly very fast – to reverse that perception, in part by rebutting the (I think inaccurate) “Captain Catholic” image. It will be interesting to see what he does to that end, and whether that alienates any of his current support base – the people who actually like what the “Captain Catholic” label implies.

    And then, of course, there’s the Abbott-the-political-headkicker image which has to be overcome. Malcolm got shafted because he was seen as too ambitious and authoritarian, and not enough of a team player, but in a political confrontation Malcolm is a model of sweet reason compared to Tony. Having Julie Bishop as Deputy isn’t going to help overcome the image, unless they do a “good cleric/bad cleric” act in which Julie does the headkicking and Tony makes the placatory noises.

    • Perry,

      Two things:

      1) The poll that suggested that Abbott was the least popular of the three possible leaders was taken from all voters in general. It did not differentiate between those who usually voted Liberal or those who usually voted Labor. I wonder if perhaps Abbott will actually appeal more to a kind of traditional Liberal supporter (the kind that I used to be, at least until towards the end of the Howard era) than this poll suggests. In other words, many traditional conservative voters may welcome Abbott’s leadership as a sign that the party is returning to the kind of stance which made the Liberal party a clear alternative to the Labor party. This may in fact attract conservative voters back to the Liberals, if he can restore our confidence in what the party stands for.

      b) Re. the “Captian Catholic” tag. I was a little disappointed by a report in the Herald Sun (http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/national/i-am-not-gods-gift-tony-abbott/story-e6frf7l6-1225804938831) in which he claimed that “he had never let his religion interfere with his policy decisions and pledged he never would as either leader of the Liberal Party or as prime minister.” Seems to me to be an exact parallel with the pledge that John F. Kennedy made to the Southern Baptists before his election. It doesn’t reflect a truly Catholic understanding of the vocation of a Catholic politician, anyway.

      BTW, I first saw the report of that point 2 on Cathnews, but the Cathnews site seems to be down. Anyone else having any problems with it?

      And BTW BTW, have you seen this? http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/damianthompson/100018448/tony-abbott-conservative-catholic-global-warming-sceptic-%E2%80%93-and-friend-of-cardinal-pell/

      • Peregrinus

        Hi David

        1) My “unelectable” comment wasn’t really based on that poll. It’s a perception which long predates that poll.

        I take your point that a certain group of “traditional” Liberal supporter might be enthused by the election of Abbott as leader, but – no offence – that’s not much help. Those people are going to vote for the Coalition anyway, or at worst will vote Family First or Christian Democrat or similar, with a preference to the Coalition. In nearly every electorate in the country, this is pretty much the same thing as a vote for the Coalition. At most, the effect of Abbott on this group will be to secure support for the Liberals at the expense of the Nationals.

        Our promotion of civic republicanism through compulsory voting may in some ways be admirable, but one of its consequences is that Australian elections are decided by the block of voters who, were voting not compulsory, wouldn’t vote at all – the politically disengaged. They tend to have the weakest party affiliations/loyalties, and they are the ones that Abbott (or anyone) has to win support from if the Coalition is to build its vote. They tend to be moved not by policy or ideology, but by whether they warm to, like and trust a politician, so perhaps we should expect a newer, matier, cuddlier Tony.

        2) I was disappointed, but not surprised. Our political culture requires Catholic politicians to say this, but doesn’t scrutinise too closely what it means. I think if either the people who demand this statement or the people who make it were pressed to provide an account of its significance, they’d be hard put to come up with anything coherent.

      • I agree that his “keeping religion out of politics” remark was disappointing, but remember that this is a man who was happy to stick his neck out on abortion. I don’t know if he could have done more as Health Minister on that front, but given this fact, I think he’s a better Catholic polly than JFK or just about any other high profile Catholic pollie. Giving him the benefit of the doubt (on the basis of the flak he’s prepared to take), I’m inclined to think he just measn that he won’t be trying to railroad the Catechism into legislation. e.g. Undoubtedly abortion should be illegal and criminal and abortionists ought to be prosecuted. Also there is no way it ought to be covered by medicare. However, getting these things happening is not even possible in the current climate, so the legitimate tactic is just to roll things back by increments. I *think* this is what Tony may mean.

