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Federal Government

NO MAN IS AN ISLAND: Who will step up to protect Tony Abbott from his internal foes?

TonyabbottdogWith Malcolm Turnbull once again demonstrating a lack of discipline unbecoming of a senior frontbencher, it is time to evaluate the strengths and flaws of Abbott’s hold on the top job.

Tony Abbott should be rightly lauded as the the Liberal Party’s redeemer. He is deserving of considerable loyalty from his colleagues. His defeat of Malcolm Turnbull and Joe Hockey in 2009 pulled the Coalition back from its march into the electoral wilderness.

As far as leadership in Opposition goes, Abbott is at least equal to Whitlam.

In removing Turnbull, Abbott did away with the ridiculous notion that the only hope for the Liberal Party was to support an emissions trading scheme (ETS) and drift inexorably to the political left, leaving both its conservative base and the swinging-battler-voter to look for more authentic alternatives.

Imagine the Liberal Party members in Queensland or Western Australia tolerating the insipid kind of ‘leadership’ offered by Victoria’s Ted Baillieu. The federal parliamentary party was headed down that path where it was going to create Labor-lite brand – a kind of bland, directionless social democracy without any policy courage.

Abbott’s tireless prosecution of the case against the carbon tax in the face of much abuse and emotional blackmail and his willingness to eschew the economic rationalist views of his more liberal colleagues, most notably on industry policy, has revealed an Abbott who is politically adept and not afraid to advocate policy positions that incur the wrath of the chattering classes.

Since Menzies’ time, the Liberal Party has always had a bet each way with economic nationalism and economic purity. Overall its post-Fraser record is more reformist than it is Deakinite or even McEwenist.

As Abbott contemplates the coming twelve months and dares to believe that he will be Australia’s next Prime Minister, it is hoped that he pauses for reflection and remembers those who helped him to become leader. Unfortunately for Abbott, one of them has already left the parliament and the other has seemingly disappeared off the political landscape after proclaiming they were the ‘Senior Victorian Liberal’ after Peter Costello’s departure.

The departed person is Nick Minchin. The role that Minchin played in ensuring the downfall of Turnbull should not be underestimated. As the bulwark of the conservative wing of the parliamentary Liberal Party, Minchin recognised early on the damage that Turnbull could inflict not only on the Party and the coalition with the Nationals, but more disturbingly on conservatives. Although at the time a member of Turnbull’s shadow cabinet, Minchin worked assiduously behind the scenes to galvanise opposition to Turnbull and his unquestioning support of Kevin Rudd’s ETS.

Put simply without Minchin, Abbott would not have defeated Turnbull. The problem for Abbott and the problem that he will have in government is that Minchin won’t be there and with a leadership group made up of the leading Liberal wets (Hockey, Bishop and Pyne) there will be no-one to tap Abbott on the shoulder, keep him on the straight and narrow and to remind him of his conservative values or when to walk away from brinkmanship.

There will also be no one to give Abbott the steel he needs to stand firm against the small ‘l’ liberal tendencies of his jelly-spined colleagues. Minchin performed this role for John Howard and it was no coincidence that when Howard stopped listening to Minchin, he sealed his own electoral fate.

It was hoped that there would be a successor to Minchin in the form of Kevin Andrews. A solid social conservative and who combines his conservatism with classical liberalism. Andrews played a crucial role in the defeat of Turnbull. Having languished on the backbench due to Brendan Nelson’s predictable weakness led him to fail to give him a shadow ministry after the 2007 election. (Nelson privately told people it was because of Andrews’ involvement in the so called Haneef ‘affair’).

Because Andrews was not encumbered by shadow cabinet solidarity, he had noticed the grassroots backlash against the ETS and Malcolm’s vulnerability after the Grech debacle. He knew Malcolm just needed a hip-and-shoulder to push him over the edge.

Toward the latter part of 2009, he consistently spoke out against the ETS and in late November he led the way against Turnbull by forcing the leadership issue in the party room.

The rest is history: Andrews’ leadership spill garnered more votes than he could have possibly predicted, indicating the depth of dissatisfaction with Turnbull. His actions paved the way for Abbott to then successfully stand for the leadership.

Andrews was rightly rewarded with a promotion to the Shadow Cabinet and made it known that he was now the Senior Victorian.

