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The vibe of Abbott’s Australia

Prime Minister Tony Abbott. The Abbott Government. “And in news just to hand, today Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced that…”

It’s a hideous prospect for anyone to the left of Gerard Henderson. Cory Bernardi could actually become the minister for something. But unless you’re a member of the Canberra bubble and can get an article published in The Australian or leak to Laurie Oakes, getting hysterical about the prospect won’t change anything. Far better for your general well being to get some perspective and try to keep the speculation at least a bit rational.

We know the Stop the Everything mantra, we’ve heard about the parental leave scheme, tree planting, cutting red and green tape, downsizing the public service, fibre to anything but the premises, and we’ve been told we’ll get detailed policies and costings sometime around September 13. We also know from every other change of government that maybe two weeks in we’ll be told that the budget is in much worse shape than previously believed, which changes everything, so it’s reasonable to expect something along the lines of core and non-core policy.

Some of what we end up with will contribute to the overall vibe of the country, along the lines of Keating’s ‘When you change the government, you change the country’. It’s a difficult notion to pin down, especially in a multicultural, demographically and geographically diverse place like Australia.

Don Arthur has a post over at Club Troppo discussing the narrative theme where he raises the notion of ethos:

 People are more likely to trust a leader when they believe that the government’s policies flow from their deeply held beliefs and values. They may even forgive a government for unpopular policies if they trust that the leader’s motivations are good.

Ethos is about coherence. A strong set of values underpinning goals, policies consistent with those, and a leader who can personify the package. That package provides certainty. Whether or not you like what you’re certain of, at least you know what’s going on. September is a long way away yet, but there’s no sense of an Abbott ethos. There’s a lot of personal symbolism in the Speedos, fireman costumes, masculine swagger and so on, but nothing that ties him to a sense of either a Liberal Party or what we might look like with Prime Minister Tony Abbott running things.

From Keating to Howard, we changed from being exhausted by economic and cultural shifts to being relaxed and comfortable, alert but not alarmed nationalists. From Howard to Rudd we changed from being bored to being enthusiastic. Hokey and mostly harmless, but quite enthusiastic about the climate and the internet. The GFC came along and we got school halls and pink batts, which kind of fit with the climate change and future-focused internet enthusiasm thing. Then we got totally confused about climate change for a short time before we woke up and found someone else was running the country. Since then we’ve been confused, annoyed and uncertain.

I can’t see an Abbott Government, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, changing that sense of confusion.

We know that Tony Abbott has a tendency to change his mind, and to send different messages to different audiences. Waleed Aly’s weekend article on narrative pointed to a few inconsistencies from Julia Gillard, which is a problem Abbott shares. Then there’s the policy versus personality thing with a bit of values thrown in on her position on marriage equality for example, and putting single mums on Newstart while delivering her brilliant speech on misogyny.

For his part, Tony Abbott wants to be John Howard so he gets shouty about stopping the boats, but unlike Howard, it’s oddly race-neutral. He has infinity positions on climate change. Apart from wanting to send the public service to a new land in the north to build dams and food bowls, what is his economic vision for our future? Does he even have one? He’s a  misogynist, yet his every move is directed by Peta Credlin. He’s anti-abortion in a Catholic kind of way, but says he won’t do anything to stop it. There’s no ethos on offer, but plenty of confusion.

Journalists are beginning to turn their attention to the opposition, so hopefully some of the inconsistencies will start to get a more public airing. The ALP and LNP have similar internal problems. Abbott won the leadership by a single vote, antsy backbenchers are antsy backbenchers on both sides of the chamber, the LNP has its own faceless men, and the Ashby thing could yet turn up Craig Thomson-type problems. Julia Gillard has had Kevin Rudd breathing down her neck, and Abbott would have Joe Hockey and Malcolm Turnbull.

The ALP notoriously do their warring in public. It’s ugly, but at least it’s a type of transparency. The Liberal Party tends to keep the squabbling under the table, but it’s going on regardless and for similar reasons. I suspect that Prime Minister Tony Abbott would see that internal messiness gain some prominence, partly because there’s no ethos to hold an Abbott government together and partly because, like Gillard, he is where he is because the outer realms of the right of his party put him there.

