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Cost: The Beginning Of The End?

26/08/2010

Well it looks like Tony Abbott has finally discovered his rival in his bid to become Prime Minister was not his opponent, but himself. After giving an almost faultless performance during the election campaign itself, it now seems to be unravelling before his very eyes.

I caught the first hint of trouble on the Sunday after the election. Tony had spent the election eve courting the vote of the night shift. For 36 hours he played with police toys, wore beanies and smelled the roses. As dawn approached, Tony was a spent man. The 36 hour gimmick, for that’s what it was, managed to keep his face on TV screens till polling booths opened.

On Sunday, Tony Abbott conducted one of the most farcical interviews of the entire campaign. From the moment he walked into the room till the moment he left a mere handful of minutes later, the wheels had obviously come off his billy kart. He answered two questions and then turned his back in the middle of a third being posed. Now I did not take too much out of this at the start, although I thought the comment from one of the journalists at that conference interesting : “Three minutes?!? Is that it?!! That’s a bloody disgrace!!” I filed it away and told myself the man is tired and he was up all night.

Of course by the time the conference had hit the major commercial stations, it had neatly been edited and the entire remark removed. It always strikes me as interesting to see the way commercial tv works. A 15 minute interview is edited down to a 5 second sound and visual bite for the news. I always urge people to get a hold of the entire footage and watch it all for yourself. Why? Well one commercial station wants to make a certain point so they lift a certain 5 second. Another wants to make a different point and so they lift a completely different section and so on. One can also see this in the print and radio media. Instead of reporting the entire message, they pick and choose in such a way that their point of view is advocated. So when I saw that interview edited that night, it was interesting to see how almost prime ministerial they had tried to make him. At that time, despite the closeness of the debate, it appeared that the Coalition would be the victor. Unfortunately for Tony, that has failed to be the case so far.

As the voting continued on Monday, Tony’s worst nightmare had came to Canberra. The independents were here. As the media began to do their fluff pieces concluding that conservative based INDs will naturally side with the coalition, the bells in Tony’s head began to clang.

The three ex NAT mp’s had been subjected to abuse by Tony’s coalition allies in the LNP on election night itself no less. Their exuberance as they goaded them from what they mistook as a winning position lent its way into hubris as the night went on.  So much for what could have been. The media’s focus on the independents soon discovered a strong unity of animosity. There was a deep-seated hatred here. The independents expressed this and also at the same time offered olive branches. Even Mr Katter said if he needed to, he could work with someone he hated.

The three were joined with the Greens representative and they conducted a press conference hosted by what some have called a fringe radical group called GetUp! This group had already had a magnificent win during the campaign challenging the AEC in the High Court and  gaining 100,000 voters  a chance to do just that. Now they hosted the independents so the media could gauge their minds.

From the onset it was obvious that the four had diverse views with strong agreement on some and strong disagreement on others. They were not going to be silent on their musings. The conferences conclusion seemed to be basically saying that they may just align themselves with the ALP instead.

Before they could make any decision, they submitted a letter of request from both Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the opposition leader Tony Abbott. Much of this list of requests was nothing more than the willingness to discuss them at a later date. But one request was much more tangible: they wished access to the parties costings and access to ministers and department heads so they can best gauge what each party had not only promised the people during the campaign, but also to make sure the promises could be financial doable and what if any the likely advantage the policies would have for Australia and their electorate. Prime Minister Gillard and then Tony Abbott met with the men to discuss their letter and their requests. The PM saw that for whoever becomes the ruling party, it made sense that these men be informed on what they had offered the public and subject to advice on the role of a caretaker government, she provided the men with the information they needed.

Tony Abbott on the other hand refused to pass his costings to the Treasury department claiming the department as not to be trusted due to an alleged leak during the campaign. Instead, he once again touted the private accounting firm Howarth’s as his offering instead. And with that, the end of his campaign to become Prime Minister was sealed.

The independents request was designed so they can have some assurity that whom they choose to support is able to do what they asked and that the will not bankrupt the government coffers. Otherwise they could find themselves supporting a party that turns out to be unable to meet its commitments and in so doing would force them to move a motion of no confidence against them and bring the country to its knees. They wanted to be aware up front. That way they make the correct decision. And help acheive what they had been talking about since election night and that was a stable government for the full term.

Tony Abbotts’ rejection of their request has not pleased the independents. The had called his move silly, and giving the appearance of having something to hide. Ironically, this may not mean they do not decide to back Tony Abbott in his bid, but it is a clear indication that the three will not make his government an easy one if he is the one they give the ‘gong’ to as Bob Katter called it.

The waiting game continues for Tony. Will he be handed the gong, or will he be hearing the bells tolling his name?

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One Comment
  1. Interested reader permalink

    You continue to provide a great analysis of this ongoing saga. I agree 100% with the comment that people should try to watch the whole footage of press conferences, read the detail of documents and so-on. Twitter and similar social media play an important part.
    The pre-election party political system, combined with electoral donation laws that make the system beholden to unions, corporates and other “thugs” (for want of a better word) undermine the credibility of our system. It seems clear that News Corp wants Abbott as PM – while else would they scream “Abbott” on the front pages of their publications when buried inside is the gem that over 70% of voters in the electorates from which the independents come want ‘what is best for the nation as a whole’?

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