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CUNNING STUNTS: Tony Abbott wages war on “illegals” to reconnect with Howard’s Battlers

tonyabbottfightsback Tony Abbott’s bold and decisive declaration that he would “shut the border” to asylum seekers coming to Australia illegally by boat makes it very clear that he is a formidable political street-fighter.

His policy might not be fully thought through. It might have been a desperate move to re-seize the agenda from the commanding worm-friendly post-debate Prime Minister Rudd.

But the truth is that there a deep, visceral unhappiness about the number of boats appearing on our shores bearing asylum seekers from the world’s trouble spots.

And the run he got on the front page of the Herald Sun from Steve Lewis and Ben Packham vindicated his call. Lib insiders were delighted in their celebrated air-punching this morning.

That unhappiness seems to be at its most profound in the outer suburban and regional seats that swing sometimes wildly in elections. This is a pitch to Howard’s battlers who were alienated by Keating’s government by interest group, loved Howard’s values but hated his Workchoices. The view among Liberal insiders is that if anyone can create that reconnection, it’s Tony Abbott whose political heroes include BA Santamaria, the dark prince of economic populism. (Please note on VEXNEWS that ‘dark prince’ is not an insult)

This is not an issue about immigration policy. It’s not an issue about whether we should have a big Australia or suppress the population to conserve our resources. It’s about law enforcement.

And that’s what makes it so potent politically for the conservatives. Many voters trust them to get these things right. And certainly Howard’s previous mix of asylum seeker management policies were effective, even if aspects of their detention made many Australians worry that we were acting in a draconian fashion.

This is not the forum for a moral debate about how to treat those desperate enough to pay to come to our shores and get on rickety boats to do so.

The politics of the matter is clear.

It’s an unambiguous winner – and in the right circumstances with thousands of arrivals a game-changer – for Abbott.

It’s interesting to look at what one savage critic said of Abbott. The annoying armchair quarterback of Sydney small-l Liberal politics, former federal Leader Dr John Hewson told 4 Corners:

LIZ JACKSON: Despite their differences Dr Hewson acknowledges his former press secretary knows how to use the media.

JOHN HEWSON: What you’ve got is constant colour and movement, and he’s very good at it. His strengths are, he’s… he’s obviously very bright, but he’s very cunning, and I think that cunningness shows.

And he can see and issue and he can grab an issue. And how does he handle it? He gets right in your face. He exaggerates; he grabs the headlines, even if he knows that the next day he’s gonna have to back that off.

And that’s why, despite the prevailing view that aggression will cost him support with women voters, despite the difficulties of bumping off a first-term government, despite the public opinion reflecting worm hating his every health debate pronouncement and despite the general messiness and apparent anarchy, Tony Abbott is going to continue to be more slippery than a bag of eels.

If Rudd and those dependent on him underestimate him, they’re in for the shock of their lives.


Comments are disallowed for this post.

  1. Tapping into the bogan vote always worked Howard so it will for Abbott – to some degree or another. It is a shame that the Libs have to resort to fear mongering and racism to rustle up a few points in the opinion polls.

    Posted by tHE jOKER | March 31, 2010, 15:30
  2. Does Mark P ever do any work?

    Posted by Granville Granny | March 31, 2010, 15:40
  3. Tony can board in my ‘open’ rear whenever he likes.

    Posted by Pissy Chryne | March 31, 2010, 15:52
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    Posted by Tweets that mention VEXNEWS 2010© | CUNNING STUNTS: Tony Abbott wages war on “illegals” to reconnect with Howard’s Battlers -- Topsy.com | March 31, 2010, 15:57
  5. These courageous migrants are all welcome at my place.
    Free organic buddhist muesli for everyone!!!

    Posted by Red Baillieu | March 31, 2010, 16:14
  6. He can board me too

    Posted by Dean Mighell | March 31, 2010, 16:17

    Posted by John | March 31, 2010, 16:21
  8. At last a new article to blast the Tali on . . . .

    David Clarke is a loser!

    The Chad is a bumboy!

    Noel loves men!

    The Pope lets the Irish and German Priests molest children and allows for Rwandan Priests to murder there own follows.