        • Peregrinus

          I don’t think it is. As I say below, he has explicitly said that he does not favour making abortion illegal, so unless you think he is lying we have to take it that he does not.

          • My point was only that to the extent that Mr Abbott’s views are indeed informed by Catholic teaching, he may still only be considering what is politcally feasible, rather than saying the Catholic faith should have no part in his politics. I’m disappointed he can’t see why abortion ought to be illegal, but it may be that either his understanding (or mine) is deficient. I do not consider him (yet) to be a cafeteria Catholic – I assume he acts in good faith.

            • L and P, you’re at cross purposes: of course, while in an ideal society the unborn would be protected from murder, we all know that it would be more than miraculous for any Parliament to legislate such a law nowadays, such is our abysmal societal disorder. If I were a politician, I would of course say that abortion could not realistically be recriminalized, which is Abbott’s view also, while of course striving in whatever manner is actually possible to make incremental defences of the unborn (as Abbott did, unsuccessfully, over RU-486). Politics is the art of the possible.

              I must say writing these words sickens me: it makes me feel like a Nazi asking for an exemption from the gas chambers for Jews who were war veterans of the World War One German Army… (in reality, even they, despite a Lutheran chaplain diffidently speaking up for them, were gassed and slain).

  2. P,

    What do you mean by “the people who actually like what the “Captain Catholic” label implies”?

    I am not sure I get your allusions here. Please spell it out…

    • Peregrinus

      Hi Joshua

      I mean nothing sinister!

      First, what does the “Captain Catholic” label imply? I see it as an assertion that Abbott wants to see Catholic moral teaching – particularly with respect to abortion and related issues – reflected in Australian law.

      In electoral terms, I think that on the whole this would be a disadvantageous perception. Most Australians are not Catholics, and a significant proportion of those who are either have only a qualified acceptance of church teaching in this area, or have a view of the role of the state which does not include implementing church teaching. So, if the “Captain Catholic” label means what I suggest, and if people believe it, it will not help Abbott politically.

      There is, though, a group who would welcome it if this understanding of the label was an accurate perception of Tony Abbott. I think they are a minority, obviously, but they are part of Abbott’s support base.

      The thing is, I don’t think that the label is all that accurate.

      I accept, of course, that Abbott believes that abortion is intrinsically gravely wrong. He suffers politically for this belief, so there is absolutely no reason to question his sincerity in professing it.

      But if we look what Abbott’s statements and actions tell us about his view of the proper role of the state, the picture which emerges is not what the label suggests.

      Abbott is on record as saying that he does not believe that abortion should be made illegal again. This is not something he has ever called for, or worked for, or supported and, as I say, in interviews he has said that he does not support the idea. So, while he doesn’t believe that a woman has a moral right to abort her child, I think it’s fair to say that he does believe that she should have that legal right, in at least some circumstances.

      Furthermore, Abbott has had much closer “formal co-operation” with the provision of abortions than many of the hate figures for the political pro-life movement. Recall that he was Minister for Health for four years; in that capacity he was responsible for the operation of the Australian public health service (or services), an agency which performs many tens of thousands of abortions every year. As Minister, every year he introduces into Parliament, and commended to Parliament, a budgetary vote to provide funds for (among other things) these abortions, and then he became responsible for ensuring that the money was spent as voted – which he did. Barack Obama, to pick one example, has never had such close co-operation with the provision of abortions.

      I’m not accusing Abbott of hypocrisy. I accept entirely the sincerity of his pro-life beliefs. I also accept that he did do things in office which reflected those beliefs – e.g. his refusal to licence the distribution of RU-486. But, really, the fact that he could have facilitated even more abortions and didn’t is no answer to the objections that could be made with respect to the abortions that he did facilitate.

      I also accept that he didn’t have the option of being a Minister for Health presiding over a service which didn’t provide abortions. But if he had found this involvement with the provision of abortions offensive to his conscience, he could have declined the office. He didn’t.

      In short, Abbott has done things which, were he a Catholic Democrat in the United States, would certainly see strident calls for him to be denied communion, barred from addressing Catholic institutions, etc, all with a degree of cheerleading from the Catholic right in Australia.

