Tony Abbott’s annus horribilis just gets worse. We all know that the Monk’s personal and professional difficulties have dropped him down the ladder from PM’s favourite to leadership also-ran. And now he’s getting beaten around the head by ungrateful provincial newspapers for flying the flag in the deep north.

This report on his address to the graduating students at the James Cook University in Saturday’s Townsville Bulletin sums up Abbott’s year in Health – he tries hard, but struggles to grasp the breadth of the portfolio and doesn’t connect with the health professionals who run it.

To quote the Bully’s columnist, Mary Vernon, after a promising start, things quickly got messy for the visiting dignitary: “His speech was not only offensive, it was also extremely boring. If Abbott came here (all this long way) hoping to make some political capital out of the event, he wasted our money. Don’t hurry back, Tony.”

And one of the pharmacy graduates forced to sit through the Abbott diatribe commented: “It’s a sad day when the federal Minister for Health has no understanding at all that health care isn’t just about doctors, it’s a team effort and everyone in the team has to pull their weight or the patients suffer. He obviously has no idea about that, considering he didn’t even recognise anyone else was graduating except for the doctors, so no wonder the health system in all states is in such a mess.”

OK, when you’re in the ministerial office in Canberra it’s easy to lose sight of why the folks in Townsville actually invited you up. But Abbott is acting like a man who can’t wait for a new challenge. The looming summer ministerial reshuffle can’t come soon enough for him, or the ambitious Minister for Ageing, Julie Bishop, who’s been spotted hovering around the Health Minister’s suite checking the measurements for new drapes.