    This is why the Tali must be stopped!

    Posted by Guy | March 31, 2010, 16:55
  9. I laughed my ass off at the “100” boat people stat, thinking how most other rich countries receive hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants without (at least so blatantly) violating human rights conventions to which they are signatory.

    Posted by sg | March 31, 2010, 16:57
  10. Its sad that Labor after almost two and a half years in office have failed to even attempt to reframe the debate. This allows Abbott to point at increased boat numbers as policy failure. When will Labor learn if you straddle the fence for too long you will fall and get sore balls. Boat people are a piss in the bucket when it comes to illegal imigration, yet we still get this Hanson/Howard racist crap. I know if i dont like it i can always leave, should i have to though? Where is the compasionate Orstralia that once made us so great.

    Posted by Arther conan doyle | March 31, 2010, 17:02
  11. Bogan vote won’t do it for Tone. Howard didn’t win on Tampa he was winning anyway And let’s consider the whatever it takes policy of turning the asylum seekers back does this mean we watch them drown or starve to death on boats at sea. Or does the Navy shoot them blow up their boats with them on it. Just asking because that’s whatever it takes means. And here’s another fact in 30 years we have had 3 million new arrivals on this country of which 21,000 came on boats so insignificant really

    Posted by Duruttti | March 31, 2010, 17:11
  12. Rudd has been ignoring this issue- what dis he think was going to happen?

    Posted by Bogans for a secure border | March 31, 2010, 17:15
  13. DID!

    Posted by Bogans for a secure border | March 31, 2010, 17:16
  14. Spot the exact practical policy difference???


    Posted by The Labservatives | March 31, 2010, 17:57
  15. Howard’s battlers were only used at election time in between he shafted them in favour of his big buisness mates.

    Posted by Argus Tuft | March 31, 2010, 17:57
  16. Who are we?

    2 Years in a row now, we don’t run candidates for the union elections.

    Why you ask?

    Well running in democratic elections just isn’t our style..

    New Members need not enjoy university election campaigns, when they can hang out with such great mainstream conservatives such as Pru Goward.

    But unfortunately we can’t have our new members drinks at Parliament.. You see… we don’t have any friends there… our Puppet master i mean, mainstream conservative leader who is simply misunderstood by the rest of the MPs in Canberra, doesn’t have any friends at State Parliament at the moment that would be willing to host his, i mean our, function.

    Posted by SULC | March 31, 2010, 18:41
  17. I love these two liberal clowns – when they are not confronting racism against Indians in the eastern suburbs they are curry bashing tamil boat people for the bogan vote.

    So you really can have your curry and eat it too.

    Posted by Abbott and Ballieu the new racist double act | March 31, 2010, 18:52
  18. It is always safe ground for pollies to invite hate on someone who cannot vote and are not needed as cheap labour by your big business donors – boat people fit the bill nicely.

    Posted by Abbott and border protection | March 31, 2010, 18:59
  19. When he shuts the borders – can we still get out???

    Posted by The Labservatives | March 31, 2010, 19:26
  20. If this policy stops my boy from returning to visit me, I will campaign against Abbott at the next election!

    Posted by McPertons Mother | March 31, 2010, 19:57
  21. Andy, I liked you better when you were Conroy’s shill. What’s that thing you used to say… something along the lines of: “lay down with dogs, get up with fleas”?

    Posted by xo | March 31, 2010, 20:33
  22. The headline in the Herald-Sun shows very grapically how a statement about illegal immigartion and boat people can be interpreted as a more genric rascist dog-whistle. The rascist dog whistle works with the socially conservative “red neck” Labor voters and can cause them to cross traditonal party allegiances and John Howard made it work for him but it carries high risks:

    1) The so called “red-neck” Labor vote tends to be concentrated in safe labor seats where you will make a big dent of the margin without necessarily changing the party taht counts that seat in its column. There are some subdivisions in outer-suburban and provincial Labor held marginals where this might make a difference, but will it be enough?

    2) It is easy to over-step the mark on the rascist dog whistle, as John Howard did during his first stint as Liberal leader, and he paid the political price. Who believes Tony Abbott has the political finesse and subtlety to not go over the edge?

