Monday, 29 March 2010
The Labor Party has no answer to Tony Abbott’s physical fitness.
… all smuggle and no budgie.
Reader’s letter to SMH
Wishing @TonyAbbottMHR all the best today for a very tough race. KRudd
Twitter 28 March 2010
OK. Let’s see if we can get this right. Barnaby Joyce is an excellent retail politician. He cuts through and tells it like it is. It’s just that when he was Finance spokesman he kept on saying things that were either wrong or not true. So he was telling things like it isn’t.
No, that’s not right. Let’s try again. Barnaby Joyce is an excellent retail politician. He cuts through and tells it like it is. He was making the Coalition’s economic policy popular with voters. But he was damaging the Coalition’s economic credibility at the same time. Economic credibility shouldn’t be brought out and used for political advantage, but protected and hidden away from the light like a rare orchid. So a great communicator has been replaced by someone who can’t really communicate at all. That’s better.
Joyce’s dumping from the finance portfolio was widely seen as a smart move, but there was less understanding why Joyce held the post in the first place. Joyce’s appointment was an attempt by Abbott to create an oppositional program where there wasn’t one while looking to be electorally viable, by tapping into anti-political sentiment. Joyce, coming from a party that had been toying around with this tactic for a while, took advantage of the senior coalition partner’s need like any National politician would. Bringing such sentiment into the centre of an establishment party that prided itself on its credibility on the economy (i.e. with business) was always going to be tricky. Now that he’s gone, the vacuum at the centre of the Coalition’s economic ‘alternative’, which Joyce was meant to cover up, is as apparent as Hockey’s inability to make any impact. Robb, without even being the media tart Hockey is, is unlikely to do any better.
For the last few months, the media have been turning Labor’s troubles into a renewal of the right. So in South Australia, we had the Rann government supposedly under pressure from a resurgent Liberal opposition that curiously seemed to forget to target the marginals. This was in contrast to the idea of, say, a hollowing out Labor government facing an even more feeble Liberal opposition.
Yet over the last week, this media narrative of a re-energised right has started to fall apart. Joyce’s bloopers were a sign that this supposed winning political tactic had the capacity to be its opposite, at least as far as the Liberals were concerned. However, a more troubling sign for the media to get its head around was the health debate.
Much has been made of Rudd’s improved performance. But in fact he has always been reasonably to the point on health reform as it goes to themes close to his heart. Abbott’s negativity was seen as a problem, but his performance was not much different from that displayed ritually to media approval in Parliament.
There was only one real difference between what happened last week and what the media had been witnessing since Abbott took the leadership – the public gave its verdict. They didn’t like it. It was the clear message from the studio audiences that they didn’t much care for Abbott’s empty confrontation, which has forced the media narrative to stop and think that perhaps what they were seeing in the polls was the opposition’s ability to only take modest advantage of problems that had set in for Labor well before Abbott took over the leadership.
The concern over the limited value of Abbott’s strategy, borne out of a necessity to cover the gaping hole in the Liberals’ program, has come to the surface from senior Liberals themselves, especially since Minchin’s departure. Given the sensitivity of what is being said, and being the oblique creatures they are, it has come in the form of mutterings about Abbott’s physical regime, which first emanated from Abbott’s own side rather than the government. Concerns that Abbott runs a lot, swims a lot and bikes a lot may make sense to Liberals as code for something more serious, but it doesn’t mean a lot to anyone else. Certainly Gillard and Swan were fools to make such a big deal of it – as though the rest of us couldn’t work out if Abbott was doing all that he probably wasn’t doing much of other things. Far better to follow Rudd’s classic non-partisan tactic for managing an opposition leader running hard on empty – cheer him on.
Posted by The Piping Shrike on Monday, 29 March 2010.Filed under State of the parties