      Why does he get an apparently free ride on this issue from the political pro-life movement?

      Well, I could be cynical and say “how would making a fuss about this help the Liberal party?” Abbott isn’t an American Democrat, or the Australian equivalent, so he is judged by different standards.

      Or I could be cynical and say that the political pro-life movement doesn’t care what a politician actually does, as long as he makes noises which appeal to them.

      But I prefer to be a bit less cynical, and say that Abbott has been given the “Captain Catholic” label by the secular left, and the Catholic right accepts it as accurate because they very much want it to be accurate. They don’t scrutinise it as closely as they might for that reason.

      If the latter is the case, then we may be in for interesting times. If Abbott is to build support, he needs to attract the people who currently don’t support him – i.e. it’s not the Catholic right that he needs to chase. So he needs to rebut the “Captain Catholic” label and, as indicated above, I think it is basically inaccurate and so should be rebuttable. The question is how long the Catholic right can ignore the rebuttal, and what their reaction will be once they can no longer ignore it.

      • I see it as an assertion that Abbott wants to see Catholic moral teaching – particularly with respect to abortion and related issues – reflected in Australian law.

        I hope he does. Whether that is achievable is a political question. Catholic pollies must be entirely formed by Catholic social teaching and strive to conform all their political decisions to it. What form that takes in any particular circumstance requires the virtue of Prudence more than anything.

      • hate figures for the political pro-life movement.

        hate figures?

      • Or I could be cynical and say that the political pro-life movement doesn’t care what a politician actually does, as long as he makes noises which appeal to them.

        Well, I can’t comment for a movement and I have acknowledged already that Abbott might have been able to do more as Health Minister. He might not have been able to however, and given that he did take a stand in areas where he obviously could, I’m prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. Remember, in any case, that we already have gov’t funded abortion here but they don’t in the States. The temperament of Australians is different than the Yanks. In an Oz context, I do think Abbott has tried to make a difference. This is what I assume when I declare my support for him.

        Or you could just assume the worst about me (and other pro-lifers) I really don’t care.

      • Oh yes, I see we basically agree.

        Yes, it would be nice if he were able to do all that “the Catholic right” would hope, but of course there’s no chance of that in our present society: it would be suicide to do so, and not a noble act of self-sacrifice, but a foolish one and unproductive.

        Yes. I agree that it is wicked anti-Catholic bigotry for those on the left to attack him under this banner of “captain Catholic”, since the ignorant and unknowing, hearing only of nasty old Popes and pedophile priests, see Catholicism as sinister and dangerous.

        I too had wondered about how Abbott, who obviously opposes abortion, but – unfortunately rightly – sees no way to bring about its abolition at present, saying he cannot see it being recriminalized (meaning, there is no feasible way to do so in the foreseeable future – again, ‘twould be foolish to say he would if he could, he’d be denounced), could take the Health portfolio.

        To again speak of myself, if I were a politician, I’d be glad to take most any ministry, but Health would imply such cooperation in evil as to be scary.

        • Peregrinus

          I too had wondered about how Abbott, who obviously opposes abortion, but – unfortunately rightly – sees no way to bring about its abolition at present, saying he cannot see it being recriminalized (meaning, there is no feasible way to do so in the foreseeable future – again, ‘twould be foolish to say he would if he could, he’d be denounced), could take the Health portfolio.

          I think it’s a bit more complex than that.

          There may be more, but I can think of at least three reasons why someone who believes that a particular action – let’s call it ‘X’ – is intrinsically evil would still not seek its criminalisation.

          1. He might, as you suggest in this instance, think criminalisation is unattainable, and so to campaign for criminalisation would be at best pointless and at worst counterproductive (entrenching attitudes, diverting resources which might be more effectively used elsewhere, etc.) If Abbot takes that stance in this instance, he already distances him from much of the political pro-life movement, who do indeed campaign for criminalisation, either rejecting or not considering the argument that this may be damaging the interests of the unborn.

