The Abbott government is in trouble. It has got its priorities wrong and has no plan for the everyday concerns of Australians.
The Prime Minister may have survived for now but the failed leadership spill has wounded his leadership. Tony Abbott and his backers are shaken. 39 people in his own caucus are convinced that he is not the right man for the job. Some are speculating that as many as six ministers are part of that crowd.
His decision to award a knighthood to Prince Phillip showed that he is living in his own world. His colleagues weren’t consulted and they were not impressed.
But that was the needle that broke the camel’s back. His poor judgment and arrogance has been obvious for quite some time.
Abbott is lagging in the polls and unable to convince a motley crew of cross-benchers to pass budget measures in the senate. His move to launch an inquiry into Australia’s industrial relations system has stoked fears that WorkChoices is on its way back. The humiliating back down on cutting Medicare rebates for brief consultations and uncertainty surrounding planned higher education deregulation have capped off a horror start to 2015.
Bear in mind it was less than a year and a half ago that Tony Abbott won a decisive election victory, promising a government of no surprises and no excuses.
So how did we get here?
To understand the government’s current problems we need to look at Abbott’s record as opposition leader. Abbott came to job in 2009 after winning the caucus ballot by just one vote.
As opposition leader he did nothing to work on a plan for Australia. Instead of informed policies for how to lead the nation we got climate change denial, paranoia, thinly veiled sexism and cynical opportunism. His party followed. Abbott borrowed heavily from the Tea Party playbook and his Coalition colleagues cheered along.
He was so busy lowering the tone of political debate, misrepresenting the state of the economy and launching personal attacks on then Prime Minister Julia Gillard that he forgot to forge any policy ideas of his own. The Coalition went to the election with limited promises such as unwinding the price on carbon (making Australia the first country to go backwards on fighting climate change) but little else.
Their entire purpose as a party was defined by their opposition to Labor’s progressive reforms. So upon assuming power they were locked into making decisions that they must have known would be disastrous for the party and the nation as a whole.
This explains why we were handed the budget that this newspaper described as “the end of the fair go”. It featured a cruel GP tax, cuts to pensions and the promise of $100,000 university fees. On top of all that Abbott’s stance on climate change made us a laughing stock at the G20 forum in Brisbane.
They have no plan for jobs, no plans for healthcare and no budget strategy.
They are adrift and people across Australia are furious. Government backbenchers are throwing their hands in their air. The trouble makers behind Monday’s spill motion, Luke Simpkins and Don Randall, won’t give up.
But it is more than that; they don’t have a Plan B.
Tony Abbott’s team is stuck where they are. Even if the government changes leaders it can’t change course without seeking a fresh mandate. To do so would mean abandoning the approach that took them to power and defined their first 500 days in office. Malcolm Turnbull says that he supports every one of last year’s budget cuts and so does the backbench.
The lesson in this is that time in opposition should be used wisely.
While Team Abbott is running out of options Labor is working on a plan for a better Australia – one that doesn’t feature a GP Tax or university fees beyond the reach of ordinary people. Our plan is based on jobs, a decent health system, a first class education system and investment in infrastructure like the NBN. We will deliver for ordinary Australians because we are listening to their concerns and won’t be repeating the mistakes of this government.