The Victorian State Election has become a
defining moment for the LNP, whether they like it or not. The burning
question on most Liberal minds right now is what to do with the dear
leader, Tony Abbott.
On the one hand it is difficult to see the Liberals allowing Abbott
to lead them to the next election. His propensity for appearing
dysfunctional cannot be tolerated indefinitely. The odds that he will
continue to embarrass his government in one way or another are very
short. The likelihood he will change and assume statesman-like
characteristics is a pipe dream. He is just so far out of his depth a
submarine would struggle to find him.
And, historically the Liberals have limited patience for those who
become an impediment to the image they have of themselves; an image of
‘born to rule’, of continued, ongoing governance of the peasantry. They
know that sooner or later Abbott is going to drop another clanger either
domestically, or on the international stage.
They also know the nation is, in effect, on 24 hour alert steeling
itself as it waits for the next big blunder. The hope might be, within
Liberal minds that as each blunder comes along we might start getting
used to them and even become immune to them. Not likely.
the other hand, if the Liberals leave him there, keep him out of harm’s
way and try to create a troika around Bishop, Hockey and Turnbull, it
won’t be long before confusion, contradiction and back bench
dissatisfaction cause a parliamentary meltdown. Whatever they do, Abbott
will remain an electoral liability so toxic, the majority know it will
send them back into opposition after one term.
But, by removing him they also paint themselves with the same brush
they so savagely slapped over Labor when Julia Gillard replaced Kevin
Rudd. The only difference is, we can all see Abbott’s dysfunctional
nature. We would understand why he had to go and that might work in
their favour. That small positive, however, is unlikely to work. The
reason is that the options for a new leader are pretty ordinary.
Whichever way they go, they are on a hiding to nothing.
At the beginning of the year Hockey looked the goods but it wasn’t
long before he started suffering from foot in mouth disease and then, of
course, he delivered his first budget, which turned out to be a
self-inflicted blight on his aspirations for future leadership.
More recently, Julie Bishop has been seen as leadership material as
she strutted the international stage, turning heads and getting pasted
up in Harper’s Bazaar. However, we have not forgotten her foray as
shadow treasurer at the beginning of the Rudd administration which saw
her out of her depth too.
As Foreign Affairs minister we only get to see her in ten second
bites shaking hands with other world dignitaries. It is difficult to see
her holding up to the close scrutiny of national leader if she couldn’t
cut it as an alternative treasurer. One thing is for certain; she is no
Julia Gillard and that, sadly for her, is the current benchmark.
Which leaves us with the only other possibility, Malcolm Turnbull.
While there are plenty in the party who would back him, there are more
who simply won’t. It is questionable that he shares their ideology; many
fear he might drag them, kicking and screaming, to the centre, away
from Murdochism. That would leave them without a narrative.
And therein lies their dilemma, made even more difficult as their
ideological approach to government continues to hit brick walls in the
senate. Who would have thought twelve months ago that it would come to
this ; the quickest act of political self-destruction in our history.
And how deserving of it, they are.
I watched these pretenders parading themselves up and down the lower
house chamber one day last week, I was reminded of the stench of
arrogant superiority I witnessed in St. Peter’s Square in Rome some
years ago watching the red hats of the Vatican do much the same thing.
And that, it seems to me, is who these ideologically, recalcitrant
adolescents think, they are. These pompous overlords of Neo-liberal
macroeconomics, these Reaganists and Thatcherite’s, the ‘trickle down’
team of wealth distribution. Only in the senate do they display
themselves with any degree of humility and respect for the office they
hold; a measure of their uncertainty and reliance on others beyond their
So, I say, let them continue to self-destruct and display themselves
as they really are to those who voted for them; not their loyal members,
their ideological clones, but the swinging voters who were sucked in by
their lies, their spin, their false promises.
Let those who voted for them see what they got for their money. Let
the 6-10 per cent of the electorate who decide elections squirm a little
longer. Keep the dear leader in play for another two years as we watch
the economy go headlong into recession and the false debt continue to
Whichever way they go, we can be sure self-preservation will trump
national interest and that, ultimately, will be their undoing.