Since that time, Andrews has been missing in action. The only time he ever gets a regular mention in the media is via Peter Van Onselen’s repeated calls for him (and others) to be banished from the front bench to make way for more ‘liberal types’, such as Arthur (‘it’s good politics to just pass the ETS’) Sinodinos, Paul Fletcher and Kelly O’Dwyer.

However incurring the constant wrath of Van Onselen’s damp lettuce leaf should give Andrews considerable comfort. Criticism from these quarters only proves he doing something right. After all, at a dinner to celebrate his 20th anniversary as an MP in 2011, Andrews received loud cheers when Alan Jones via a video tribute commented on what an outstanding thing Andrews had done in helping to defeat Malcolm Turnbull.

Andrews may well do a lot of work in the background, but it’s time he made himself more prominent.

To be sure there are others that could fill the role, it would be fair to say that Bronwyn Bishop, Cory Bernardi and Barnaby Joyce would have Abbott’s back, however Bishop and Bernardi are unlikely to be in cabinet and Joyce is not a member of the Liberal Party.

Abbott also needs to be aware of the dangers of having a so-called ‘broad church’ Liberal Party. He should have learnt a valuable lesson from the Mal Brough/James McGrath pre-selection battle for Peter Slipper’s seat, the lesson being that he can’t rely on those from the left to fall in behind him and support his leadership.

Although Abbott supported Brough, both Julie Bishop and Joe Hockey spoke gushingly in support of McGrath. This was the same McGrath who Malcolm Turnbull forced upon the Liberal Party Federal Secretariat in an effort to force out Federal Director, Brian Loughnane.

Abbott has a lot of very admirable qualities, but impeccable character judgement in his colleagues is not one of them. For example it’s well known that Abbott has told anyone who cares to listen that if he fell under the proverbial bus then Scott Morrison should be his anointed successor. This would spell disaster for the conservative wing of the party, Morrison may well present himself as a happy-clapping religious conservative but he is far from it. In government it will be interesting to see whether he has the mettle to take a much-needed axe to the Immigration Department. The odds would suggest not.

Morrison’s tenure as State Director of the NSW Branch was one of great polarisation and impotence. He never rose above the internecine factional silliness that characterises that divison’s penchant for Syrian-like sectarian warfare.

At the moment it is Abbott’s Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin who has his back and her devotion to the cause has made her countless enemies. However this should not be seen as a negative, it simply means she is doing her job. In government, this would prove unsustainable. Aside from the fact that Credlin does not have a seat at the cabinet table, she could not possibly devote the necessary time and energy to constantly look out for Abbott.

Credlin could go the way of Howard’s short lived Chief of Staff, Graeme Morris. Staffers are ultimately disposable and never true players.

In the seventeenth century, Louis XIII had Richelieu to protect his back. Historian attribute the success of the modern French nation to his stewardship. Who is Abbott’s Richelieu?

It’s is a serious structural problem for Abbott’s leadership and his authority. The problems are likely to hurt him once he is elected PM. Without fixing it while in Opposition and fixing it fast, he may be a short-lived PM.


Tony Abbott loyalist Cory Bernardi had to quit after not just opposing gay marriage but suggesting that marriage change advocates will not stop until polyamory and bestiality is legalised. The Leader thought it not the most helpful contribution to the debate and asked him to quit, interestingly appointing as a shadow Parl Sec Jamie Briggs who has been loudly critical of Abbott and the Leader’s office’s deficiencies. Briggs might be trusted to pull his head in now by Abbott.

Abbott also promoted Arthur Sinodinos to be the Parl Sec to the Leader. Sinodinos will almost certainly become a minister if the Coalition is elected next year, as most still expect despite a couple of dodgy polls for the Coalition.

The appointment – and a somewhat clumsy front-page photo placement in The Australian – caused much amusement this morning.



Comments are disallowed for this post.

  1. Bishop, Bernardi & Joyce. He’s going to need some divine intervention if he’s relying on that mob.

    Posted by Ronnie | September 10, 2012, 10:24
  2. Please Mr Abbott put me down, I’ve heard stories of what you do to choir boys and I’m feeling most vulnerable.

    Posted by Puppy | September 10, 2012, 13:57
  3. Why is supporting an emission trading scheme a lurch to the left? This I have never understood.

    It’s somehow leftist to agree with the scientists who say its an issue? It’s leftist to acknowledge that our fossil fuels are finite? Or is it leftist to actually try and do something about it?

    Posted by David | September 10, 2012, 15:00
  4. How about getting Christopher Pearson to protect Tony’s backside?

