Tony Abbott likes to remind people that he’s a former journalist, and he did just that as he opened yesterday’s much-anticipated speech at the Press Club in Canberra.
Most political commentators think the speech was too little too late for Abbott and it’s now a matter of when, not if, he will be rolled for a more popular candidate. Essential polling published exclusively by Crikey today shows most Liberal voters want Julie Bishop as a replacement, while voters overall prefer Malcolm Turnbull.
But for a former journalist, Abbott has always seemed to hold the press in especially low regard. Indeed, this clanger from the PM yesterday — in response to a question about whether he had his colleagues’ support — was particularly revealing:
“We’ve had a rough couple of months, I accept that. We’ve had a rough couple of months. We’ve had a couple of months where if journalists ring up and ask about some element of government policy, the correct answer — which is, I support the government, and the policy’s a good one — has not always been given. I accept that we’ve had a couple of months where if journalists ring up and ask about individuals and personalities in the government, the correct answer — a great person, doing a great job — has not been given. I accept all of that.”
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Got that, backbenchers? Your job is to unquestioningly back the leader of your party, even when he is haemorrhaging in the polls, you disagree with his policies and those who put you in office can’t stand them or him either.
What we’re unclear about here at Crikey is how that fits with this piece of advice, which Abbott gave to AAP journalist Paul Osborne at the conclusion of yesterday’s address:
“I know that whatever we say or do, Labor will run a scare campaign. I know that. And Paul, your job, if I may say so, is not to just run the scare campaign. I mean, your job is to hold all politicians and all political parties to the same standard of accountability.”