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The pox now on both your houses

23/08/2010

The 2010 Federal Election is over, but it will remain to be the thorn in the neck of Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott for the next term of whoever forms government.

And it is that very issue that may be the death of Tony Abbott’s aspirations to emulate his mentor John Howard. But unlike John Howard, Tony was not considered Prime Minister material by the people. That judgement alone must truly keep him up at night.  He can however be consoled that he is not the only one in that boat. In reflection of the result, it is interesting to look back on the press conference Tony Abbott gave right after the removal of Rudd and the replacement with Julia Gillard which in of itself was a historic occasion. But historic events themselves can be victim to a clever line and just the right amount of spin.

Tony Abbott words that day should be reassessed. 

‘I want to say on behalf of the Coalition that I thank him for his service in that office and I should say that service in high office is a privilege and a burden, especially on families and no one watching the former Prime Minister today could not have been moved by what he’s been through. Prime Ministers should not be treated this way.’

When Tony said these words, it seemed to the public he was talking about Kevin Rudd. In the cold light of the election it is obvious he was speaking about himself. The replacement of Kevin Rudd with Julia Gillard as we now know was a masterstroke. When Abbott talked about union bosses replacing a Prime Minister, he was talking about himself. The campaign that Tony Abbott and the liberal party had put all their efforts into had evaporated and what soon became clear was they had no ‘plan b’.

The original attack on Julia Gillard on the day of the election became their new and last thrust. The irony was apparent for all to see but few media analysts played on it for more than a byline or two. For almost 3 years, the Liberal Party had fired its guns and full salvos at the leader that had replaced their benevolent grand father at the last election. They had never let up their attack on Prime Minister Rudd and when they finally began to see a result from this attack, they had to now no longer attack him, but to eulogize him. Their entire attack became a case of why trust a party that replaces its leader? *cough* *splutter* *choke*.

Tony Abbott’s rise to the leadership of the Liberal party was not forgotten in the minds of the public, despite his fervent wishes they would. The division his own rise over the steaming corpse of Malcolm Turnball as he clutched the ETS proposal the liberal party themselves had asked him to undertake, was returned to the fore. It became a childish game of name calling. But… she replaced him without even needing a vote Tony would cry! And in so crying, he would turn slighty green with envy. Tony succeeded Malcolm Turnball by merely 1 vote, 42/41. Not exactly what anyone can truly call endorsement.

I wondered during the campaign why the ALP had not tried to utilise this more than they did. That was until I saw the outcome of the election. The ALP under Kevin Rudd was facing a tsunami that would obliterate Labor from power for what seemed like a possible decade IF they had taken Kevin as their leader to the election. Everyone knew it. Even Tony. And especially Kevin. When faced with the research presented to him, he knew.

The terrible and beautiful thing about leadership is it is a drug more euphoric than any and more addictive than all. Kevin did not want to go. He argued that he could save this somehow. That he could return. But time was an issue. And the longer he stayed, the less time Labor had. And so phone calls were made and Kevin replaced in what seemed like a few hours. Even the media reported this as some kind of truth. But Laurie Oakes in an article four days before the demise of Kevin Rudd announced that he must go. Other commentators had made similar remarks openly in the weeks leading up the day Australia got a female Prime Minister and this myth of some dark sinister removal of Kevin played right into the hands of the Liberals who proceeded to literally drop the ball over and over.

If Mr Abbott had played the card too hard, then his own past would crawl back to haunt him. If he failed to play it hard enough, then his future dreams would be shattered.

In the cold light of day, the Liberal party had failed. To use sporting analogies, Tony Abbott and his team were destined to score a century and seize power. Julia Gillard and her team were in trouble. The removal of Kevin Rudd was in effect the removal of the strike bowler. The party would need to not so much rely on trying to bowl out the Liberal party, but to restrict its run flow. In the end, Julia Gillard and her team did manage to do this despite losing several players to injury. And Tony Abbott who at week two of the campaign was on 96 not out, ended up three weeks later on a disappointing 98.

As Maxine Mckew reflected on her own injuries that night, she quoted the words of the bard.

 ‘A pox on both your houses’

But the pox on both their houses was not the result of the election, but now what to do with it. If obligation is an important word in politics and political life, then they have an obligation to the people to enter this term in a new light. They cannot continue to divide an already divided nation.

Or…. they can work together and make this term a term of healing for both houses. And perhaps the pox can be treated and removed.

A. Ghebranious

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