COVER STORY Abbott era ends as Liberals oust elected PM
News Weekly, September 26, 2015
The Tony Abbott era is over and with it, in all probability, the last conservative government of the contemporary era.
The forces against Abbott in the end were so great that there was no resistance and his own party – and very the same group of MPs he had brought to government less than two years ago – tore him down.
And in so doing they broke the number one promise the Coalition made at the last election – the promise to be a united, cohesive and adult government, and to be different to Labor.
The crushing of Abbott was a long and painful one, but eventually and somewhat ironically it came just a week after he pledged to take 12,000 Syrian refugees into the safe haven of Australia.
The only way this generous undertaking could have been agreed to and could have been accepted overwhelmingly by the Australian people was because it was preceded by the Abbott Government’s success in re-establishing a proper border policy that prevented people from simply turning up on a boat and demanding asylum, as had been the case under Labor.
Yet the anti-Abbott coalition of left media, including the ABC, and the abrasive and hysterically left-leaning participants in social media, socially left-leaning business groups, entrenched left-leaning intelligentsia, and the Labor-Green-independent alliance, finally got their way.
The odds were stacked against him from the start as there was a refusal to accept the legitimacy of the Abbott prime-ministership even though it was established through two elections: 2010, when he won a majority of the vote but a minority of seats; and 2013, when he won a clear majority of votes and seats.
Sadly Abbott’s full potential as prime minister was never realised, his extraordinary personal loyalty was never reciprocated, and his inherent decency never recognised.
Indeed Abbott’s service work as a bushfire volunteer and a surf lifesaver were not acknowledged because these images did not fit the profile that was being built in the ceaseless character attack.
Instead a false picture of Abbott was created of a misogynist and a gaffe-prone politician who was anti-science, anti-progress and an out-of-touch royalist.
His short time as prime minister consisted of a trail of “gotcha” moments that verged on the bizarre. He was ridiculed and vilified for winking or taking a bite of an onion, for saying “coal was good for humanity” or for saying he would “shirtfront” Vladimir Putin.
Each statement was exaggerated and amplified so wildly that even innocent gestures became gross offences.
But rather than ignore the media’s obsession with trifling glitches, Abbott let himself get trapped, desperately trying to be disciplined and “on message”, with the result he became wooden and his real personality was hidden from public view.
The fall of Abbott is a tragedy for Abbott, who will clearly regret not being able to implement his ideas, complete his mission on Indigenous affairs, or even settle into the job properly.
But his fall is an even greater tragedy for social conservatives and those who advocate tradition family values.
Malcolm Turnbull brings with him a libertarian worldview on economics and social issues, and an internationalist view on world affairs. He believes economic “disruption” is a good thing regardless of social impact and human fallout.
Abbott’s performance as prime minister was not without fault.
He placed his faith in factional enemies by promoting them to his inner circle of Cabinet ministers and all ended up betraying him. Only his true friends, like Kevin Andrews and Eric Abetz, stood by him to the end.
Abbott’s loyalty (to people like Joe Hockey and Bronwyn Bishop) cost him. Loyalty is one thing, but sometimes in politics, as in business, it is necessary, important even, to let people go.
Abbott’s desire to “fight” on every issue was another problem. He seemed unable to make the transition from opposition leader to prime minister, from political scrapper to statesman.
Nevertheless, his time as prime minister was one of achievement in several areas and there was progress in difficult times.
Abbott will be a prime minister remembered for ending the excesses of Labor, for keeping the border intact and for keeping the country safe from fanatical Islamicists, and for bridging the gap between Indigenous Australia and the rest of the community.
Regrettably for Abbott it was just the beginning, and his mission was never completed.