The disintegration of the Abbott government is now being serialised on the nightly news. Every day brings a new instalment of Cabinet disunity, policy stuff-ups, backstabbing and hilarious attempts by Cabinet ministers to talk about how well they’re doing.
Question time has stripped Abbott of his braggadocio and any pretence that he is a national leader. What’s left is a ranting bully.
The source of the Coalition’s meltdown is no secret. The latest opinion polls are unanimous in declaring that if a federal election was held now, the Coalition would be cactus, losing up to 30 seats. Here’s the two-party result from the main pollsters:
Ipsos-Fairfax: Labor 54%, Coalition 46%
Newspoll-News Ltd: Labor 54%, Coalition 46%
ReachTEL: Labor 53%, Coalition 47%
BludgerTracker: Labor 53.7%, Coalition 46.3%
Essential Report: Labor 52% Coalition 48%
Roy Morgan Poll: Labor 57%, Coalition 43%
More ominously for the Liberals, the polls also show a slump in their primary vote to 38%, compared to Labor’s 36%.
The Greens are holding a buoyant 16% which means a slew of preferences for the ALP.
But here’s the rub. Internal Liberal Party polling – presumably conducted by Mark Textor – shows that the Coalition is heading for a hammering that is even worse than the publicly declared polls, and this explains the panic and desperation that is affecting all levels of the Government.
Abbott tried to reboot his administration after the party room revolt almost cost him his job in February. But since his “near-death” experience six months ago, Abbott’s odium has spread from his own Liberal backbench to the community at large.
His remaining supporters are the religious cranks and flat-earth nutters who always supported him. While he managed to create an election-winning constituency after the dreadful Kevin Rudd-Julia Gillard debacle, he’s been unable to maintain it and a chastened electorate have scurried away muttering to themselves: “Surely I didn’t vote for that? What was I thinking?”
All attention now shifts to the by-election on September 19 in the south-west Perth seat of Canning previously held by the late Don Randall, a Liberal.
If the Liberals’ “star candidate”, a former SAS officer, manages to lose the seat, Abbott’s career as prime minister will be over. The party room will dump him in favour of a new leader to take them to next year’s election.
Randall held the seat at the 2013 Federal Election by a 12% margin but the electors aren’t happy with Abbott or his most faithful Liberal premier, Colin Barnett. If the swing against the Liberal Party is 10% (as some polls are predicting), then Abbott will have extreme difficulty remaining PM.
Even the dimmest Liberal MP – and they are plenty of them around – would reckon that Abbott has become their biggest electoral liability and the time for change had become unavoidable.
Abbott knows the significance of Canning. That’s why he is throwing millions of dollars into the campaign with the invaluable help of the world’s richest woman, Gina Rinehart, and the big London-based mining houses.
Canning was a Labor seat from 1984 to 1996 with George Gear as MP but he was eventually destroyed by boundary changes which shifted the electorate’s demographic towards the Liberals.
In the past, mid-term by-elections have provided a very accurate guide to public unrest and sometimes they have sealed the fate of governments and prime ministers. Canning will be no exception.
A 1980 edition of Platform for Government listing the policies of the major parties showed that the ALP programme occupied 45% of the report, the Australian Democrats took 40%, the Nationals made up 7% and the Liberals 8%.
Today, a similar report would draw the same percentages with one exception: the Greens would replace the Democrats as major generators of policy – they may even outrank the current crop of policy drones in the ALP.
Why do the Liberals inhabit such a policy-free zone? As a party representing the well-heeled and big business, the Liberals’ mission is to control society and not reform or improve it.
But as society moves forward driven by social and scientific advances, Liberals don’t pick up the step. Instead, they grab the handrail and stand still. To everyone else, they appear to be moving backward, as indeed they are. While the majority of people are living in today’s world and preparing for tomorrow, Liberals are yesterday’s people, clinging to the status quo.
So it is with same sex marriage. There are now 18 countries which have adopted marriage equality, including Ireland, Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, South Africa, the United States, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and New Zealand.
But not Tony Abbott’s Australia. Although opinion polls show 69% of Australians support the introduction of same sex marriage, the “Mad Monk” is taking orders from “his conscience”, i.e. the Vatican’s clerical obscurantists.
No wonder schoolchildren learning about democracy for the first time are puzzled and confused.
On tennis brats
Margaret Thatcher’s “children”, the generation born in the 1970s who lived through the Thatcher era (1979-1991), carried the pathological damage of her cruel administration.
Philistinism, anti-intellectualism, xenophobia, racism and homophobia became badges of Brit manhood. Lager louts and football hooligans found a measure of social acceptance while people from the arts and sciences were ridiculed.
Under Tony Abbott’s remorseless belligerence and his ever-boastful cruelty to refugees, Australia is reproducing a similar layer of oafishness.
Take Canberra tennis player Nick Kyrgios who was involved in an ugly verbal clash with his Swiss opponent Stan Wawrinka.
Kyrgios has been fined for telling Wawrinka during a game: “Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend [Donna Vekic]. Sorry to tell you that, mate.”
His younger brother, Christos Kyrgios, followed up with a Tweet: “So just did a media interview for nick. Said Donna loved the “kokk” they cut my interview and said it’s the worst thing they have ever heard on air. Ah cheers.”
Call me old fashioned but can you imagine Frank Sedgman, Ken McGregor, Ken Rosewell, Lew Hoad, Rod Laver or Pat Rafter saying such things? Or Adam Goodes?