Last week that strategy failed. It failed publicly, and utterly. It will keep on failing as the government gets up off its hind legs and the measures proposed in the past week come into force, which reinforces the perception that this government is acting like a real government, which gives it more confidence (but hopefully not too much), etc.
Last week we saw three events that made the government look like a real government:
- It consulted widely on tax reform;
- It enacted a budget-sized raft of legislation to institute a carbon pricing mechanism, after years of talk and bluff; and
- It settled, for better or worse, on a policy for dealing with asylum seekers.
This is the lesson that the Liberals learned from the failed ETS deal in 2009. The Liberals engaged in a protracted negotiation process with Rudd, who was at the peak of his powers, and after stringing him along they eventually decided against a deal, which left him (as they say in Canberra) fucked and burnt. Naturally they are seeking to do the same again: all they need is a dumb Labor government that learns nothing.
A press gallery with the memory span of goldfish is also useful to Abbott, as Philip Coorey shows:
TONY ABBOTT has indicated he would have said no to a compromise asylum-seeker policy that included Nauru, vindicating Julia Gillard and others in the cabinet who argued against making such an offer.Well, no kidding. If the government had proposed restoring the status quo of 2006 Abbott would have squealed that the government had stolen his policy, unfit to govern etc. When you've been involved with press gallery journalism for as long as I have you can pick patterns like that.
The government stopped whinging about Abbott, and got on with it. This is what it always should have done (and those of you who think I'm being wise after the event can go back through this site and see that my hitherto futile calls for same have been a recurring feature of the past two years or so).
Buried way down in this tendentious article is a real gobbet of news, with which your old-school newshound would have led their story:
Mr Abbott's approval fell 2 percentage points to 41 per cent and his disapproval rose 2 points to 54 per cent.And there you have it. Almost two years into the job, after hundreds of stunts and thousands of pointless words nobody is any more convinced that they ever were that they want this man to be Prime Minister. Why no ABBOTT LOSER CHALLENGE ANY DAY NOW SHOCK headlines?
These are his worst ratings since becoming Opposition Leader on December 1, 2009, and are similar to numbers experienced by Mr Turnbull just before he was deposed.
Now you can see why Abbott went on with all that blood-oath stuff. Not because he's in a position of strength but because he's panicking. Over the weekend he sent out Greg Hunt to destroy what little credibility he had by swearing blind that the carbon mechanism was going to be repealed. It's highly likely that Opposition spokespeople responsible for the budget bottom line and productive relationships with business wouldn't have a bar of it (e.g. Hockey, Robb, Macfarlane) or have other issues on their plates right now (e.g. Mirabella). The Situation himself can only announce this and flit onto something else, trailing credulous journos in his wake.
Hunt is providing the textbook example of why you should resign rather than humilate yourself by selling a position that is so obviously bullshit. He's like the loyal soldier who gets sent by donkey superiors to charge the enemy machine-guns over open ground.
The poll finds 44 per cent of voters back Mr Turnbull as Coalition leader compared with 28 per cent for Mr Abbott and 23 per cent for Mr Hockey.Depends what you mean by "Greens and Labor voters", really. If we're talking rusted-ons, those figures are pretty much irrelevant. If we're talking people who voted Labor in 2007 and '10 but might be persuaded to vote for a Liberal Party not led by Tony Abbott, that's significant.
Mr Turnbull has much stronger support among Greens and Labor voters.
There are few articles more ridiculous than Labor isn't getting its message out because the press gallery is in thrall to Abbott, and this is Labor's fault, because the herd mentality of the press gallery is never ever wrong.
But in Tony Abbott it is facing the most skilful retail politician in recent memory, a leader with a proven ability to slice up solid arguments with sound bites.Only if you think a sound bite is sharper than a solid argument, or even real policy with actual results to show for it. This was all very well if you just treat leading politicians as duelling windbags, but in the past week we've seen real policies put in place with real costs and real outcomes. This would be the perfect opportunity for a journalist to ask some searching questions about what a rollback might look like - but then you'd have to ask someone other than Lenore Taylor:
But the Coalition leader has already skipped on ...And who's more happy to let him skip than Lenore Taylor? She could examine the way that Australian politics has changed and how Abbott is adapting to the new environment we find ourselves in, but she'll just let Abbott skip, skip, skippety-skip.
The factional system, which always provided structure when Labor was in crisis, is broken. "They broke it themselves," says one senior Labor figure. The overthrow of Kevin Rudd, sprung on the caucus by factional bosses at a stage when it was almost a fait accompli, is a process that poisoned its own outcome. The party is now inherently wary of any organised leadership challenge.That looks like the sort of solid journalism you can usually expect from Lenore Taylor - but then she falls straight off the wagon and spends the rest of her story insisting that something broken is not only functional but powerful enough to knock off a Prime Minister. It's one thing for pollies to contradict one another but when a journalist doubles back on her own story she is only making a spectacle of herself.
Often a "source close to" a politician is the bloke himself.Thanks for the tip. Shame the journo thinks they're being clever in not just quoting "the bloke himself".
Then there's the thousand words in the Rudd-Gillard kiss last week that the News Ltd papers couldn't write: Rudd saw that Gillard got the carbon mechanism through, in a way that he couldn't. Didn't you see that as an act of contrition, if not capitulation?
Tony Abbott is doing what he's always done and this past week it stopped working. His fanclub just assume he can switch gears to becoming Prime Ministerial, but this just isn't possibler. There is no calm and measured authority, only jumping from one stunt to the next. His only way out is more maxxxtreme stunts that makes Lenore Taylor ooh and aah - and that's what we'll be seeing, until The Situation gets so pathetic that they yank him off stage.
In a week where the government did what it gets paid to do, nobody should expect a grateful populace to cheer from sheer gratitude. We're just doing our jobs, and now the government is too it would be nice if journalists and the Opposition would do theirs.