11 August 2010

Out of puff

Sean Carney's piece today highlights what was always going to happen with Abbott. He was always going to run out of puff: he's a sprinter, not a stayer. The cracks that are now starting to show are structural defects that have been there from the start. Here at the Politically Homeless Institute we have long argued that Abbott's weaknesses negated any strengths he may have, and Carney is seeking to warn against the inevitable and foreseeable.

It's about how each side is able to portray itself and its opponent day after day, piece by piece, shifting and pushing against the other side. The progress of the campaign so far shows how it is the cumulative effects of the parties' performances that really count, rather than any single event.

This implies that amid all the hurly-burly, the truth will out. In reality, the Coalition have been lazy in making the case that they should replace the Rudd-Gillard government, and that laziness has made them vulnerable against an incumbent government with both a valid record and a viable future.

The Coalition's campaign has had its moments. They have run a disciplined and united campaign, in comparison to the rabble on the other side. Labor has been slow in getting their act together, but the Coalition have helped them by:

  • Refusing to debate (Gillard's Q&A performance was the debate she never had)

  • Releasing badly thought-out policies that don't fit together (see previous post)

  • Squandering the free-media opportunity that comes with a "launch", and

  • Thinking that because the devil is in the detail, you don't have to go there.

The Coalition aren't ready for government. By this weekend, people will have stopped listening to them and tight races will come down to Labor (or if not, particular local issues will help the Coalition prevail as in Gilmore and Bowman). The Coalition will complain about bias but you can't keep an even keel without a countervailing force. Tony Abbott's piss and wind is starting to wane and there is nothing Prime Ministerial to lift the Coalition.

The indolence of Tony Smith, the cowardice of Greg Hunt in pretending to craft a climate change policy as front for a "weathervane" leader and a sneering party, the fact that Christopher Pyne would chirp and gibber his way into the media limelight while producing an education policy scarcely worthy of the name and adrift from wider economic or social policy, shows that the Coalition don't really want to be lifted. Those three are aged under 50 and would be expected, under notions of Buggins' Turn, to be ministers in a Liberal government. It's one thing to jeer at Kevin Andrews or Phillip Ruddock as feeble relics who've had their day, but when the so-called future can't be bothered or can't cut it then Liberals are bound for disappointment, and the country is doomed to the kind of ineffective opposition we've seen in NSW.


  1. You see it, I see it, but will those aussies who are only asking whats in it for me see it? I have a son inlaw who left USA because of Bush, will he now flee Australia because of Abbot? The problem is that bad as Abbot and co are Labor don't put forward any great vision either. Where are our leaders?

  2. If you're looking out for number 1 you won't vote for a guy who hasn't got it together. Abbott hasn't got it together. You encourage leaders when you refuse to put up with bullshit.

  3. While I agree with everything you have said, I'm getting a sinking feeling this election might end up like 98, with labor winning the vote count but failing to get a majority of seats. Most targeted policy/handouts require some cooperation on the state level, and in NSW you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks the current state government has either the lifespan or competence to do this. The discontent with the QLD government wouldn't be too big a deal by itself, but when you add a good dollop of the MSN and Team Abbott's 'Rudd the Martyr' campaign (which seems to be falling on fertile ground), holding the line there is going to be problematic. The WA government is still fresh enough to afford to tell Team Gillard to pound sand without affecting its reelection chances, and there's a few marginals in Vic & SA that will probably slip back into coalition hands. The coalition is not ready for government, they don't have a vision for the future (except to look back to Howard), and the idea of Tony Abbott as our Prime Minister makes my skin crawl. Unfortunately, they might just make it.

  4. Jason Wilson12/8/10 7:15 am

    Your piece leads me to wonder whether the Coalition's message has been somewhat confused throughout the campaign. On the one hand, "real action", which is Howard restoration stuff, on a par with "practical reconciliation." i.e. Labor never does any more than symbolic gestures, but we'll get in there and in a muscular way sort things out. On the other hand, the main thrust of the campaign has been about carping around the edges of Labor programmes which, whatever their flaws, probably qualify as "real action" of some kind. It may be a minor thing, but it may also communicate a deeper confusion.

  5. Davem, ya nervous nellie! Confusing state and federal issues, and people who really keen for Rudd won't go for the man who did over Malcolm Turnbull.

    Jason, as I've said the Libs were quick to bury Fraser in 1983 because they had a number of alternative narratives ready to go (Thatcher, Reagan, Friedman etc). They're not so quick to bury Howard because there's a paucity of alternatives: Turnbull tried but he just couldn't do it. Moving into a Post-Howard mindset will take a lot of work, it won't happen easily or soon either for the oldies-in-a-hurry or for the bereft Liberals now in their 40s who apparently constitute the party's future.