Tony Abbott claims that as Shadow Minister for Families Families Families Welfare Aborigines and Families, he's not close enough to the action.
As Minister for Health, he was shadowed by both Julia Gillard and Nicola "That's Bullshit" Roxon. Both of them bested him and owe the senior positions in Cabinet to the sight of Abbott reeling under their blows. This is a man who, in his basic correspondence, can't cope with the appellation "Ms"; now colourless hack Jenny Macklin knows she can get away with almost any amount of incompetence because she faces no opposition that can't be brushed aside.
Consider the political debate in recent months:
- The Northern Territory intervention: paternalism or last chance?
- The baby bonus: is anyone in Warringah getting it?
- The Family: divorces still sky-high, gay couples should not be denied super and pension benefits. Discuss.
- The pension: Abbott must have been one of the few politicians not to comment on it. Fancy this media tart getting outdone by Margaret May.
- Centrelink: a shambles. Nothing from Abbott, but a defence of welfare for people who don't need it - a process whereby people's money is taken from them and sent back. Madness.
- Sexually abused children at Catholic schools - oh, what was I thinking?
Tony Abbott has to be one of the laziest shadow ministers in the Liberal Party. Clearly, Turnbull has kept him there until Abbott gets it right. You can't get "closer to the action" than FAHCSIA, it could be a real springboard for someone to rethink the way that government works in the community - but not under Abbott.
Abbott strikes the pose of a thinker, he has all those silly Eastern Suburban columnists fooled at The Australian, but actually Tony Abbott has stalled politically. He's too far right, but the right don't trust him and the moderates hate him. He's Captain Catholic, except when Pell's ineptitude on matters carnal comes out yet again, and he knows there's no votes in banging the pro-life drum. His father-figure has gone and he's not big enough to fill his shoes. He's got nowhere to go. What board would have him?
Tony Abbott has all the vigour of a landed fish. He might flop this way or that, but these are signs of desperation rather than defiance or vivacity. He's in that fascinating position where everyone can see he's on his way out, except him and the press gallery.