That the Opposition leadership is committed to a wrecking strategy in Parliament has been demonstrated amply over recent days.

There’s the issue of the purported unconstitutionality of pairing with a Speaker, a matter on which, rather in the manner of Blackadder, opinion is divided — George Brandis say it’s unconstitutional, every else says it isn’t. There’s the alacrity with which a press release purporting to be by Alex Somlyay, but in fact drafted in Tony Abbott’s office, was rushed out on Friday, only to be later disavowed by its alleged author in circumstances that make one wonder about the Commonwealth Criminal Code prohibition on impersonating an MP. And there’s the litany of excuses being offered by the Opposition as to why it is reneging on a signed agreement, ranging from the Government’s willingness to consider a carbon tax, to Julie Bishop claiming that Labor pressured the Coalition into signing it and Joe Hockey saying it was all John Curtin’s fault.

Most of all there was new Opposition Whip Warren Entsch’s statement that pairs would only be granted by the Opposition in cases of “pregnancy, genuine illness, bereavement or family issues” and that ministers would not be granted a pair unless it was “in the national interest”. As Paul Barratt noted at his blog, this presumably means the Opposition is now in the medical profession, since Entsch will be wanting to verify that illness is “genuine”. Perhaps, consistent with the Coalition’s approach to election costings and legal advice, Entsch can commission a Liberal-aligned doctor to offer alternative diagnoses. Mal Washer and Alan Eggleston, clear your diaries.

This hard-nosed attitude will undoubtedly make life more difficult for the Government and, in the absence of a remarkable level of discipline, increase the likelihood of Government legislation being defeated. Which is the point.

It will also make life more difficult for Coalition MPs, who can now confidently expect that their own pairing requests will get no greater consideration from the Government Whip than the Coalition appears willing to extend to Labor’s. Moreover, in the event Tony Abbott engineers his “mid-term baton change”, he’ll find his government will be hostage to exactly the same approach from Labor that he adopted — although you can confidently expect that we’d be hearing a lot more about how “obstructionist” a Labor Opposition would be.

Still, the Opposition leadership isn’t thinking that far ahead. A combination of Abbott’s highly successful negative campaigning and a conviction that the Coalition was somehow dudded of its rightful place in Government is driving the wrecking strategy.

The Opposition will most likely be able to do this with impunity. While the Government will thunder about Abbott being a wrecker, most voters have virtually no interest in parliamentary politics. To the extent that they see scenes of chaos on evening news bulletins, they blame both sides equally. This is a disengaged electorate hostile to the major parties and predisposed to the view that politicians don’t believe in anything except clinging to power for its own sake. And who better to take advantage of the “plague on both your houses” mood than Abbott, the author of the famous line deployed against republic advocates, that you can’t trust politicians.

However much damage Tony Abbott does to himself in pursuing a wrecking strategy, he’ll do at least as much damage to the Government. Indeed, if anything, the strategy of recalcitrance and combativeness adopted by Abbott since the election has been rewarded with a rise in his own personal ratings. Only a comprehensive over-playing of the wrecking role will court censure from the electorate, and even then that would require Labor to be able to attack Abbott on the issue successfully, and if you haven’t noticed, successful Labor attacks are thin on the ground these days.