          2. He might think that, if attained, criminalisation would be ineffective – the law would be widely disregarded/flouted, enforcement would be politically (and perhaps practically) impossible, etc. I note in passing that in a democracy the “unattainable” and the “ineffective” arguments can be run together, since the conditions which make a law unattainable – lack of popular support or acceptance – will also tend to make it ineffective.

          3. He might think that, regardless of attainability or effectiveness, criminalisation would not be justified. I think a majority of Catholics are of this view where X is, say, adultery. The issue we grapple with here is not “is X intrinsically evil”, but “is preventing X the proper function of the criminal law”? Again, this argument can be run with others. One of the factors which might make a law hard to attain or difficult to enforce is the view that the law is not morally justified. Pretty much by definition the political pro-life movement, to the extent that it favours criminalisation even in principle, does not accept this argument as regards abortion.

          I don’t think I actually know exactly why Tony Abbott does not favour the criminalisation of abortion. Probably arguments 1 and 2 feature in his thinking, but I don’t see any reason to rule out argument 3 above either. I counsel against an instinctive assumption that his reasons conform closely to the ones a hypothetical member of the political Catholic right might wish him to have. That seems to be to be giving him a free pass simply because he is generally politically right-wing, which feeds straight into the perception that the political Catholic right is simply the political secular right, waving a crucifix. And, as I think you recognise, his willingness to serve as Health Minister, and to do what Health Ministers are expected to do, might suggest that he’s not necessarily the poster-boy that the political Catholic right might wish.

          I think part of our problem here is the truly appalling standard of public discussion in Australia about the role of religion in the public sphere. As we’ve already noted, Abbot is required to recite certain platitudes about the separation of religion and politics, and he duly recites them, and nobody is bothered by the fact that we don’t know what they mean. The result is that we don’t really know what Abbott thinks is the proper relationship of faith to political action or to law or policy, and so we don’t know – and can’t really guess – to what extent, if at all, Abbott’s view on the criminalisation of abortion is influenced by some version of what I have labelled argument 3 above.

      • Mike

        In short, Abbott has done things which, were he a Catholic Democrat in the United States, would certainly see strident calls for him to be denied communion, barred from addressing Catholic institutions, etc, all with a degree of cheerleading from the Catholic right in Australia.

        While I see where you’re coming from here, I don’t think it’s quite like that. On one hand you have TA, who at least appears to be doing what he can to work against abortion, and, as you say, really does suffer politically for it. Many pro-lifers might understand that there’s really little point (politically) for him to take a stand against legal abortion full-stop. He’s not going to make any headway in that regard, and there’s little public support for it.

        On the other hand, there are some Catholic Democrats who basically fight for abortion rights while making some pretty lame excuses about their Catholic faith, paying lip-service to the idea that abortion really isn’t the most wonderful thing in the world.

        If we had a lesser amount of data, I think you could have a stronger case. For example, TA quotes Clinton approvingly on wanting abortion to be “safe, legal and rare”. For some that would mean we should equate the two politicians. But when it comes down to it, it seems that Clinton was far more worried about the “safe and legal” aspect , whereas TA actually tried to do something to make it more “rare”. They each take a political line for statements and the public record, but their approach is very different.
        Hence while Clinton vetoed a ban on partial birth abortion, which ban had the approval of the government, Abbott tried to work against many of his colleagues to keep RU486 out.

        I’m not saying by any means that TA is the perfect pro-life Catholic poster-boy, and indeed people in the pro-life movement have a go at him for the comments you’ve mentioned. But I think there is a world of difference between him and Kennedy, Pelosi or whoever else you might have had in mind.

        • Peregrinus

          If we had a lesser amount of data, I think you could have a stronger case. For example, TA quotes Clinton approvingly on wanting abortion to be “safe, legal and rare”. For some that would mean we should equate the two politicians. But when it comes down to it, it seems that Clinton was far more worried about the “safe and legal” aspect , whereas TA actually tried to do something to make it more “rare”. They each take a political line for statements and the public record, but their approach is very different.
          Hence while Clinton vetoed a ban on partial birth abortion, which ban had the approval of the government, Abbott tried to work against many of his colleagues to keep RU486 out.

