The Australian reports:

“TONY Abbott has ordered Coalition MPs and candidates to spruik the party’s ‘positive’ agenda in strong grassroots campaigns as he announced a whirlwind national tour next week to start the election year.

“He held a phone hook-up with about 165 MPs and candidates yesterday morning, telling them it wasn’t enough to hold the government to account and they must spread the word about the Coalition’s policies.”

To which we hope at least one of the 165 campaigners asked: which policies, Tony?

Nobody can seriously blame the Coalition for its near-empty policy cupboard, at least on the politics of it. Labor would have done the same thing in opposition — leave the detail, the big commitments, until the campaign.

But the problem Abbott has is he’s been on election footing for two years, all the time telling us the Coalition is ready and willing to step up when required. Next week he tours the country in an apparent mini-election campaign to spruik his agenda and reinforce policy offerings to date.

Aside from abolishing the carbon tax, turning back boat people and making parental leave more generous, just what is he going to talk about?

If the Coalition wants to start a campaign in January for an election probably not until September or October, it better put some more meat on the bones. Voters already reckon the Opposition Leader is hollow — the approval ratings won’t budge while Abbott only wants to talk about two or three issues.

Either we see some alternative policy or this is going to be an awfully long year.


Crikey Calling is independent media for independent minds – in handy podcast form! Join the Crikey crew – including Canberra correspondent Bernard Keane, the country’s sharpest political commentator – for a lively (if somewhat wonky) look behind the scenes of politics and power in Australia.

In the first episode of Crikey Calling for the year Bernard Keane and Jason Whittaker discuss Julia Gillard’s parachuting of Nova Peris into a NT senate spot, as well as the “threat” of cyber warfare — stream it or download here.