    3) Business, the traditional allies of the Liberal Party would be horrified at the headline in the Herald-Sun – “I will shut the border”. Our economic future is now inextricably tied up with Asia. This type of sentiment stirs up some real antipathy amongst our Asian trading partners.

    4) Just as there are pockets so-called “red neck” Labor voters in outer-urban and provincial marginal seats there are also growing pockets of Asian migrants who have obtained citizenship. ust loo at the demgraphic shift that booted Howard out o Bennelong. The Indian and Chinese communities, in particular, are heavily populated wih small business types whoshould be the Liberals’ natural constituency. This is a great way to piss them of.

    4)The small socially progressive “l” Liberals (eg the “doctors’wives” are becoming more bolshie and showing an increasing tendency to shift their vote from long rusted on Liberal allegiances.

    So beware, Tony Abbott. You are on very this ice. A very big gamble with, potentially, very dire consequences. If it goes awry, t won’t justr cost the Liberls an election,it may well cost you a whole generation of voters whose natural home you would normally expect to be the Liberal Party.

    Posted by One Notion | March 31, 2010, 20:56
  23. Tony my rear is always available and would welcome a visit from you.

    Posted by Dan Lewis | March 31, 2010, 21:52
  24. Why are there always homo comments on Vex? It was funny once but it’s kinda ran it’s race now.

    Posted by Van Knackular | March 31, 2010, 22:43
  25. Rudd is so lax with asylum seekers that anyone seems to be allowed in, with processing apparently being so lax that the message is that it’s open borders. Meanwhile Abott is problematically too far in the opposite direction. Balance please!

    Posted by neither party has the right balance | March 31, 2010, 23:15
  26. I can understand migrants feeling peeved about the issue. But, if protecting Australia’s borders bothers people and they think that Australia’s borders are worthy of less consideration than their loyalty to their former homelands, then to what extent have they sincerely pledged allegiance to Australia?
    I am fed up of people treating this country as a mere convenient, easy place that they can use, abuse and take advantage of. Being in a country is not only about rights, it is also about responsibilities.

    I come from a migrant background and I may be offended by tight border security, but my allegiance is to Australia and I dont see it as just a place to be used at any cost. Rather, I see Australia as my real and legal home, which is worthy or respect and protection, if and when necessary.

    Posted by Australia deserves more respect as a country | March 31, 2010, 23:29
  27. Well the last Liberal Govt murdered 300 boat people why would Abbott be any different.
    Pandering to the racists is the last resort of a scoundrel,or has he been taking lessons from Murdock’s favorite bunch of fascists Faux News

    Posted by John Ryan | April 1, 2010, 1:11
  28. Looking for company:

    Free food and bed at my place anytime you like due to private relationship troubles.

    Call me, call me now

    Posted by belinds kneel | April 1, 2010, 1:24
  29. I was told by 2 differnt businessmen (Hairdresser & Bakery owner) today that not a day goes by without an Indian “student” asking them for a false reference stating that they have worked for him for 2-5 years. As a consequence, the hairdresser charges $2000 and the Baker $500 for a reference.

    Just another consequence of an ill-considered scheme that has legally allowed 000s of Indian students who are now seeking to stay here permanently through whatever means possible.

    I think they were studying for a Bachelor of Ceiling Insulation.

    Posted by Perce White | April 1, 2010, 5:38
  30. why do people always and immediately and COMPLETELY conflate border protection with racism. Here is a novel idea: to some extent, there is a need to be diligent about who we let in and under what terms, because strangely, we do have an obligation to protect our own citizens and to preserve the future integrity of this country for future generations. Whacky and right wing huh?

    I too have heard stories of paid false references. Here is a policy idea for the government: link the database for references in the department of immigration to the tax audit database and see if there are employment records for those persons corresponding to those employer references. It is not a racist idea folks, it is about good character and genuine security. Try finding a racist angle to that ding bats!