    Posted by the Insider | September 10, 2012, 15:04
  5. Tony Abbott has been an effective opposition leader in his opposition to carbon tax/ ETS and claiming waste in public spending.

    No doubt he’ll be the next Prime Minister but what will be his agenda? He’ll probably fulfil his promises about the carbon tax but won’t get much credit for this. The conservatives in the party will want a radical change to employment law which he won’t embrace. The old guard will want the continuation of the old school Howard pork barrelling but need for cuts will prevent that. The wets pretending to be dries – hello Joe – will want spending cuts but Abbott likes governments provided they engineer society to his preferred view.

    Abbott will win and probably very convincingly but will not be popular in the party or with the public. No-one will instinctly protect his back but the conservatives will if the next likely leader would not suit them. As every potential leader in the party is more small l liberal on social issues, the conservatives will protect him at least until they have a credible candidate to run.

    Posted by Rudi | September 10, 2012, 15:26
  6. You’re dead on about Minchin. He saved Australia.

    Posted by heinrich | September 10, 2012, 16:14
  7. Puppy, lucky for you that Gillard is only a marriage breaking root rat and (allegedly) not interested in puppies. Although I’m not sure about doggies.

    Posted by Moi | September 10, 2012, 17:10
  8. Looks like John McCarthy had one too many drinks, bongs and ‘e’s in LA. When will the grubby corrupt AFL learn its lesson?

    Posted by AFL Winner | September 10, 2012, 18:02
  9. I’m taking the joint apart for you Tony! Bill(s) not happy!!

    Posted by Walf Walf | September 10, 2012, 20:01
  10. who gives a shit? Gillard/Abbott. Same shit, same smell. The Punch and Julia show.
    Australia deserves better than the embarassingly useless, stupid and self-serving parasites who occupy Parliament. Actually, no we don’t.
    We might as well just hand sovereignty over to Rockerfeller and NATO now.

    Posted by chris | September 10, 2012, 20:44
  11. correction: We might as well just hand over the TINY SCRAP of sovereignty we have left over…

    Posted by chris | September 10, 2012, 20:56
  12. moi “Although I’m not sure about doggies”

    Julia’s enthusiasm for Footscray is as confected as her phoney accent. vomit

    Posted by chris | September 10, 2012, 21:01
  13. chris, I wasn’t talking about AFL. ;-)

    Posted by Moi | September 10, 2012, 21:37
  14. I like dogging much more than doggies.

    Posted by Moi | September 11, 2012, 0:02
  15. And just a few months ago you were saying what about relationships bec…staffers…blah blah. You’ve been finger puppetted vex me boy. You are someones puppet. You write what you are told. Its in the change of style vex. The attack on Julian ect. V

    Posted by yepitsabuscka | September 11, 2012, 10:21
  16. vex writes what the man says and it is now visible across the vex platform.

    Vex is a puppet. You have lost consistency vex and where you’ve lost it proves you have been fingered and are now a tool

    Posted by yepitsabuscka | September 11, 2012, 10:27
  17. Asmar scandal getting bigger, Lady Di has resigned from council.

    Posted by Oh dear | September 11, 2012, 10:47
  18. Sadly the only scandal is that Diana is being allowed by the despicable Conroy to take the HSU plaything from my toy basket.

    And even Conroy is bending to my will by agreeing that the HSU is my territory, a living space for my enormous gut that one day liposuction will remove when I cease being a factional powerbroker like Robert Ray. Twenty more kilos and I will more than match the old pipe-smoker.

    She’s (Asmar) resigned from a local council I once controlled to concentrate on the union election. Oh noes! My manhood depends on me keeping the union as my personal buttplug even if it does involve its leadership brown-nosing the leadership of the HR Nicholls Society and stealing millions from members. This is a small price to pay for the greater glorification of the number 3 Labor Senate-ard from Victoria.

    How dare she focus on workers at my expense. She doesn’t get it, doesn’t appreciate how I run things.

    I used to love visiting knock-shops with Jeff, there’s nothing like having workers’ money to indulge a foot fetish. It makes the tickle eroticism all the more tingly when someone on $700 a week is paying for your high-priced thrills and chills. For $300 extra, the girls would stand over you and piss, I didn’t go that way but Jeff loved it, he said it reminded him of Branch Committee of Management meetings. I heard that Don Lane the TV host used to pay the girls to shit on glass coffee tables while he watched. That always sounded like much better value to me.

