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Abbott’s future: lose-lose

No matter what the outcome of Tuesday’s leadership spill, Tony Abbott is a damaged man writes Jennifer Wilson.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, former Oxford boxing blue, is up against the ropes in the biggest fight of his political life, a fight he can only lose.

He could of course do as John Gorton did, vote against himself and run for the deputy leadership, but Abbott does not strike me as a man capable of voting against himself.

Should his party dump him as leader on Tuesday his losses are obvious, and all that remains to be seen is what he does with them. Retire from politics? Stay as a back bencher? If so, what kind of back bencher: obstructionist and vengeful, supportive and calm?

Given his powerful desire to stay where he is, any of these options are humiliating smacks in the face over a prolonged period with the equivalent of dozens of stinky wet fish. Quite a come down for the bloke who threatened to shirtfront Putin.

Should he retain his position it will be as a mortally wounded leader who can only limp, bleeding and bandaged through the rest of his term.

To a great extent Abbott has set himself up for this latter option, by haranguing colleagues and backbenchers as to the need for the LNP not to become the ALP and strand the country in similar chaos and angry bewilderment by changing leaders in their first term. This is a spurious argument. The two situations are entirely different, as I’ve argued here. It is an indication of the limitations of the conservative hive mind that nobody seems willing or able to differentiate between the Rudd/Gillard leadership woes, and the current LNP leadership woes, and it may well be their undoing that they can’t.

The false dilemma functions as a powerful argument for Abbott, and some would claim the only one he has.

The chances are few MPs will genuinely embrace retaining Abbott, but the majority may well embrace the desire not to be seen as resembling the ALP. They will also be concerned at the prospect of the ongoing difficulty of dealing with the buckets of mockery and scorn they poured on the ALP being thrown right back at them, particularly in an election campaign. The threat of members losing their seats may not yet be great enough for them to throw Abbott out, and they may be inclined to give him another chance in an effort to avoid the appearance of Labor-like dysfunction.

The vote will not be for Abbott, but against the appalling prospect of being seen as like the ALP, mirroring the sentiments of the electorate who gave the Abbott government power in the first place as a reaction to its enraged disappointment with the Rudd/Gillard shenanigans.

If Abbott stays on as a wounded leader, this will not work in the government’s favour as far as the electorate is concerned. We do not want a wounded leader. We want a strong, competent, active, engaged, visionary leader. Abbott has so far shown no signs of being such a leader, either to the electorate or to his party. The leadership challenge in itself damages an already seriously damaged Prime Minister, and the LNP will have to weigh up the costs to them of keeping him, as opposed to the costs of cutting him loose.

Either way Abbott will have to personally bear the brunt of the consequences, and this may well be the only act of real leadership the man ever performs, albeit entirely involuntarily.

This article was first published on Jennifer’s blog No Place For Sheep.


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  1. Peter F

    “Either way Abbott will have to personally bear the brunt of the consequences, and this may well be the only act of real leadership the man ever performs, albeit entirely involuntarily.”

    This is not possible: nothing we have ever seen of this man gives the slightest hint that he is willing to own up to the results of his own actions.

  2. eli nes

    vote against himself??? he only got rid of turnbull by 1 vote and we can bet he voted for himself perhaps the arrogance of turnbull let him vote for abbutt?
    The party used the pommie pest as an attack dog, to get rid of the woman.
    His constant negative spin, aided and abetted by married mothers, like mirabella, was vigourously taken up by ratings seeking TV autocue announcers (50% of them women), radio jocks (no women except phone ins there)editors, few of those are women) and labor pollies, many of them women, who fell silent.
    The tactic won the day and little billy dumped the women making it certain the pommie pest won the election.
    But he is not up to any job, other than negative attack spin which, in the absence of a victim grates and the sooner they dump on him the better chance they have of a second term.
    However, for obvious reasons, no thinking laborite wants a secret ballot because that hands the liberal party a painless way of saying, abbutt head of Australia, you got the job now piss off.