          I’m not saying by any means that TA is the perfect pro-life Catholic poster-boy, and indeed people in the pro-life movement have a go at him for the comments you’ve mentioned. But I think there is a world of difference between him and Kennedy, Pelosi or whoever else you might have had in mind.

          There certainly is a world of difference between Abbott on the one hand and Clinton et al on the other. Abbot thinks abortion is fundamentally wrong and that reduction or elimination of abortion is a proper goal of public policy, whereas they don’t agree that it’s fundamentally wrong, and I imagine don’t all agree that reduction/elimination should be a policy goal.

          But your point about Clinton focussing on “safe and legal”, and Abbott prioritising “rare” bears further examination.

          An irony often noted is that under pro-choice Clinton abortion rates in the US fell, while under the supposed pro-life Bush administrations which came before and after him abortion rates rose. Now, the reasons for this are complex and must be open to some debate, but there’s a well-argued view that Clinton’s social and economic policies produced more stable and supportive environments in which women facing crisis pregnancies were more empowered to chose to keep their babies. In other words, although it wasn’t his policy objective, Clinton pursued strategies that did, in fact, make abortion rarer. Whereas the more aggressively individualist policies which characterised the Republican adminstrations had the reverse effect, more than offsetting whatever consciously pro-life measures that they adopted.

          I think what this points to is that, if we accept that criminalisation is either unattainable or ineffective or, for any other reason, not a viable strategy for reducing abortions, and if we still have the policy objective of reducing abortions and accord it a high priority, then we have to be open and honest in our thinking about what policies will reduce abortions. Australian governments are coy about their abortion figures, so I don’t know if we really know whether the abortion rate rose or fell while Abbott was Minister for Health. But I suggest that it’s at least possible that the specifically abortion-related measures that Abbott can claim credit for – maintaining the the ban on RU-486, the counselling arrangements – were probably only a small part of the overall picture of how government measures and policies affected abortion rates.

          In other words, whether a hypothetical Abbot-led government would truly be a pro-life government, we shouldn’t just ask ourselves whether Abbott is “personally pro-life” (a rather shopworn phrase at this stage), or whether he favours or doesn’t favour criminalisation, or even whether he would re-ban RU-486, or take other steps directly bearing on abortion provision. We really need to ask whether he would present a programme for government directed at producing the kind of society where abortion, if legal and safe, would still be rare, and whether he would compromise other conservative principles – individualism, the free market, low taxes, whatever – to help bring that about. If not, is he really any more committed to “rare” than Clinton was?

  3. Yes, a lot more interesting.

    I have a lot of respect for Abbott; he is a thinking politician, and although he is obviously ambitious, he clearly still follows his religiously-formed conscience, which makes him an interesting character.

    I also think he will appeal to the socially conservative on both Labor and Liberal sides.

    The election will tell us much about where the country is headed.

    • I agree entirely, Mark.

      I do feel that we have been all at sea politically since 2007. Of course, the economic crisis was a big issue, and got in the way of other policy questions, but the whole climate change issue has not been well handled in a way that has brought all Australians on board by clearly explaining what we need to do and how we are going to do it.

      I have never really understood how an “Emissions Trading Scheme” is supposed to to reduce carbon emissions. I do understand what “the biggest tax in Australia’s history” means.

      I heard someone talking on the radio yesterday about the Governments intention to fight binge drinking by raising the tax on all alcohol.

      It seems therefore that there are generally only two solutions that some politicians have for any problem: either throw money at it or tax it. The latter option has the benefit that it fills the Government’s coffers.

      Surely a lot, lot more needs to be done to promote renewable energy. The Vatican seems to be leading the way here. They have solar panels on the Paul VI auditorium which supply 20% of the Vatican’s electrical needs, and have purchased a forest in Hungary to offset the other carbon emissions used by the tiny 44 hectare state.

      Can’t this model be followed by the rest of the world?

      BTW, Someone was telling me just this morning that China has woken up to the need to do something about emissions, because crops are dying in parts of China due to lack of sunshine…

      • Peregrinus

        Surely a lot, lot more needs to be done to promote renewable energy. The Vatican seems to be leading the way here. They have solar panels on the Paul VI auditorium which supply 20% of the Vatican’s electrical needs, and have purchased a forest in Hungary to offset the other carbon emissions used by the tiny 44 hectare state.