    Mike Williamson (mine host) was such a wild party animal too. His demise because Kathy was jealous about the magnitude of his rorts was a penis envy problem that even a man of my girth and negotiating skills couldn’t fix. I even offered to make a ritual sacrifice of little Ben Maxfield to appease the devil worshipping faction of the HSU leadership but that wouldn’t satisfy their blood lust.

    Diana – who has failed to understand the value of property deals with the Jacksons – has left the Darebin council without capitalising on all the commercial opportunities people like me have come to expect from our beloved municipalities. Unlike me, there is no two million dollar East Melbourne penthouse, no investment property in Seddon (purchased from the Jacksons at mates rates), no secret trusts, no slush funds, no open tabs at a pub, no free rides at brothels. She is a loser, I am a winner who has cashed in. If anyone thinks I’m giving it up, they don’t understand who I am.

    Asmar doesn’t even own a property of her own, failing to meet my minimum million-dollar property portfolio HSU candidacy requirement. If you can’t get rich at workers’ expense then you just don’t get it. Marco Bolano gets it, he has a nice big fat mortgage and has grown accustomed to the $250,000 salary packages that the HSU gives those who understand that everyone friendly gets a little taste.

    We will not tolerate a renter like Diana who does not understand the corruption I have encouraged and bankrolled at the HSU since 1995. Anyone who has served on a local council for over a decade and has failed to amass considerable property wealth like my mates is just letting the faction down. That’s why I want to merge the Right factions again, so I can ensure all parts of the Labor Unity stay in touch with my values of aspiration and personal wealth creation. Greed is my need.

    A union for millionaires paid by the working poor, that’s what I’ve built and it’s what I’ll defend. Four more years for Marco, a thousand more rorts for myself, this much I pledge and more.

    Posted by [deleted - impersonation] | September 11, 2012, 16:52
  19. Having a bad day are we George?

    Posted by Alex | September 11, 2012, 17:18
  20. Vex is now sock puppetting himself with pretend friends.

    Vex is a tool for the man.

    Vex is his own sock puppet.

    Vex is liar.

    Posted by yepitsabuscka | September 11, 2012, 17:19
  21. Has anyone noticed by chance that Nathan Tinkler owes Peter Costello’S consulting business and also Mac Bank plenty, so much so that certain overdrafts with banks are at breaking point?

    Posted by Gemma | September 13, 2012, 19:17
  22. Is Abbott looking for friends?I see Tony seems to have adopted the sensible option of buying a dog.

    Posted by Greensborough Growler | September 15, 2012, 21:03
  23. This is a really good piece, very insightful. I hope Tones is reading! Brough’s win is a good start.

    Posted by Cath | September 18, 2012, 1:35
  24. Corey what is wrong with Beastality? It is the Nationals favourite farming pastime.

    Posted by Bon Roswell | September 19, 2012, 11:33
  25. A remarkably prescient article, especially given the events of today. How could Bernardi be so stupid. After Jim Wallace’s ridiculous comments the other week about homosexuality and smoking, what on earth was Berndardi thinking. He gave Abbott no choice. What’s worse is that Mr Self Promoter, Jamie Briggs takes Bernardi’s Parl Sec spot. It is indeed true that no one has Abbott’s back. As the old saying goes, with friends like Bernardi, Abbott does not need any enemies…

    Posted by Dryasachip | September 19, 2012, 15:19
  26. Its not what you think Cory. The dog and I are just good friends.

    Posted by Tony | September 19, 2012, 17:54
  27. Corey you leave Ron’s and mine pastime alone. What happens in the paddock stays in the back paddock and it doesn’t concern you. Daisy the Jersey has never complained.

    Posted by Bar Bar Barnaby | September 19, 2012, 18:05
  28. I’ll eat a hot dog anytime.

    Posted by Obese Jamie | September 22, 2012, 4:51
  29. E

    Posted by E | September 22, 2012, 4:52
  30. How amusing that young Mack thinks that opposing the ETS is a winner for Abbott and the LNP.

    The scorecard is that the ETS is in, the scare campaign has not worked, the punters don’t give a shit and are starting to ask serious questons about what Tony really has the offer.

    I’m sure Custer had victory in mind when he took his cavalry into the the Little Big Horn.

    Posted by Greensborough Growler | September 24, 2012, 20:20


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