Welcome to Abstralia, Tony Abbott’s Australia

Cover of today's Sun-Herald app: click to embiggenAs expected, a landslide victory in yesterday’s election means Tony Abbott will soon be Australia’s Prime Minister — and to judge by some of the screechy hand-wringing, you’d think the world was about to end in a plague of radioactive ever-bleeding toad-newts.

Well, that’s the impression I got via Twitter. I wasn’t watching the news coverage, because I’ve pretty much abandoned the daily — and faster!– news cycle. Research has shown that reactions on Twitter don’t represent overall public opinion.

Nevertheless, I think some people forget how very similar Labor and the Coalitions’s positions actually are on many, if not most, issues. Mindless tribal loyalties lead them to imagine vast differences where none exist.

They also forget that a party’s announced policies have to survive the sausage factory of parliament before they can be enacted, and governments still have to work within the existing framework of law and government agencies. A certain inertia is involved.

That said, the image in the news this morning of Abbott’s face-splitting grin, almost-invisible wife and entourage of near-identical meat-prop daughters, looking for all the world like out-takes from the wedding episode of Deal or No Deal Mosman, does not fill me with confidence. It’s the very picture of assumed privilege.

“Ready to rule” indeed.

Nor am I reassured by his victory speech.

So my friends, in a week or so, the Governor-General will swear in a new government.

A government that says what it means and means what it says. A government of no surprises and no excuses. A government that understands the limits of power as well as its potential.

And a government that accepts that it will be judged more by its deeds than by its mere words. In three years’ time, the carbon tax will be gone.

The boats will be stopped. The budget will be on track for a believable surplus. And the roads of the 21st century will finally be well under way. And from today, I declare that Australia is under new management and that Australia is once more open for business.

There’s not a lot of what you’d call “grand vision” in there. Dismantling a tax that most people were already being compensated for. A hand-wavey promise to stop a made-up threat. Some bookkeeping issues. And building roads. There’s an air of assumed privilege in that too, with the dismissal of the incompetent lesser folk who’ve been minding the shop these past few years and the reinstatement of proper authority.

“Once more open for business,” you say? Perpetuating simultaneously the idea that a nation is no more than an economy, and an economy is about nothing more than running businesses.

During the election campaign, Abbott made plenty of unforced errors, we might call them. He does have a habit of saying daft things a bit more frequently than I like to see in a leader. And he did say once that he can only be held to what he puts in writing. These are not good traits for Abbott to possess as his role changes from the relentless carping negativity of opposition to the positive consensus-building of leadership.

Now Abbott may well grow into the role. Maybe he’ll be able to build a coherent team from his ragtag collection of the experienced, inexperienced and occasional nut-job. Maybe they’ll be able to implement their policy program. I’m sure there’s already endless speculation on these points. But I might try to form my own opinion.

I plan to re-read David Marr’s Quarterly Essay, Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbott. Indeed, I just bought an electronic version for my iPad. I’ll let you know if I have any interesting thoughts about the man’s character.

I also plan, or had planned, to return to daily blogging at some point. This seems as good a day as any to start setting aside an hour or so to gather my thoughts and see what emerges. So here we go. Welcome to Abstralia.

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5 comments

  1. Melissa’s avatar

    Interesting thoughts. Not sure which is worse – a Government without vision or one with a vision (NBN, NDIS, Gonski) that they can’t or won’t capitalise on. Look forward to your daily blog posts.

  2. Stilgherrian’s avatar

    @Melissa: Thanks. To be clear, though, the posts won’t always be about politics, but whatever happens to be on my mind that day.

  3. mal’s avatar

    Hi Stilgerrian, what are you’re thoughts on NBN lite as per the published policy? Could the review see the LNP change their view? Also what possible influence will letting HFC cables into the equation have on Murdoch/foxtel media domination of our media?

    I look forward to reading more of your blogs – thanks

  4. Mike Williamson’s avatar

    Thanks Stillers, good to see you back blogging – I will look forward to what you have to say, whatever the topic.
    By the way, is it just me or was there some uncanny resemblance between Tony and family on stage last night, and a Robert Palmer and the ladies video of Simply Irresistible? I was sure the band was about to start up at any moment.

  5. Stilgherrian’s avatar

    @mal: As a quick response, I don’t think much has change since I wrote about the Coalition’s broadband policy for Crikey when it was launched: Broadband battle: hard numbers, ideology and gut feel. In that article I said I comes down to ideology and gut feelings about the future.

    To put mine on the table, I think part of a government’s role is the long-term development of infrastructure, and Australia has a lot of catching-up to do. I think that the greater bandwidth of Labor’s version would soon be used in new and interesting ways. And I also think that as a rich nation we can afford to build for the future — although that gets into economic arguments beyond my clue levels.

    The Coalition’s plan has the potential to get at least some speed improvement to laggard areas more quickly, if well-managed. But both plans explore what for Australia is an unknown area.

    @Mike Williamson: You are far from the first to note the Robert Palmer / Simply Irresistible resemblance.

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