Tony Abbott was clearly channelling John Howard and the ghosts of an election past when he made his announcement that the forthcoming election was to be “all about trust”.
“Who do you trust to reduce cost of living pressures?” he (Tony Abbott) said. “Who do you trust to boost small business and to boost job security, and who do you trust to secure our borders?
“That’s what this election will be all about.”
Abbott’s strategists have been working on this for some considerable time, with the primary challenge facing Abbott’s people being Tony Abbott himself: The Gospel Truth Tony and Phoney Tony.
From Bernard Keane:
But Abbott also has long-term form in struggling with the truth in interviews. In 1998, he — commendably — undertook a personal mission to destroy One Nation..trouble was, he later denied to the ABC ever funding Sharples — a blatant lie he was sprung on in 2003. Then there was his curious denial of meeting George Pell during the 2004 election campaign, until Tony Jones jogged his memory and Abbott suddenly recalled that he’d met him the previous week.
Infamously, Tony Abbott would be the first leader in Australia’s history to come forth with the statement: Don’t trust me – make sure that you get it in writing.
The vital decision then had to be made by Tony Abbott’s strategists on whether to tackle Abbott’s trust predicament, or to make an attempt to avoid it completely. Clearly avoidance and attempts to replace Abbott’s image with non-threatening positive images have been “it” up until this present point in time.
It is no coincidence that photo ops of Tony always coincide with the issue which is currently foremost in the minds of his spinmeisters. Defence, Tony holds a gun. Small business, Tony is with a dead fish. Women are the issue, enter Mrs. Tony. Trust is the issue, Tony is a volunteer.
Contingent on this plan was the device of endowing Prime Minister Gillard with the habitual patterns and aspects of behaviour of which Abbott himself is guilty.
Enter the JuLiar Campaign.
At the 2004 election, the method used to tackle the Lying Rodent and Honest John issue was to confront it, and there would be many amongst us who sputtered at the temerity of John Howard’s declaration:
This election, Ladies and Gentleman, will be about trust. Who do you trust to keep the economy strong and protect family living standards? Who do you trust to keep interest rates low? Who do you trust?
At the Howard-Latham election, “who do you trust?” was a shock tactic and it worked.
The promise made over and over is that Abbott is on the cusp of reinventing himself with plans to dispel his entrenched negativity.
. . . the Opposition had been preparing to roll out its policies and move on to a positive agenda.
The above was written by Lyndal Curtis – the date: May 18, 2010. Tony Abbott was unable to sustain the momentum then and it is inevitable that he will be unable to sustain the momentum this time around. This inability suggests a lack of discipline which is quite at odds with the perception which Abbott has gone to great lengths to promote, such as the “almost an excuse” conveniently provided by Michelle Grattan.
He is obsessed with discipline though seemingly unable to avoid periodic lapses.
It is therefore highly likely that during this year’s election campaign that little will be uttered on the issue of Tony Abbott’s image as Mr. Positive; the negativity is far too firmly entrenched. To do otherwise would require a complete change in Tony Abbott’s method of functioning which, as has been proven in the past, has been impossible for him to maintain.
Trust is the issue on which Tony Abbott hopes to run his campaign, however unlike Howard whose longevity provided some barrier between reality and rhetoric, Tony Abbott has no such barrier. Once again the challenge facing Abbott is Abbott himself. It would take but one slip, one single act of an aggressive approach such as on the occasion of his debate with Nicola Roxon for history to repeat itself. Does Tony Abbott possess this discipline? We are all about to find out.