17 September 2010

Timid and inept opposition

So, Tony Abbott says earlier pre-selections in NSW could [have] secured three more seats: really?

“We lost because we didn't win enough seats,” the Opposition Leader told 3AW this morning.

“I think that if we pre-selected candidates a bit earlier in NSW we might have got an extra three seats.
Which ones?
  • Greenway: the Liberals had a perfectly good candidate in the local mayor but David Clarke vetoed him for being too normal.
  • Robertson: no problem with the candidate or timing there. When Darren Jameson was preselected, Labor were in the process of tearing down not only an elected PM, but an elected MP who had married into NSW Labor's main power structure.
  • Banks: no problem with the candidate or the timing. Liberals have known for twenty years that the seat would swing Liberal (just as demographics in Bennelong were heading against John Howard). The problem was a slow-moving Liberal machine and a "leader" not able to move faster than his machine.
  • New England and Lyne: imagine what good Liberal candidates might have done there, rather than standing up to the Nats. Serves you right.
  • Lindsay: yes, fair cop there. I'll give you that, even though it underestimates David Bradbury as the kind of quality local marginal-seat candidate Jackie Kelly was often wrongly accused of being.
  • No, I can't think of any others either.
There's six eminently winnable seats for the Liberals, but only one fits the Abbott thesis. It also protects Brian Loughnane from his own ineptitude: shift the blame, keep your job. It would be just like Abbott to set off some civil conflict within the NSW Liberals just when the State Labor Government is on life support, just when they can show him what a genuinely broad-based and policy-smart opposition looks like. Keep your trap shut and wait for the internal report, you stupid man. Getting rid of David Clarke would be good for at least five seats, and is much more urgent and positive for Australia than doing the same to Pauline Hanson.

Mr Abbott said he would try to be a more effective critic of bad policies and a stronger and more credible alternative to Labor, which has formed minority government with the help of a Greens MP and key independents.

He said he held concerns the next three years would be characterised by “timid” and “inept” government.

Mr Abbott acknowledged the opposition's policies would be reviewed over the next three years and “refined” following the electoral defeat, but warned the Coalition would not walk away from its core values or “radically change anything”.
And here's me thinking Abbott was like a coiled spring, ready and waiting to get into government. Now, it seems, he's going to take his sweet time, three long years of reviewing policies and not radically changing anything when he's not too busy doing whatever else. Maybe he might develop some appreciation of economics over that time, but I doubt it. Sounds like timid and inept opposition to me.

That said, Abbott equates toughness with being able to monster those to whom he doesn't have to suck up. This may explain why he's pissed off one of the guys whose vote he needs to become Prime Minister. It's one thing to have Chris Pyne fill the air with yapping and sink his needle-like teeth into your trouser-cuffs, but it's poor policy to shirtfront someone you'll later have to rely upon. What's timid and inept is to lecture people you should be consulting.

He outlined his in-principle opposition to a “go-it-alone” carbon tax, and argued it would be an act of “economic self-harm” because it would push up the cost of power and petrol.
The cost of power will go up because Australia's ageing coal-fired plants will become less efficient as demand for power grows. We need new solutions, fast: pollution is itself a cost, which has flow-on costs into health and other issues, and if you were a real leader you'd point this out. As for the cost of petrol, the high dollar and the low cost of the same commodity among our near neighbours shows this to be the least of our worries. You should be pushing Labor to offset other taxes against the inevitable (claiming that other countries - our trade competitors - are doing nothing about taxing carbon is a lie).

Abbott has slipped back into attack-dog mode at the very time when people are starting to appreciate broader and more subtle ways of working in politics. He will probably succeed in fooling the similarly calibrated journosphere that he's a real threat, but he still hasn't addressed his economic and communications policy deficiencies, nor has he given serious thought to his party's future (I mean, Scott Ryan: I ask you). Timid and inept: Tony Abbott confirms his credentials for Opposition. The question is open on whether the Liberals want to stay there, and if not how committed they really are to Abbott as leader.


  1. Well said PH, methinks poor Tony is suffering from PLOM, [poor little old me]. I wonder whether he has the sort of personality which in spite of his self belief will be the undoing of him at some point.

  2. I think Tony Abbott is suffering from an overly inflated ego, which he still can't get over his loss to Labor and a female at that..