Tony Abbott has said he wants to focus on issues, rather than on personal politics, and such a commitment is welcome as we begin the long road to September 14. Fulfilling that commitment should start with his speech to the National Press Club.

There is pressure — much of it of course from Labor — for Abbott to begin releasing detailed, fully-costed policies today. But that shouldn’t be the criterion by which Abbott’s speech is assessed, particularly given the fluid circumstances of the budget.

Instead, Abbott could do worse than adopt a similar approach to that of the Prime Minister in her speech yesterday and eschew the politics, and focus instead on the policy challenges he believes he would have to confront if elected.

For three years, Abbott has blamed everything and anything on Labor’s incompetence. But, for example, what would the Coalition do to address the high Australian dollar? How would it address a softer revenue environment than the one it enjoyed when last in government? How would it increase investment in infrastructure, or pay for the NDIS, to which Abbott says he is enthusiastically committed?

The Prime Minister’s response to these issues yesterday was a downbeat, reflective one — Australia may have to get used to a high dollar; governments may have to get used to making difficult choices if voters want large-scale programs like the NDIS.

In the speech he is delivering as Crikey is published, Abbott has declined to address such issues. Instead, the speech is long on attacks on Labor and light on addressing any challenge other than the one of getting rid of the government. It’s a disappointing start.

Peter Fray

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