Secrets, lies and back-flips
Never in his wildest imaginings could Tony Abbott have thought his first hundred days in government would be so difficult; so unsuccessful. Having lead so comfortably in the polls for a long while prior to the Federal election last September – apart from a slight blip when Kevin removed Julia – how could the honeymoon have been so short-lived? In fact, pollsters claim there has been no honeymoon at all, which is highly unusual. The latest poll shows the biggest slump for a new government – a four to five per cent swing against – in 40 years.
In a matter of a few weeks, Australia has become an embarrassment globally and the worst fears of truly liberal thinkers have been realised far sooner than expected.
One of Abbott's key sound bites… sorry, policies... soon descended into farce. Stopping the boats was made a military matter, an issue of national security shrouded in secrecy. Weekly press conferences were pointless, and public and media alike became dependent on Indonesian sources of information for boat statistics. It was interesting to observe the media cooling on the Coalition. Then, already tricky negotiations with Indonesia were stalled by spying allegations. So much for a 'Jakarta not Geneva' foreign policy focus. Timor-Leste weren't impressed by spying either.
The Government's pronouncements about China's control of certain bits of air space during its ongoing dispute with Japan over a group of islands lead to a frosty reception for Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Great outfit though: loved the swirly skirt with the boots. A fine example of power dressing if ever I saw one.
Not sending the Minister for the Environment to climate talks in Warsaw was not a good move, Abbott. If Australia really wants to be a global player, opting out of the most serious issue facing all nations currently and into the future was short-sighted and completely misguided. The Minister was too busy back home getting rid of climate-science-based influencers and renewable energy initiatives. Dear oh dear.
Abbott's fixation with repealing carbon pricing was high on his agenda. He still maintains the election was a mandate to take Australia backwards on emissions targets, but voters voted not so much on that as booting out Labor. They wanted change. They weren't endorsing LNP policies: we didn't know what most of those were prior to polling day. The election was a rerun of the Queensland state election 18 months previously. Change for change's sake, with little heed for the consequences. It took Queenslanders only slightly longer to discover their mistake and for a different reason – when thousands of public sector jobs were axed. That hasn't begun yet for the Commonwealth as a whole.
One thing the then Opposition had promised to do was honour Labor's education funding plans. But lo, a sudden U-turn. The fiasco really wasn't helped by the Education Minister's poor intellect and buffoonery. (Did you notice one day when Abbott was speaking in Parliament with his grave face on, Christopher Pyne let out an inappropriate giggle involuntarily?) Abbott had to step up to the mic with his Education Minister to soothe angry parents and 'clarify' that the LNP wasn't breaking its promise. Figures here and figures there. Surely you don't mess with education? How to alienate millions of voters at a stroke.
I actually thought Abbott's more-or-less silence and ever-so-low profile between election day and the opening of Parliament was a master stroke. The Australian people had had enough of daily pollie squabbles within and under Labor. Were the grown-ups knuckling down to the job? The first day of Parliament did not bode well, however. A blatantly biased new Speaker – another Bishop – did not deal well with renewed bickering. Term ended in a similar fashion. Recriminations and blame gaming abounded in a week in which the future of Holden car manufacturing and same-sex marriage in the ACT came to untimely ends.
Tony Abbott looks tired and older already. He seems to have less hair, but perhaps it's an optical illusion because the ears have got bigger. He needs a Christmas break: he almost endorsed smacking children the other day, and the flag on Parliament House did not come down early enough after Nelson Mandela's passing.
I must say I'm enjoying the Coalition's performance enormously so far. Happy holidays everyone.