        Can’t this model be followed by the rest of the world?

        The Vatican can do it like that, because it is a centrally-planned socialist economy in which all the factors of production are in the hands of the state. The purpose of things like carbon taxes and cap-and-trade schemes is to create incentives in free market economies to do things like that.

    • I will be voting [1] Tony Abbott (obviously a rhetorical flourish) – unless the DLP put up a candidate in Franklin.

  4. Tony

    I love it! He ‘speaks his mind’ apparently.

    In the last fornight he’s certainly done that and it’s quite an insight into his ‘mind’:

    1. We should pass the ETS as is (to get it off the front pages) and this was even before the Wong/McFarlane negotiations had actually finished.

    (1b. Howard makes the point that ETS was similar to the one they ended up with, presumably with TA’s support.)

    2. The current climate science is ‘crap’.

    3. Book launch in which he states that he believes in the science of climate change.

    4. I’m right behind Malcolm.

    5. I’m running for the leadership but will stand aside if Joe runs.

    6. No, I’m running for the leadership whatever Joe does.

    7. Bloody ‘ell, I won!

    8. The ETS is one big fat tax and I’m kicking it out (no, it wasn’t a big fat tax when they put it forward).

    In the photo op soon after he was elected he is shown shaking Julie Bishop’s hand and was heard to say, ‘She’s a loyal girly’ or words to that effect.

    What will be interesting is the climate change policy he does come up with in the context of reducing carbon by 5% by 2020 and, assuming he pulls that rabbit out of the hat, how he will convince those in his party who are clearly climate change sceptics, ie, the ones who helped him over the line.

    Make no mistake about it, he has to have a clincher of a climate change policy. The polls have been clear on that for a long time. He may gain some traction from undermining Labor’s ETS but if he doesn’t have anything better or, even more ‘courageously’ (in the ‘Yes Minister’ sense) he has no policy, the Liberals will be decimated.

    (The ‘rabbit’ may be nuclear — he’s already hinted at that — but I really don’t think Australians are going to come around to that quickly, if at all.)

    And, of course, the other big issue is will he be able to keep his foot out of his mouth?

  5. Tony

    Quite right David! It will be interesting in a Mark Latham sort of way and, yes, he is flexible.

    Trouble is one of his apparent ‘assets’ is his image as a ‘conviction politician’ and a ‘straight talker’. He’s provided so much ammunition to undermine that view, even in the last fortnight, to run election ads from here to voting day.

    Apparently he’s now hinted at ‘more energy-efficient buildings, better land management and biosequestration’ as possible ways to reduce our carbon load. I guess we must assume these things won’t cost a penny and will therefore not have any impact on taxes. LOL

    Meanwhile, Julie Bishop (the loyal ‘girl’) has apparently earned the unflattering nickname ‘Cockroach’ because she’ll ‘survive anything’.

    Finally, there is talk of Barnaby Joyce getting a front bench position. That’ll certainly add another layer of ‘interest’!

  6. Er…Tony has a problem.
    Apparently Julie Bishop has just said that WorkChoices could return.

    • Peregrinus

      Every problem is an opportunity.

      He could play good cop/bad cop by publicly squashing Julie Bishop’s idea, and so help to esablish himself as not a workchoices type of person.

      (I fact, if I were cynical, I might suspect a set-up for this very purpose.)

      • Maybe so, Perry.
        It will be interesting – that word again – to see how Tony handles the hard right of the Liberal Party, not to mention the coalition partners, now that he is the alternative Prime Minister; much rides on perceptions with the swinging voters who determine elections in Australia – TA will have to hold the centre if he is to be a credible alternative.

    • Tom

      he said pretty clearly that WorkChoices in its entirety would not return, except that there are elements of work choices that were good for Australia, and that he was interested in re-tabling those. So far i’ve not seen anything specific about those elements, but the people saying WorkChoices are returning is Labor; Gillard especially has been making a lot of noise about it.

  7. Kiran

    I am actually really excited about Joyce….