    Posted by why the constant conflation? | April 1, 2010, 6:48
  31. Rudd is rattelled and the worm exposed as a labor media tool. Abbot it an Iron Man, just taking a breath. Julia Gillard is beaming because Abbott has damaged Rudd enormously and she can see the leadership spill of the ALP in her grasp now. She won’t be able to crucify him on Friday, but she will get him… and all she has to do is wait.

    Posted by the worm is a labor supporter, like all other grubs | April 1, 2010, 8:16
  32. my daddy always told me that we should allow lots of good fundamentalist Christians into our country – especially if they also believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible

    Posted by Mike Baird | April 1, 2010, 9:14
  33. No to fear. I will be allowed back in to Australia, as I am Commissioner McPerton, representative of Victoria to the Americas.

    Posted by McPerton | April 1, 2010, 11:20
  34. My dear dear Victor I so miss our luncheon appointments I hope you come back soon, so we can dine and wine Melbourne again. I’m having to spend all my spare time getting the niggling old organ soothed by Lindy my Massage Therapist.

    Posted by Fatty Doyle | April 1, 2010, 11:48
  35. there is too much mano on mano inyourendo on this site. You can blow me if every second cumment isn’t bath house humour. When will you back room boys learn that going in hard can be very appealing. That is why we need to go in all the way when it discussing illegal or immoral back door entry. Plenty of time for tender compassion when the men stop cumming. That is why I am a mincing poodle – part biter, part fighter.

    Posted by Pisstopher Chryne | April 1, 2010, 13:01
  36. “Howard’s battlers” is a complete political myth. Most low income earners that deserted Labor in 1996 returned to Labor in 1998 because of the GST. Howard was supposedly a master of appealing to people in the Western suburbs of Sydney, even though Labor has always held a majority of seats there!

    Posted by ShowsOn | April 1, 2010, 14:42
  37. If the worm is a labor supporter, it just confirmed my long held view that it is the Liberals who do not have any brains!

    Posted by The worm has spoken | April 1, 2010, 15:09
  38. I sure left the world with a BANG!!

    Posted by Billy Snedden's Ghost | April 1, 2010, 19:03
  39. Yippeeeee!!!

    Tasmania now has Australia’s first truly Labservative Government.


    Posted by The Labservatives | April 1, 2010, 20:02
  40. So um, actually, er, how do you stop these people coming? Send out Wilson Tuckey in a patrol boat to give them a good ticking off? Yeah that’d work.
    Whilst the rabble rouse call goes out from our Tone it would be fun to see exactly how one ‘closes’ a border.Never going to happen however.

    Posted by Screamin mee mees | April 2, 2010, 14:31
  41. Look at how the Talis treat their women. What a bunch of backward chauvinists!!


    Posted by Taliwanker | April 3, 2010, 17:22
  42. We need to decide who comes here – not academics drinking soyccinos.
    People smugglers are killers.

    Posted by Ben | April 4, 2010, 11:52
  43. I suppose there might be someone who still cares one way or the other. A good scare campaign works best if you in government.

    Posted by fredn | April 4, 2010, 20:27
  44. Very easy to “close the border”. Just process of shore and send alot, if not all, back to their home countries. The message will go to the people smugglers, nad their desperate clientele, very quickly.
    If need be, Australia can increase its intake throught the ‘front door’ to help address genuine need overseas, but what Rudd has done is send out the message to the people smigglers that Australia is ‘open for business’.

    Posted by Mitchell Observer | April 5, 2010, 16:40
  45. Oh noes!!

    My best mate Malcolm is leaving parliament!!

    Posted by Alex Hork | April 6, 2010, 12:30
  46. i have great water views from my place, pissy pyne you van purr at my place

    Posted by malcolm turnbothways | April 6, 2010, 13:20
  47. Horky, Mal was my best mate before he was your best mate.


    Posted by Pissy Chryne | April 6, 2010, 13:53
  48. Pissy,

    It’s time for us Big Swinging D**ks to assume our rightful place in the Liberal Party and boot out that horribly conservative Abbott.

    Pyne for PM!!!!

    Posted by Alex Hork | April 6, 2010, 14:09
  49. Still cant believe how fast so many of you leftard idiots immediately go from reading about border control to screaming racism.