  3. diannaart

    Seems to me the the Liberals et al are getting back what they have been projecting on to others for far too long, now.

    Good that Labor is simply remaining quiet – they need to do a lot of work to differentiate themselves from the neo-cons – this is a start.

    Whatever the outcome, I cannot imagine Abbott taking the course of grace.

  4. John Kelly

    There were only 85 votes in their last spill which Abbott won by one vote. This time there are 102 and all of those extra votes will be cast by newcomers who would like a second term. They know Abbott won’t provide that possibility. That would suggest he is sunk.

  5. David

    I agree he will lose either way. However I cannot see the majority of the weak gutted caucus tossers openly or secretly voting against him, if it comes to that. The cabinet know many will lose their jobs if Turnbull the only viable opponent stands, I doubt he will. It is too soon for him to make his move, which he surely will come the time.
    As for other contenders, outside Cabinet. Cannot see one who has the spine to stand up and have a go, let alone get the numbers.
    We are stuck with the psycho narcissist for a few months yet IMHO. He will make a small adjustment to his style but will soon return to that which he only knows, being a bully, liar and madman.
    I may be wide of the mark, but not too wide me thinks.

  6. Lyle Upson.

    is the Abbott’s claim that if he is dumped then the Libs will be a repeat of the dysfunctional Labor party, a suggestion that he intends to become a very disruptive angry Abbott in retaliation …???

    in my view, the only way the remark can be comprehended is to assume the Abbott intends intense retaliation and angry disruption, but perhaps there is an alternative view on the remark which i simply cannot see

  7. Bacchus

    It is an indication of the limitations of the conservative hive mind that nobody seems willing or able to differentiate between the Rudd/Gillard leadership woes, and the current LNP leadership woes, and it may well be their undoing that they can’t.

    I think many can see the difference, but the similarity is that both Abbott and Rudd used the presidential “I was elected by the people and only the people can get rid of me” line to try to save themselves. Abbott has added the appeal to his own party that “we don’t want to look like the Labor party.”

    Ad astra at TPS Extra has also done an excellent analysis of The pathology of forcibly changing leaders in his unique medical style.

  8. Bacchus


    I agree it is too early for Turnbull yet – that’s why if there is going to be a change to him, I hope it happens now. The longer he has in the job before an election, the lower his standing will become. Immediately he would get a bounce in the polls and enjoy a honeymoon period, but the underlying policies he’s got to sell are the same – this would eventually become apparent to the electorate.

    The danger of course, is if he calls a snap DD election during the honeymoon period…

  9. Tony Webster

    I do agree Jennifer, that whatever happens on Tuesday, Mr Abbott will never recover from this. Even if he attempts to change himself, his Thatcherist ideology and his sociopathy will not let him. He says they are not the ALP, but his lifeline is social policy copied from the ALP.
    I would like to take a little issue with you however, you refer to the Federal Party as the LNP, this is only in Qld and the Nationals are not able to vote in that room, only the Liberals. I do hope the Nationals are clever enough to knock over the Tea Party Right they are in bed with currently, but doubt it…

  10. Anomander

    I suspect it will pan-out this way.

    The motion may be put to the meeting by the two WA members on Tuesday and seconded. A vote will be called and while there is fear, discontent and anger at Abbott, I can’t see 51% of the party ready to support the spill. Therefore the motion will fail without resolution and Abbott will remain unchallenged – for now.

    The Libs may not want to be seen to be mirroring the last government, but that was different. In that case, the public still liked Rudd and the moves made to knife him were driven by internal by disenfranchised members of his own party.

    The Abbott leadership situation is entirely different. He has lost the confidence of the electorate, less so for his actual leadership but more for his unfair policies. The are fed-up watching the rich get away with not paying their fair share while the government relentlessly attacks the poor, the students, the disabled and the environment. Sure some of his colleagues don’t like Credlin and how his office is being run, but the bigger issue is they can see whole swathes of the electorate turning against them and watching their chances of re-election go straight down the drain.