If it’s true that the Liberals have outsourced their thinking to the IPA, they’d be taking instructions from an outfit with values diametrically opposed to those of the majority of voters and further destabilising the party itself. If Tony Abbott doesn’t get the senate he wants and sticks with the double dissolution idea, anything resembling coherence, stability or certainty will go right down the drain. That’s a lot of ifs and maybes chipping away at coherence. In the absence of ethos Abbott’s Australia would be as confused and uncertain as Gillard’s Australia has been, which is less of a vibe and more of an annoyance.

Anyone who paid attention to politics had a fair idea of what Howard’s Australia would look like before it eventuated. The same can’t be said of Abbott’s Australia, because regardless of his wishing otherwise, Tony Abbott is just not John Howard.

Lyn Calcutt doesn’t have a blog and didn’t quite finish her PhD. Politically, she knee jerks to the left but usually ends up in the centre once she calms down. She can usually been found dithering or on Twitter at @hobjobblesmum.

About hobjobblesmum

I'm an over educated old woman and proud owner of one power cardigan and one small dog.

7 comments on “The vibe of Abbott’s Australia

  1. Heather
    March 1, 2013

    Please don’t let this happen, fellow Australians

    Like this

  2. Gwyntaglaw
    March 1, 2013

    Spot on. Tony Abbott would very much like be to seen as the second coming of John Howard, but he is truly nothing like John Howard.

    If the old saw about history repeating itself holds true, then the tragedy of the Howard years (stagnation and lost opportunities) will be followed by the farce of an Abbott-led government. And what a farce it will be.

    More than anything else, the one thing Howard had that Abbott lacked was political nous. Howard, the grizzled old veteran, knew how to keep control of the politics of the situation while maintaining an iron discipline on his caucus. Abbott has no hope of doing either.

    And I’ve held forth at length about Howard’s mastery of the Boring. He wielded a kind of Boring-Fu. He stifled debate, kept a lid on passions, and kept politics as tedious as possible. That’s a rare skill, because if the headlines are all about something else (politics being too dull), an Opposition struggles to get their oar in.

    Needless to say, life under Tony Abbott may be many things, but you won’t be able to call it dull.

    Like this

    • hobjobblesmum
      March 1, 2013

      Howard was also a master at stirring up the left and ridiculing anyone with an education with his culture wars. He was able to give shape to a strong set of personal values. Abbott couldn’t afford to do that because people are suspicious of his values, real and/or perceived (religion, women).

      It definitely wouldn’t be dull.

      Like this

  3. intuitivereason
    March 2, 2013

    I suspect part of the reason why there is much confusion regarding Tony Abbott is because the Labor party has invested so much energy in creating and attacking a pretence of who Abbott is. There is an incredible dissonance created because what Labor projects on him and what they attack him for have so little purchase on the personality he project.

    This is especially so for those who are predisposed to believe the Labor party line. There is this increidble fear built up of the “Please don’t let this happen, fellow Australians” type, not because of anything Tony has done, but because of the aspersions that have been cast upon him.

    Labor has turned into the boy who cried wolf.

    Like this

    • hobjobblesmum
      March 2, 2013

      There are Liberal supporters saying equivalent things about Julia Gillard. “Worst government we’ve ever had”, and so on, as though the country has fallen to pieces. It’s just what party loyalists do.

      Like this

  4. intuitivereason
    March 3, 2013

    Sure, and you notice the same confusion to a degree with Julia Gillard, not necessarily helped by the ‘Real Julia’ reinventions.

    Like this

  5. Noely (@YaThinkN)
    March 3, 2013

    “If it’s true that the Liberals have outsourced their thinking to the IPA”… I think they have actually. Too many times you see announcements come out and then one of the smooth little IPA stormtroopers appears on the Drum or similar and will just ‘happen’ to toss out the same line. Hell even when Troppo Tony was so-called leaked, the IPA were flogging the launch of Gina’s Big North Australia book on the front page of their website. Way too many similarities.

    Shame, it seems neither of the big two parties are actually thinking for themselves. Both seem to have outside interests pulling their strings which doesn’t bode well for the punters. Looks more like choice will be who you ‘dis-like’ least, instead of what you actually aspire for in this country and who can make the country go forward :(

    Like this

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on March 1, 2013 by in Philosophies, values and ethics.

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