    Doesnt matter if the boat is full of white, black, brown or yellow people – it should be detained and if the people cannot be determained to be escaping geniune persecution (such as being taxed into submission by obamacare) they should be sent home and billed for the balance.

    Posted by mick | April 6, 2010, 15:36
  50. Now that he is leaving parliament, I think Malcolm should open a bath house as his new business. He should also give me a life membership and my own closet to play in.

    Posted by Pisstopher Chryne | April 6, 2010, 15:38
  51. More than just bogans get racial reassurance from the verbal bashing of boat people – recent research shows that 30% percent of Australian born were negative about multi culturalism in low migrant areas while 70% were negative in high migrant areas.

    This means that the 30% of negatives in mainly margin seats are the real targets of the liberal’s dog whistle.

    The 70% of negatives in safe Labor areas are often less than 10% of voters in those areas.

    So the ALP needs to smarten up and get past the cliches of redneck voters. The real anti migration vote is a potent 30% of a very large section of middleclass voters in marginal seats.

    The middleclass are fighting overseas money and over inflated real estate prices to buy a house 5 kilometres from thei parents and competiting against smart Asian kids for uni places and ultimately jobs.

    The real fear of a big and competitive multicultural society is not a redneck concern.

    Abbott is speaking to a fearful streak in a section of the mainstream that can change seats because they are up to 30% of a 70% section of most marginal and liberal metropolitan seats.

    The boat people debate is a dangerous proxy debate about the pressures the middleclasses are feeling. It can let off steam and win votes in many places – but it must eventually lead to the larger debate about population levels and the global deregulation of education and the housing sector.

    Has Rudd forgotten he was elected on an anti workchoices wave? Workchoices was simple the final expression of labour deregulation in Australia demanded by big business. It was also a proxy debate for the pressures of globalisation that workers and the middleclass now all face.

    Rudd needs to switch back to the main game. How does he reassure families that he is fighting for a fair go for them in Australia’s globalised economny? His answer in 2007 was to remove Workchoices. But what relief is he offering voters in 2010?

    Posted by redneck debate misses the point | April 7, 2010, 9:28
  52. חבר הכנסת רוני בר און הציג הערב את האי אמון מטעם “קדימה”, תחת הכותרת: “אין ראש ממשלה בירושלים – נתניהו הרס את ביקורו המדיני של סגן נשיא ארה”ב. במהלך דבריו תקף בר-און בחריפות את ראש הממשלה ואמר ×›×™ הכניס את מדינת ישראל לאחד מהמשברים המדיניים החמורים??

    Posted by Moshe | April 7, 2010, 13:12
  53. I thunk thut border cuntrol shud be strungthened. Thut way Murray wud huv to come home to see huz muther.

    Posted by Murray's Mum | April 7, 2010, 13:56
  54. Go home Murray

    Posted by anon | April 7, 2010, 13:57
  55. yazmayin lan ibneler yabanci dilce

    Posted by Anonymous | April 7, 2010, 16:05
  56. Abbott will do what the majority want with proper board security and cutting migration. The global socialists will scream as normal, but they are a vocal minority.

    Posted by Brett | April 8, 2010, 13:23
  57. I’ve been out hunting today…

    Posted by Talihunter | April 10, 2010, 15:57
  58. and what did you shoot? yourself… again?

    Posted by anonymous | April 10, 2010, 16:10
  59. 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31, 51-31,

    Posted by Put your hands up in the Ayres! | April 10, 2010, 21:05
  60. Hawke supports Marise Payne\’s defacto over a right winger in Penrith and calls it Talihunting??? wtf.

    I used to support Hawke, but this has gone way too far…

    Posted by confused... | April 12, 2010, 14:05
  61. Clarke supports Payne to save his own seat? I don’t know what the Tali’s believe in anymore, I thought they had principles…

    Maybe it’s just about personalities after all.

    Posted by talihunter | April 14, 2010, 13:36
  62. How do you stop Marie Ficarra from drowning? Take your foot off her head!

    Posted by Mad Dog Mad Dog, Whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do when we come for you? | April 19, 2010, 22:47


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