August 29th 2015

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Same-sex marriage and the SOGI ideological agenda

FAMILY AND SOCIETY Canada: basic freedoms lost since same-sex marriage came to town

CANBERRA OBSERVED Abbott, Shorten fixin' for some feudin' next year

OBITUARY RIP Frank Scully, last survivor of the Labor Split

EDITORIAL Colleagues digging holes Tony Abbott has to fill in

EDUCATION There must be a better plan than Naplan

HISTORY OF INDONESIA Sukarno makes way for Suharto's "New Order"

HISTORY Fateful indecision: the tragedy of Rabaul

FAMILY LIFE A father's presence in the home: part I

SCOTUS: JUDICIAL ACTIVISM On the having of the cake and the eating of it too

LIFE ISSUES When an abomination becomes good business

CINEMA Spy sequel vies with a spy history repeat Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

BOOK REVIEW An important biography of B.A.

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Abbott, Shorten fixin' for some feudin' next year

News Weekly, August 29, 2015

This time next year Australia will be in the midst of an election campaign with a straightforward choice – whether to give a first-term Abbott Government another term or to go back to an unreformed Labor Party the electorate threw out comprehensively at the last election.

Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten:

fighting spirit v zeitgeist

It is unusual to throw out a first-term federal government, but the short-termism, narrowness and pettiness of Australian politics, and the inability of either major party to speak plainly about the real state of the economy, means predicting an outcome is impossible.

The polls indicate that Labor has a strong chance at regaining power. Much will come down to the battle between Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten, and the strengths and weaknesses of the two leaders.

It is now almost certain that Bill Shorten will lead Labor into the fast approaching campaign.

Mr Shorten would have to bungle monumentally for the party to reverse Kevin Rudd’s legacy, which provides job security to his successors in the leadership through rules that make it extremely difficult to overturn an incumbent leader.

It is probable, but far from a guaranteed outcome, that Tony Abbott will lead the Coalition.

For Abbott, the next few months and particularly the Canning by-election will determine his fate. If the Liberal Party wins Canning and Abbott survives until Christmas, he will lead the Coalition to the next election.

Neither leader is popular with voters, but popularity in politics is a much over-rated virtue. It is far better to be respected than to merely echo the views of voters to win their favour. And therein lies the difference between the two leaders.

Abbott’s complex character is bound by his seemingly irrepressible disposition for conflict. He is a born political warrior, which, combined with a fiercely competitive nature, results in a highly combative politician.

In some ways Mr Abbott has been in campaign mode virtually since he was elected Opposition Leader in December 2009, but the constant discipline has taken the edge off his personality and he has been criticised of late for his wooden media persona.

On the other hand, the trappings of office are not important to Abbott, and he has been perfectly at home sleeping in the Australian Federal Police digs when staying in Canberra.

Above all Abbott is personally loyal to the point of blindness to wider events. Although his opponents accused him of being a misogynist, Abbott has stood by women close to him when others would have walked away. Sadly for Abbott that loyalty is rarely reciprocated.

Despite his shortcomings Abbott is a strong campaigner and has a laser focus on winning.

Mr Shorten is still an unknown factor with the Australian public. Before he entered politics he was a charismatic union leader who won deep loyalty from workers in the Australian Workers Union, but that has not translated into the federal political arena.

If Mr Shorten is successful, it would it would mean he would be elected PM even quicker than was Mr Rudd or Julia Gillard.

Mr Rudd initially did his best to keep his AWU comrade out of the public eye when he became prime minister, but Mr Shorten ultimately did a competent job in a number of portfolios during the chaotic Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years.

In contrast to Mr Abbott, Mr Shorten could never be accused of being blindly loyal. The Opposition Leader was a pivotal player, perhaps the key player, in bringing down two Labor leaders he had pledged allegiance to – Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.

Mr Shorten shot to national prominence as a nightly talking head in the two weeks after the Beaconsfield mine collapse rescue in 2006. He was then national secretary of the AWU, which has been the subject of interest from the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption.

Whereas Mr Abbott has held to the values of his formative years (both men had the benefit of a Jesuit education), Mr Shorten has moved with the zeitgeist and is now a champion of “women’s reproductive health rights”, “marriage equality” and a republic.

As Opposition Leader Mr Shorten has been a policy enigma. His goal has been to expose the Government’s flaws rather than produce a comprehensive set of alternative policies. Those that have been announced are populist and fluffy such as promising 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030 or vague promises about a “clever” society.

But the adage that “oppositions don’t win elections; governments lose them” has never been more true, perhaps permitting Mr Shorten to become an accidental prime minister.

Mr Abbott’s fighting spirit on the other hand cannot be underestimated. And he has been written off so many times before that it would be foolish to conclude that the election is already lost for the Coalition.

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