Nov 14, 2012

Don’t write Tony Abbott off yet. But if you do …

Tony Abbott only a limited time to turn around his poor personal polling numbers, in order to blitz the election. Is his leadership in trouble?

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

So what is the size of the Abbott Discount? How much is the presence of Tony Abbott as leader weighing down the Liberal vote? And in what circumstances would his colleagues move to dump him?

Well it’s not that simple, and here’s why.

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38 thoughts on “Don’t write Tony Abbott off yet. But if you do …

  1. zut alors

    ‘ Joe Hockey has performed the thankless task of being shadow Treasurer in a miracle economy with some skill, and turned around perceptions that he is a lightweight.’

    Whaaaat, when did this happen? I must’ve missed that episode.

  2. Peter Ormonde

    “But many observers…thought there was no way the Prime Minister could recover (nor did I, I readily admit).”

    You don’t have to admit it Mr K – we remember. But we forgive you.

    Locked away in the Press Gallery down there surrounded by pundits, polls, precognition and prediction one can be lured into the delusion that one actually knows what’s going on out here – even worse, what will go on in future.

    Thank heavens Gillard has given her poll-enslaved spin jigglers the flick and has started just doing the right thing. Carr is doing the job on the Right they have their own issues anyway, at least in NSW.

    Simple really. This is how one regains popular support, not by following polls or the Press Gallery’s exhortations. If they were any good at it – they’d be in cabinet at least.

    But you’re doing it again Bernard – making rash assertions and predictions – when you say “Abbott can turn his bad numbers around.” History and precedent is no guide. Not easy to re-invent yourself when you have staked the Coalition’s entire strategy on automatic negativity, photo opportunities and slogans. Tony has really painted them into a corner with very little wiggle room.

    How does an Opposition leader “do the right thing “? What can they actually “do”? They can only tap the climate of complaint.

    Without the enthusiastic marketing effort of the meeja, without the odd policy or principle, the Coalition is entirely dependent on Tony’s “charisma”, style and persona.

    Now this is precisely the same personality and charisma that saw the Coalition effectively write itself out of negotiations to form government after the 2010 ballot.

    I suspect that the Libs are too far gone, too lazy, too scared, to be developing a new strategy based on someone else so we’ll probably be seeing something like “Tony, Tony, Tony” as the slogan for the next election.

    But if not – I doubt it will be the Hockster or Malcolm – too much baggage for the latter, too many clownish gaffs for the former (and Tony casts a long shadow over him).

    I’d be putting a small wager on a roughy… a woman, a clean-skin, young, photogenic and eminently credentialled by focus groups … yes, the appalling Kelly O’Dwyer. Get good odds at the moment. But heck no one in the Press Gallery would be backing her so what would I know?

    Either way I’m booking a holiday somewhere suitably foreign without media for the entire campaign period. You should too.

  3. Barry Tucker

    It seems Mr Keane has given away some of his independence. In this article he glosses over a few things and ignores some others, producing something that is too favourable towards the PM. Those who are following the national debate closely will know what I mean.

    Having just paid almost $200 for a subscription to this supposedly independent publication, I hope Mr Keane will get back to the incisive and balanced commentary he is known for.

  4. zac spitzer

    I doubt Tony Abbott will last last long enough to be the butt of Carbon Tax jokes at the Melbourne Comedy Festival

  5. paddy

    Lulz. Bernard, you were doing fine till we got to Joe Hockey turning around perceptions that he’s a lightweight.

    To be fair, I doubt Joe is half as silly as the nonsense he regularly spouts for the camera. But he still manages to give the *perception* that he couldn’t run a corner milk bar.
    I suspect it’s a bit late in the electoral cycle for the Libs to slot him in as leader and let him come up with a few realistic policies. The delicate dance required to ditch the toxic legacy of Abbott’s last few years, makes Julia’s about turn on carbon pricing look trivial in comparison.
    So it’s probably going to come down to just how much the Libs still loathe Turnbull.
    Despite his smooth lines and undoubted oratorical skills, he wasn’t exactly a roaring success at hearding the dinosaurs last time.

  6. paddy

    (sigh)Seems I’m also useless at herding=hearding words

  7. Clytie

    “put in place a punitive solution for asylum seekers (criticism of which is confined to the media and commentariat, and certainly not shared by voters)”

    Definitely shared by this voter, her family, her friends and acquaintances, both online and off. Check your sources.

  8. DonM

    “a punitive solution for asylum seekers (criticism of which is confined to the media and commentariat, and certainly not shared by voters)”

    Bernard, is this assessment really fair?

    Amnesty International staff arrive on Nauru in coming days. Are they and their many members “just” the commentariat? Sure, the number of voters who oppose offshore processing is far from a majority. But so was the number of voters who supported Aboriginal rights in the 1950s / the number of voters who opposed the White Australia policy when it was in place.

    I, for one, do not believe that government policy is driven by compassion and concern about deaths at sea. Instead, much as deaths at sea have been appalling, I think other political calculations are driving this.

    Do you agree?

    And if so, doesn’t this whole policy area with its “children overboard”, its dark victories, its dark political calculations, its double standards (concern for Cornelia Rau but what about people of colour fleeing war zines in countries where Australia is at war… etc etc) and all deserve greater scrutiny?


    Three word slogans aren’t a substitute for policy?

    Who knew?

    The reality of the carbon price was always going to catch up with Abbott, and just as the public got over the GST pretty quickly so his strategy was the shortest of short sightedness one could conjure.

    Pity the NBN is a bit behind schedule, because that’s another thing the public will more than warm to when they actually get it, that is.

    I’ve never doubted Gillard could play the long game to Tony’s ‘instant gratification’ of trying to bring the government down. But I’ll admit the odd moments of despair that it all looked way to easy for the LOTO, what with Murdoch and friends giving him a free pass. But as we saw in the US, Murdoch’s immense power can come to nothing, and it might well come a cropper here too.

  10. zut alors

    Christopher Dunne, my suburb in South Brisbane has fibre-optic cable and the locals love it. If the rest of Oz suspected how good the NBN is they’d fall about laughing every time the (otherwise sensible) Malcolm T talks it down.

    We can thank KRudd for this innovation. Ironically I don’t believe his own suburb of Norman Park has been cabled for fibre-optic yet.

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