Seven begged questions
In The Australian yesterday, Peter van Onselen wrote another article where he tries to sound portentous but is pretensious instead. You'll have to take my word for it as I won't link to any Oz articles: in its current Goetterdaemmerung phase there's no telling what that paper might do. What follows reflects badly, not only on PvO's lack of perspective but also the sheer delusion necessary to sustain the myth of an Abbott Liberal Government.
1. You can't just flick the switch to policy, especially not when you're Tony Abbott. Abbott has no vision for Australia other than himself in the Lodge. His whole modus operandi is to charge here, feint there, and double back again before dashing off on his bike. As an Editor, PvO has a duty to portray Abbott as he is rather than as some action figjre who can bolt on extra accessories as required. Abbott isn't a dinosaur, he just wants to restore the status quo of four years ago and doesn't care how that happens. After the so-close-but-yet-so-far election last August he can't be told that we've all moved on since then, and that you need to address what's ahead.
2. PvO has a firm grip on campaigning issues that don't matter. The Liberals didn't choose a candidate for Lindsay until tbe writs were issued, long after the ALP incumbent had been doggedly entrenching himself. In Robertson, the Liberal candidate assumed that Labor would a) re-endorse the appalling incumbent or b) split when another candidate was chosen; when neither occurred he went to water. Banks has been in the Liberal Party's sights for twenty years, yet they parachuted in some guy from the northern beaches and ran a shoestring campaign. Conclusion: local campaigns still matter.
Nutt has been State Director in four states. It's telling that Abbott can't get rid of loser Loughnane.
3. It isn't self-evident that the NBN must go. The campaign against the NBN is eerily similar to another major piece of infrastructure: a second airport for Sydney. An idea is floated, it bounces around for a while and then dies, only to be replaced by another idea that goes nowhere, etc. PvO's assertion that wireless will support medical operations goes against the experience of those of us who work on such projects.
The problem that the Coalition had last August was that their policy was rubbish - you couldn't give it away, let alone sell it. The idea that you can quibble away the NBN and replace it with some cheap-jack rubbish plays to anti-Liberal notions of arrogance and inability to handle the future.
The Liberals are often accused of doing the bidding of corporate Australia, but when it comes to broadband they have no idea. Lenin said that capitalists would sell socialists the rope with which they'd hang them; Gerry Harvey will sell you the ICT equipment with which you can access the internet and bypass retailers like Gerry Harvey. And his solution to the new paradigm is a GST holiday? Pathetic.
4. Name the duds, Peter. Kelly O'Dwyer would run rings around Sophie Mirabella. Paul Fletcher is a stuffed shirt who would have to go into a role requiring little contact with the great unwashed. Josh Frydenberg is an accident waiting to happen, as shown by his relationship with Bolt over the Wilkie papers in '03 and overstating his role at Deutsche Bank.
In terms of giving shadow ministers their heads, this is only possible with an overarching set of principles within which shadows can work. Abbott lacks this and is not a detail man either, so when a shadow runs their own race he just looks irrelevant, whether for good (e.g. Hockey on financial system regulation) or bad (e.g. David Johnson on Defence, Tony Smith on telco).
5. Hard to beat a female PM, really, especially with a leader so repellent to female voters. When PvO refers to Abbott using political capital, what does he mean (see points 2 & 6)?
6. Abbott is four seats away from government but it may as well be 40. The fact that Rudd suffered a 9% swing against him puts the lie to Queenslanders being parochial about their man. The election campaign showed Abbott is best when deployed sparingly: when he's overexposed he starts telling porkies or being sexist.
The more time he spends campaigning, the less time he has to develop policy.
7. Abbott has no clout and can't get rid of duffers. Bishop and Macfarlane should both go - Abbott tried to get rid of Wyatt Roy before the last election and failed. If Abbott tried to knock Hockey's and Robb's heads together, both would tell him to get lost - it may even destabilise his leadership. Abbott has no organisational clout and PvO is wrong to assume otherwise.
And there we have it: seven tombstones to the credibility of PvO and Abbott PM. Abbott is at the end of his tether and you need to overlook far too much in order to believe otherwise. PvO thinks he has a role as stenographer fot Liberal strategists, but you ultimately do them a favour if you question their assumptions.