    • He has a daughter, Louise! Well, that’s it – I’m sold.

    • Oops! That wasn’t meant to be a reply to your comment, Kiran. I was speaking of Tony Abbott’s daughter. Tell me about Joyce then.

      • Kiran

        Joyce came and spoke to us at the University. He is one of the few Catholic politicians, who is both pro-life, and opposed to the inhuman treatment of refugees. He isn’t an unrepentant capitalist… He stands up for farmers, and the country. I could go on… In short, he is very Chestertonian.

        Alas, none of his four daughters is a Louise!

        • Yes, I hear this morning that Joyce is to get a seat in the Shadow Cabinet. Good stuff already, since under Turnbull, he was rather cold-shouldered.

  8. Picric

    I am always amused at just how wrong th press gets political things. Hockey was a certainty to win the leadership, they said. Now their worst nightmare has materialised ans so the rather pathetic assertions about Abbott being “unelectable”. Well, let’s just see shall we. It has also been confidently asserted that “women” don’t like TA. See this morning’s Australian which puts thelie to that one. TA is a “good thing”. I wish him well.

    • Peregrinus

      This is certainly not the press’s “worst nightmare”. In general they love Tony Abbott, both personally – he’s an ex-journo, with many firm friends still in the business – and professionally – he is always good for a quotable quote on virtually any topic. Journalistic gold! He gets far more coverage than most of his peers. He’s interesting, and that sells newspapers. What’s not to like?

      • Tony

        I agree Pere. The press are licking their lips in anticipation.

        I think back when Mr People Skills was a minister he called Mr Koncise a ‘sanctimonious wind bag’ (I think even Keating would have been amused!). There is some truth in that!

        But, to be fair, just about all the pundits could not have predicted the outcome of the vote and that’s a function of a volatile situation and a 2 part, 3 cornered contest.

        Despite all that, Turnbull only lost by one and there were two other votes not counted (absent and informal). As was said by a few people, winning by one is a landslide, but I’m not sure Abbott would be taking his tenure for granted and the biggest chump to emerge from the process is not Turnbull, but Hockey. Poor sod got ‘done over’ by both Turnbull and Abbott.

        So the Mad Monk starts off with potentially half the members not liking him and, I’d suggest, he doesn’t have to do too much wrong to turn 51% into 49%.

        Interesting …

        • Peregrinus

          . . . and the biggest chump to emerge from the process is not Turnbull, but Hockey. Poor sod got ‘done over’ by both Turnbull and Abbott.

          Or, he succeeded in avoiding the poisoned chalice without actually alienating his supporters who were urging him to drink it.

          And, after the party is shredded at the next elections because they remain deeply divided on climate change and many of them still loathe Abbott and the electorate can see all this, white knight Joe’s hour comes.

        • Gareth

          Is using the term ‘mad-monk’ ad-hoc?

          Naughty-naughty dissenters

          • Peregrinus

            Unlike “Captain Catholic”, “The Mad Monk” is a nickname he acquired before entering public life. It was conferred on him by his fellow seminarians. Apparently he’s quite proud of it!

            • Gareth

              And so he should be

              • Peregrinus

                Very elegant back-flip, there, Gareth. A moment ago it was ad hominem abuse deployed by dissenters!

                • Gareth

                  No backflip Pere,

                  The ‘mad-monk’ tag is of course an ad-hoc tag in which unless you can prove otherwise (like using some useful references) employed by those that are not simply degrading Mr Abbott, but the Catholic Church in general.

                  If such a tag was unfairly pinned on me by the extreme left or dissenting Catholics, I too would wear it would pride, in the same way that the term ‘ni****’ is now an expression of pride amongst the African-American community

                  • Peregrinus

                    You miss the point, Gareth. The nickname wasn’t “pinned on him by the extreme left or dissenting Catholics”. It was given long before he entered public life, when he was a seminarian, by his fellow seminarians. He likes it because he understands it to be affectionate.

                    • And as such we let it pass on SCE as not being “ad hominem”.

                    • Gareth

                      Why would his brother seminarians use the term ‘mad-monk’??

