Tony Abbott: sneers and fears

Tony Abbott’s National Press Club speech brought with with it the question: Would Tony Abbott’s statements be brought under scrutiny? Or would the media meekly accept his statements without scarcely a glance?

Headlines have included:

  • Abbott promises hope and opportunity
  • Abbott outlines vision for Australia
  • Tough Love, Tony Style: Abbott outlines vision for government
  • Come and visit us Tony

The Fairfax media can be represented by The Sydney Morning Herald’s Peter Hartcher:

A new start for Abbott but it is only a start

TONY ABBOTT has implicitly acknowledged that it’s not enough for him merely to sneer at Julia Gillard. Thank you Peter, we were all hopeful that any future Liberal government would consist of things a little more substantial than sneering at Julia Gillard.

The Liberal Party is polling well but Abbott has been polling badly. Gillard is unpopular but Abbott is even more unpopular in the latest polling. Peter, what do you mean by Abbott has been polling badly.

He had offered himself to the public as a boot to stamp on Gillard’s face. That’s fine for an opposition leader. But who wants an angry boot for a prime minister? As of late last year, and for no discernable reason the media suddenly decided to change tack.

Previously Tony Abbott’s negativity was promoted by the media as evidence of his success, and by gum the media had the polls to prove it. Then out of seemingly nowhere, appeared a few articles suggesting that Tony Abbott’s Mr No persona might not last the distance. Was it the media had lapsed into boredom with Mr No? If so, who could blame them.

Peter Hartcher then adds:

He told us not only what he opposed but what he stood for. He was pro-immigration, pro-environment, pro-manufacturing, pro-social spending, pro-Aborigine, pro-infrastructure, pro-tax cuts and pro-productivity. Thank you Peter, that’s fine and dandy but where is your analysis of the implications of these?

But wait a moment, here are some details:

Specifically, he would like to be able to put dental treatment on the Medicare schedule at a cost of $4 billion a year, and offer a disability insurance scheme for another $6 billion. So Tony Abbott would like to.. Peter, would you count that as an if, but or a maybe.

Hartcher concludes:

It’s the beginning of a new phase for Abbott as “pragmatic problem-solver”.

The Murdoch press is represented by The Australian’s Dennis Shanahan:

Leader channelling honest John in a bid to win trust

TONY Abbott is asking voters to trust him. Given that they don’t seem to like him, it’s a big political call. A little superficial there Dennis, one does not necessarily have to like a person in order to trust them to do their job effectively. I believe that it is Tony Abbott’s inability to provide anything of any substance and to answer questions at any depth which produces his untrustworthiness.

And it’s a political plan devoid of policy detail. This is a big call from the Murdoch media who prefer to hide any negative details pertaining to the Leader of the Opposition somewhere around the middle of any article.

Just as John Howard turned the 2004 election campaign against Mark Latham into an issue of who people trusted with the economy and government, Abbott is trying to turn a weakness into a strength.

Indeed, Abbott is drawing not just on the 2004 strategy of Howard but also on the reputation of the entire Howard government for economic management and delivery of services and tax cuts.  Shanahan has immediately honed in on Tony Abbott’s tactics, that is to utilize the Howard years as proof of competence and ability to manage the economy.

Tony Abbott concluded his speech by arguing that the best way to help the country right now would be to change the government. Change the government? But to what? Devoid of detail and practical application, Abbott’s statement at the National Press Club remains exactly as stated, “aspirational”.