Just before Christmas we
wrote
:
“Tony 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…”

Sadly for Abbott, his leadership rival
Brendan Nelson got the promotion to Defence, and the Health Minister got stuck
with….Health. And now we know why. John Howard kept Tony Abbott in a job with which he
was increasingly uncomfortable for one very personal reason: to carry the
can for the RU486 debate, Abbott’s moral crusade.

And now it is turning into yet another
debacle for the man who wanted to be Prime Minister. “The Senate has effectively voted no confidence in
ministers and the parliament on this issue,” declared a dejected Abbott. What
an extraordinary statement of defeat.

John
Howard was quick this morning to publicly rally behind “my good friend”:
“Tony is an outstanding health minister, he has my total confidence, but this is
not a criticism of him, it’s just the majority of people in the Senate
exercising the freedom they have in the free vote to express a view that he
doesn’t agree with.”

It’s more than that, of course, and next week’s House of Reps vote
on RU486 will decide whether Abbott’s career is in a stable condition in the
emergency ward – or intensive care, in dire need of oxygen and immediate
surgery.

Peter Fray

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