As we press publish, Tony Abbott is delivering the speech that will make or break his political career. Today’s press club address is not only an appeal to voters — seven out of 10 think he won’t be leading the Liberal Party to the next election — but to his increasingly nervous party colleagues, who fear a Queensland-style wipeout at the next federal election.

The PM has scrapped his expensive paid parental leave scheme, telling journalists today, “I accept that what’s desirable is not always doable, especially when times are tough and budgets are tight”.

Instead, the PM wants a “families package”, which will be developed in the lead-up to this year’s budget. The scheme will “provide more money in parents’ pockets to help them with their childcare costs when they want to go back to work”.

It’s an old song, from another era — John Howard desperately tried to ply voters with more money in his final term as defeat loomed, and Julia Gillard tried to shore up Labor’s support with more funding for families.

But the problem for Abbott is that voters seem to have no interest in what he’s offering, regardless of what it looks like or how big the dollar signs are, because he has destroyed their trust in him through a series of cack-handed decisions and broken promises.

And that’s a problem only the parliamentary Liberal Party can fix.

Peter Fray

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