Tony Abbott
(Image: AAP/Ben Rushton)

As record numbers of people vote early so they can tune out of a largely lethargic and dispiriting election campaign, it's noteworthy that Australia's most famous backbencher Tony Abbott still arouses such strong reactions -- negative and positive.

For all the perception of Abbott as a gaffe-prone, onion munching, three-word sloganeer, there is a large section of discourse dedicated to Abbott as a man of ideas and action, who does good work -- something even his critics tend to admire about him -- in his local community and who has made a huge contribution as a conservative thinker.