    Unresolved, the leadership issue will remain a scab – picked at repeatedly by the media, social media, the public and the party itself. It will continue to fester and grow, making governing itself even more difficult, until it finally becomes toxic enough that Tony needs to be lanced, I suspect around until May-June, while they still think they have time to make a dash to the election with a “fresh new team” and a new friendlier budget that still requires some tough choices.

    It won’t be pretty, Abbott will fight every inch of the way and when he is finally forced out will likely resign in a pique of rage, forcing a by-election, at a time when the government is already struggling and facing certain defeat. They will come very close to losing this by-election, and it will set the scene for an electoral rout.

    Replacing him will prove even more difficult. The only viable leader they have – Turnbull realising the tide has turned completely against the party, with political Armageddon looming at the next election – he won’t risk taking over. Instead some other idiot will be forced into the role, to hold the rudder while the ship steams dead ahead into the iceberg.

    Meanwhile the economy will continue to decline, spending will be slashed, tens of thousands will be sacked, unemployment will increase, consumer and business confidence will plummet along with coal and commodity prices, and we will head into a recession while the government continues to tell even bigger lies. All the while government – pushed by the IPA will continue to ram through their destructive program of evil policies as quickly as possible, and to hell with the consequences. They’re all gonna lose anyway – like social suicide bombers they will go out with a bang and take the country with them.

  11. Ross in Gippsland

    Maybe the headlines should read Abbott fights for financial survival.
    Dodgy scholarships and expense rorts seem to suggest an income revenue problem.

  12. stephentardrew

    Spot on John Kelley.

    Unless the back bencher’s are total masochist Abbott is history.

    Do the conservatives look like their into self flagellation or self-interest.

    Not much thought needed here.

  13. dwejevans

    This week? Next week? This month? Next month? This year?, Next year?, Either way, he is a Dead Man Wanking!

  14. lawrencewinder

    Agree it is a lose-lose… for Australia, that is. The worst-case scenario is “Von Ribbentrop” Turnbull getting up and our mindless population thinking things will be better with a new figurehead. He, for all his smarm, is as mongrel as the rest of this Vandal rabble and has been happy enough to go along with the IPA inspired destruction of the country. Better that a wounded Rabid-the-Hun stays.

  15. hforward22

    ‘Anomander ‘ is pretty spot on in how it will play out, in my view.

  16. Steve

    Yep, I’d sadly agree with Anomanders prognosis. I am glad that I managed to sell my business before I lost the house. The economy appears to be in free fall and the Libs won’t be able to save it. Unfortunately even with a wipeout at the next election, those safe seats will still return toxic Tories to peddle the lies and fear which will destabilise the next government who will have to spend even more money to try and rescue an economy that didn’t need rescuing, and the cycle will turn again.

  17. diannaart


    Would love to see the Liberals stand alone for a change.

    Am deliciously amused that Abbott cannot see the Labor Party spill occurred even though Rudd was still very popular with the public – unlike himself who, again, unlike, Rudd has been unable to get any of his ‘signature’ policies through, unlike Rudd, is not blessed with diplomatic skills… so…. unlike Rudd… Crikey, Abbott is, in fact, making the Labor party look almost reasonable.

  18. Carol Taylor

    Anomander, to add..and having beaten Turnbull, Abbott claims that he has been reconfirmed as the best person to lead Australia. Pity about his policies though. And might I say, the same thing goes for Turnbull..as far as the Australian public goes, Turnbull will be on probation to see if he has himself/his party as being of paramount importance, or will he decided to make the ‘hard choices’ and start hitting his own socio-economic group to make them pay their fair share?

    I am thinking that the msm still consider it all about personalities and not about policies. Note how they are currently dissecting Abbott/Credlin et al, but in the main avoiding issues.