                      Doesnt make much sense to me and unless you can provide a reference for this, I am more inclined to think it was liberal Catholics who are upset by the actual fact that he has some balls to back up his faith in the public sphere.

                      Me thinks it was rathe

      • They have an odd way of showing their love for him, Perry. I will concede that a number of them do like him (at least I’ve heard as much from others, I just haven’t seen a lot of evidence yet).

        I have seen a lot of anti-Catholic rhetoric strewn through the rags, but that’s par for the course.

        • Peregrinus

          You haven’t seen the evidence? You’re not looking. It isn’t hard to find.

          There’s plenty of anti-Abbott opinion voiced in the press. But that’s not evidence of bias against him. Abbot is at towards one end of the spectrum of opinion in his party, which in turn is towards one end of the spectrum of opinion represented in Australian politics. Plus, Abbott is not averse to the verbal stoush, in the course of which his antagonists are certain to say passionate things about him. That will be reported.

          In short, you would expect, in a press which represents opinion fairly, that much of the opinion expressed – perhaps even most of it – will be hostile to Abbott. But that’s an outcome of fairness, not bias.

          Bias against Abbot would be shown if that was all that ever appeared in the press. But it isn’t. Abbot gets plenty of space to put his own view. He regularly writes opinion pieces for a variety of publications, sometimes quite substantial ones. Lengthy non-confrontational interviews are published, and he gets profiled. He’s constantly approached for comments (because he’s nearly always willing to offer them, and journalists with deadlines are grateful for that).

          I have a much clearer image of Tony Abbott, where he stands and what he thinks than I do, say, of Joe Hockey, or Kevin Andrews, or other senior Liberal figures who have been around for a while. That’s down to the media coverage that Abbott gets. I think most pollies would kill for that kind of coverage.

          • Perhaps. I have expected and seen a very great amount of anti-Catholic foaming at the mouth nuttery, including in our local rag. Given that Tony Abbott’s political views are probably identical to where the mainstream middle class Aussies were at 40 years ago (at least, I’m pretty sure my grandparents would agree with him on most points and I don’t think they were unusual), I find it very disturbing that he is considered to be at an “extreme” in politics.

            Says it all, really.

        • Matthias

          My socialist brother sent a comment by Catherine Deveney that
          TA is a “flappy eared POPE Muncher”. I am not catholic but i took exception to that and made a comment that is unrepeatable,uncharitable and unChristian.

    • They do get things wrong, Picric, and I am amazed they don’t have the humility to see at least that they are not omniscient.

      This woman will be happy to vote [1] Tony Abbott at the next election. Bring it on!

  9. I too rather like Tony Abbott: and I recall a priceless anecdote told by Bp Anthony Fisher about him.

    Fisher was at Riverview a few years behind Tony – as a friend of mine said, despite both being so successful, there’s no way the S.J.’s (dirty leftists) would ever have either back to speak to the boys – and when Fisher was trying to decide what to do about pursuing a priestly vocation, apparently he rang Tony, then a seminarian, since he was the only person he knew who was one.

    The advice? Tony said, Join the diocese not a religious order, that way you’ll be a bishop sooner! Fisher was so horrified that he joined the Dominicans instead – but of course the Lord had the last laugh…

  10. Matthias

    I hope that Tony Abbott shows what a sham KRUDD’s credentials as a Christian are. TA referred to a nasty tirrade that the PM made and said ‘ where was Bonhoffer and his Christian thought in that “

  11. Gareth

    Abbott looks a bit more ‘catholic’ than the ditsy-airhead so-called Catholic that has just been elected Premier of NSW.

    Heaven help the poor people of NSW

    • Watch it, Gareth. That remark may not have been “ad hominem”, but it certainly was “ad feminam”. In terms of censorship, your comment is dangerously scissile.

      • Gareth

        I am sure Kristina like the ‘mad-monk’ would ‘giggle’ about it (in a femine way of course) and wear it as a badge of honour…

      • Tom

        don’t worry Schutz, it’s a fair description of our new Premier. She records, as her feminist credentials, calling a bishop on talk-back radio when she was 8 and demanding to know why girls couldn’t be altar servers…

        Yes, feminist action of course…