Abbott's days are numbered

The trust he spoke of so often has effectively been disintegrated by his failure to keep promises

PRIME Minister Tony Abbott averted a crisis this week, remaining at the Coalition's helm, but his Liberal colleagues seemingly have no choice but to change leaders eventually.

Mr Abbott has repeatedly used the strong argument - one supported wholeheartedly by their junior Coalition partners, the Nationals - that dumping a first-term sitting Prime Minister would make them no better (or worse) than the Labor party.

That argument has held steadfast for now but the fact is, the Liberal party can change leaders at any time - and the 39 votes for the spill motion are a clear indication that a strong appetite exists to move in that direction.

Justification for not changing leaders is understandable, given the Coalition’s relentless criticism from opposition of the former Labor government’s dumping of first-term PM Kevin Rudd, to claim the high moral ground with voters.

“The nation is no longer listening to the embattled leader’s continual Labor blame game”

Pejoratives like ‘faceless men’, ‘chaos and dysfunction’ and ‘night of the long knives’ were used with merciless glee to describe Julia Gillard’s ascent to power.

That rhetoric escalated when Ms Gillard was removed just ahead of the 2013 election when her arch enemy finally achieved the lustful revenge he long craved against his former deputy leader and those who conspired with her to dethrone him 2010.

So who wants to be accused of hypocrisy?

But any comparison between the two camps over any potential leadership change should also consider the actual timeline of events.

Rather than a strict comparison to the six year Rudd-Gillard-Rudd era, it makes interesting reading to contrast this government’s polling performance to where Mr Rudd and his government were situated 18 months into their first term.

In April 2009, Newspoll rated the ALP clearly head in the two-party preferred rating 58-42 over the Coalition.

On the question of who would rate a better Prime Minister, Mr Rudd was rated at 61 per cent, compared to the then Liberal opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull on 19pc.

This week, Newspoll rated Labor 57-43 in the two-party preferred category and Mr Turnbull was rated 64pc to Mr Abbott’s 25pc as the preferred Prime Minister.

Mr Abbott led his team on a promise to restore government order and shift far away from the chaos and dysfunction that enshrined the government he criticised so effectively from opposition.

However, the same trust he spoke of so often and so passionately has effectively been disintegrated by his failure to keep many pre-election promises; primarily not making any budget cuts to the ABC or SBS.

He may be making regular hand-on-heart pleas that he’s a changed leader and that it was impossible to avoid such harsh decisions due to the ‘budget crisis’ brought on by six years of Labor’s ‘waste and mismanagement’, but the nation is no longer listening to the embattled leader’s continual Labor blame game. And the plunging polls reflect that strong disinterest.

Some of Mr Abbott’s colleagues have demanded he deserves a fair go to redeem himself, after his “chastening experience” this week.

But others feel strongly that after Prince Philip’s knighthood a credibility line has now been crossed, and the increasingly unpopular leader has gone past the point of no return.

And rather than allowing the current captain to continue steering the Titanic towards the approaching iceberg, they’re conspiring to engineer a replacement who can chart a new direction. It seems the only way to avoid an inevitable political catastrophe at the next election in 18 months’ time, along the lines of the recent Queensland and Victorian surprise election losses.

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Colin Bettles

Colin Bettles

is the national political writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
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READER COMMENTS

Jacky
12/02/2015 9:21:07 AM

If I was Abbott - and thank the Lord I'm not sir - I would feel sad that Labor governmennts everywhere were happy that I was staying on as PM......
qlander
12/02/2015 10:18:46 AM

Why is it a given that the people in favour of a spill would have voted against Abbott? If I were in that vote, I would have said 'Yes lets have a spill' Put Turncoat back in his box and shut the lid. All we have now is an unresolved situation, and the vendetta rolls on.
Tom from Ornage
12/02/2015 11:04:36 AM

I have been a conservative voter for many years and a National Party supporter since I was a boy. But even I won't vote for Abbott. I think the coalition has been hoodwinked by right wing nuts like Abbot and Cory Bernardi. Joe Hockey is a joke. It is time for change. Malcolm Turnbull may be a centrist in political terms but I believe that he is the only one who can make reach reach consensus on what needs to be done. The Abbott Government is paralysed and it is time for a change. The Nats could work with Malcolm Turnbull for a better government for all of us. And the sooner the better.
angry australian
12/02/2015 11:43:33 AM

Tom, if Turnbull is the best the Libs have got the Coalition is stuffed. This is the man who was prepared to embrace a dubious expensive plan to trade pieces of paper for the "right" to pollute. He didn't even consider how many extra Australian jobs it would send offshore, as if the present policies of both parties haven't destroyed enough.
Woolman Table Top
13/02/2015 12:08:12 PM

Dear Angry, right now Tony Abbott is paying major corporates to pollute under his so-called Direct Action initiative. There's no evidence that emissions trading cost jobs and the program actually worked to reduce CO2 output. Industry has been shifting offshore because our energy costs are too high and our infrastructure is stuck in a time warp. Abbott lied not only about carbon trading but also about a raft of other things. He believes climate science is 'crap'. His government is 'crap' and bases its so called policies on ideology.
Broken_Gate
14/02/2015 3:12:32 PM

The truth is out; the same people whom destabilised the Rudd Government now reveal their behaviour in power, remember that Labor was set to Tax Foreign Mining Corp's with the RSPT (remember that the Resources Super Profits Tax) and the ETS so that Australia can meet its CO2 footprint - in the National Interest. It is time that Rural / Regional Australia woke up to the hoax COALition, there is no budget crisis, 12% GDP after the GFC (the largest financial crisis since the depression) is nothing compared to personal debt at 100% GDP or $1,800,000,000,000 on credit and mortgage.
Canberra CommentFairfax Agricultural Media Canberra correspondent Colin Bettles tackles the big national rural and agricultural issues which will impact regional and rural Australians.

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