  19. Florence nee Fedup

    Abbott was happy enough to win by one vote to get where he is now. Great at ignoring the truth as well.

    He has shown no sign of being a leader, full stop.

  20. Florence nee Fedup

    An Oxford Blue in boxing carries little weight. Not many interested.at Oxford. Only had a couple of fights. Ended up in the ring because no other sport would have him. Under the Rhodes Scholarship, he had to partake in a sporting activity. He was nothing more than a slugger. Came out throwing punches, some say with eyes shut, hoping some would connect.

  21. Rosemary (@RosemaryJ36)

    In all of this discussion, nobody seems to be focussing on the point that, as PM, Abbott represents Australia to the world.
    And he is a world laughing stock.
    Shirt-fronting Putin, making a Prince, the Queen’s consort, into a knight, denying climate change and world warming, sending our best researchers overseas (although the recipient countries probably appreciate that!) just for a few reasons.
    However Labor is best served by having the liberals reject the spill motion and letting Abbott lose their chances at the next election.

  22. my say

    Wasn’t it Peter Slipper who got him home by one vote over Malcolm Turnbull last time ,the very person the Liberal party destroyed,Weather or not he is ousted depends on who wants to keep their jobs,because as sure as night follows day he will be gone come election time,A leopard never changes it’s spots

  23. Florence nee Fedup

    Nothing to do with Abbott, or so he says. Will be taking the result when he wins, as endorsement for the team. Just a couple disenchanted back benchers. A far as he is concerned, is business as usual. Wonder if he really believes what he is saying, I believe he does.

    He is more concerned about being seen the same as Labor. Yes, somehow he sees himself being rolled as sign of ongoing instability.

    Does he not realise his government is now unstable, chaotic and shambolic.

    How else does he explain month of poor poll, bad publicity and his plea at the NPC for another chance, to do better.

    He I trying to portray the happenings of the Labor government as something new, peculiar to Labor, something his side would never do.

    Trouble is, he has to ignore history, to get away with that one. Even their hero Menzies was rolled at his first attempt at being PM. As for dumping a first tm PM, that is not that unusual. Yes Gorton was rolled after his first elation, fifteen months into his term. Gorton took over after the death of Holt. He was PM for less than three years.

    Abbott has one thing peculiar to him no other PM has experience. He has no honeymoon period. The polls began to trend down in November, not long after he took office. He has never been popular with the public and I suspect with many in his government. He is being attacked by his own back bench.

    One could say, he has bought all that is happening now on himself. No media attack. Very little from the Opposition.

    All I have heard from his cronies how hard they are working at cleaning up Labor’s mess. How much success they have had.

    They have a budget hat has been attacked from all sides. Much they cannot get through. The debt has double and trending upwards. Unemployment is a problem. Any chance of the surplus they promised is further down he track

    All his success has been repealing much of what PM Gillard achieved. repealing revenue legislation such as CEF and MRRT’

    Working hard, to take what he can from those at the bottom.

    Travelling the globe, seeing how many world leaders he can insult.

    Breaking every international agreement we have signed over generations.

    Yes, our Tony is a little unique.

    Yet sees it, as nothing to do with himself.

  24. paul walter

    Carol Taylor, I am sure I read a page 1 article from the Age Thursday(?) concerning a tax office report as to the amount of loot Australian capitalism is shifting to places like Singapore.

    Yet later in the day I found no trace of the article on the online Age; no reference point whatsover..

  25. Annie B

    Florence …

    I agree with what you have stated.

    Abbott said “It’s not about me, it’s never been about me, it’s about delivering good government.”

    1. Wrong – it’s been mostly about him ( and his incredible arrogance ).

    2. Wrong – there has BEEN NO GOOD government. …. not for nearly 17 months,
    …. in any way, shape or form.

    A man in denial, awaiting the guillotine. …. if not next Tuesday, not far on from then.

    A bunch of heathens at the helm …. hopefully not for long.

    Will be an interesting week forthcoming. !!!!!

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