That Tony Abbott certainly is a curious chap. I usually have some respect for people who are generally willing to say what they think, even when I disagree with them.  Yesterday, he was reported calling for the age pension age to be lifted to 70, rather than the government’s current plan to lift it just to 67 in the year 2023.

As it happens, I do agree with him on this, having suggested that myself in the past.   But while he says what he thinks – and at least for once he is speaking on something in his own shadow portfolio – it does get hard to follow his logic.

Recently he was widely quoted saying he felt the Coalition should pass the government’s climate change legislation in the Senate, not because he thought it was good legislation, but because he thought it was an issue the Coalition couldn’t win.  In effect, he was suggesting they would lose votes, or an entire election, if they didn’t.  Whatever else you might think of that view, the rationale was pure pragmatism (if that’s not an oxymoron).

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But pragmatism seems to be the last thing motivating his comments on the Age Pension.  Polling done after the government’s May Budget suggested that one of the more unpopular measures was the plan to lift the Age Pension, even though it was just by 2 years and wouldn‘t be done until 2023.  Now Mr Abbott is saying the measure doesn’t go far enough.

Balancing pragmatism and principle can be a tricky task in politics. Most politicians employ a mixture of both, depending on the circumstance – especially when you get higher up the front bench ranks of the major parties.  But it must be very hard for Tony Abbott’s colleagues to figure out whether they are going to get pragmatic Tony or policy purist Tony from one day to the next.  And the fact he swings from one to other so publicly, usually in areas outside his shadow portfolio responsibilities, wouldn’t always do wonders for their mood.  But he does give the media, including bloggers, something to write about.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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