In February this year, Tony Abbott addressed a hostile party room to explain why he should not only lead them, but the nation.
Did he outline a grand vision for the future? No.
Did he argue the soundness of his policy direction? No.
So how did Tony convince them that he was the right man for the job?
“I can beat Shorten,’’ he said.
And there we have it. The attack dog, the sledger, the guy who throws the first punch.
Mr Abbott pleaded with his MPs that he “can fight the Labor Party but I’m not very good at fighting the Liberal Party’’.
Abbott’s only raison d’etre is to beat his political opponents.
And we can’t say we weren’t warned.
Paul Keating described Abbott as “an intellectual nobody” with “no policy ambition.”
“Where is the thought-out position? Turnbull had an articulated, intellectual, moderate, thought-out conservative position,” he said. “The fact is that Abbott does not have this.”
“If you want to go round telling lies all your life, historical lies like Abbott does, fine,” he said.
Not only did Tony avoid any discussion of policy, he promised not to put any more budget measures to the Senate until they were accepted by the community.
Rather than informed, innovative leadership, reactionary pandering to focus groups will determine our direction.
In 2011, former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser was interviewed by Melbourne University political scientist Professor Robyn Eckersley.
Eckersley: The famous German sociologist Max Weber talked about leadership in a lecture he gave on politics as vocation back in 1919.
He said good leadership required ethics of conviction and ethics of responsibility, which he understood to mean having policies the consequences of which were in line with your convictions.
Which is the opposite of political leaders bending with the wind.
Fraser: Yes it is, but as you describe it, I would agree with that.
Eckersley: How do you reconcile leadership with a democracy where a leader is supposed to be responsive to public opinion, which suggests politicians should bend. So where does conviction end and responsiveness to the electorate begin?
Fraser: I think you are mixing up somebody who is representative of the people and somebody who is a delegate. If you are a delegate, the people who have delegated power to you tell you what to do, tell you what policies to have.
If you are a representative, you are there to exercise your judgement, to learn about an issue, then make up your mind, that is what a representative is.
Eckersley: In political science we call that the delegate-trustee distinction. So you’re appealing there to the role of the politician as the trustee who makes judgements on behalf of the electorate where the delegate is simply a mouthpiece for those they represent.
So that means a trustee must learn how to stare down opposition?
Fraser: Stare down, maybe. But if your policies are right and you think they are important to the nation then you have got to have enough confidence that you can carry the argument.
All a poll can do, or all a focus group should do, is tell you whether you have got an easy job or a hard job to carry an argument.
This describes the malaise that now afflicts our country. We are run by delegates. There can be no nuanced debate about policy because it has already been directed by those who delegated the power.
What finer example of this could we have than Ian MacDonald wearing a personalised high-vis mining vest, emblazoned with “australiansforcoal.com.au”, in the Senate? Or the Social Services Minister repealing gambling reform laws? Or the repeal of Labor’s legislation to stop global profit-shifting and introduce financial sector laws? Or the reduction of the renewable energy target and the direction to the CEFC that they may not invest in wind or small-scale solar? Or the approval of mines in prime farming land and dredging for coal ports in the Great Barrier Reef?
Murdoch delights in his power to dictate public opinion. Gina spends millions on advertising campaigns. The ABC gives a platform to the IPA and Gerard Henderson and his wife (?) while Alan Jones and Ray Hadley go on personal vendettas. For some unknown reason, Rowan Dean and Nick Cater are dragged out to rubber stamp all things Abbott though personally, having fools like them on my side would make me question my direction. The propaganda machine convinces the public and Tony does the photo shoots. He doesn’t need to listen to experts or read reports or understand policy.
Rather than being trustees of the common wealth and public interest, we have delivered power to the delegates of corporate wealth and Christian fundamentalism whose personal ambition and obligation to their backers supercedes their duty to the people of Australia and their responsibility as a global citizen.
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