When Tony Abbott says that the people voted for him to be Prime Minister it’s important to clarify.
When Tony called a spill motion to challenge Malcolm Turnbull for the leadership of the Liberal Party in 2009, 35 of the 85 Liberal MPs voted for him in the first round. He won the second round by securing 42 votes which is, once again, less than half of the party room.
Those 42 people are responsible for Tony holding the top job. Or more accurately, the person who cast an informal vote by writing “No” on their ballot paper (presumably Joe Hockey) gave Abbott the leadership. It would be cynical of me to suggest that Tony purposely called the spill when a Turnbull supporter was in hospital and unable to vote.
To make him even a contender 54,388 people in Warringah voted for Tony in the last election. That is less than one half of one percent of the total formal votes cast (12,914,927) and just over 0.2% of the population (23,235,800).
Warringah is an affluent electorate covering 73 sq.km in Sydney’s north shore and lower northern beaches, covering suburbs on both sides of Middle Harbour around the Spit Bridge. It includes Middle Head and the Mosman Council area, North Head and the Manly Council area, plus parts of Warringah and North Sydney Councils. It has always been a safe conservative seat.
Warringah has the nation’s lowest proportion of residents aged 15-24 (9.9%) and the nation’s tenth and NSW’s highest proportion of residents born in the United Kingdom or Ireland (10.9%). It has the nation’s third highest proportion of high income households (55.9%). Proving it can be an expensive place to live, Warringah rates second highest on both monthly mortgage repayments and weekly rent.
I’m not sure that they are exactly representative of Australia though it may well explain Tony’s policy direction and need to claim every expense he can.
At the 2001 election he was challenged by former state Independent MP for Manly Dr Peter Macdonald. Macdonald had a reasonable chance of creating an upset, and reduced Abbott’s margin substantially, but his attempt to harness local issues was swamped by the higher prominence of foreign affairs in the aftermath of the Tampa incident and September 11 terrorist attacks.
This may help explain Tony’s penchant for ramping up the rhetoric on threats to our safety – it’s worked for him before.
As Tony’s promises to be more consultative and collegial pile up, he avoids the electorate like the plague. The last time Tony Abbott appeared on Q&A was 2010. And the backbench think they’ve got it bad. If his own MPs can’t gain access, what hope has the electorate of getting through?
As Tony attempts to stare down the spill motion on Tuesday (assuming those who proposed it aren’t made to withdraw it before then – Peta is pretty scary), I would like to remind him that the vast majority of us did NOT hire him as Prime Minister and if, as he says, only the people have the right to fire him, then call an election.