‘This is going to be a term of delivery’: Tony Abbott pops his head up again

SEPTEMBER 12 2016 – 8:39AM 

Michael Koziol

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Former prime minister Tony Abbott is maintaining his high-vis presence in national media, using morning television to cement expectations of “a term of delivery” for the Turnbull government.

Two days shy of the anniversary of his ousting as prime minister, Mr Abbott said “a lot of good things have happened over the last year”, but declined to directly answer whether Malcolm Turnbull had been a “good prime minister”.

“There was a good two years followed by a good 12 months, an election win, and now we have got three years to get on with governing,” he told Channel Nine’s Today program as politicians returned to Canberra on Monday.

“As Prime Minister Turnbull says, this is going to be a term of delivery,” he continued, in what could be seen as an ultimatum to his flailing successor.

Like his former chief of staff Peta Credlin last week, Mr Abbott identified the Coalition’s narrow election win as Mr Turnbull’s main achievement since taking the leadership – though he also said the government had “done well” in the key domain of economic management.

“It was always going to be tough to win the election. We did win the election. That’s a credit to the prime minister,” Mr Abbott said. “He’s now prime minister in his own right. And this, as Malcolm Turnbull keeps saying, is to be a term of delivery.”

He declined to reflect on how he personally felt a year on from being dumped as PM, insisting “it’s not about me” and arguing the best thing to do was to “get behind the Turnbull government and … help a good government to succeed”.

The Turnbull government has been criticised as a weakened and dithering administration, having floated and sunk several tax reform initiatives while presenting a limited post-election agenda.

Tony Abbott in the House of Representatives during the chaotic final hours of the previous sitting week of Parliament.
Tony Abbott in the House of Representatives during the chaotic final hours of the previous sitting week of Parliament. Photo: Andrew Meares

Mr Abbott emphasised the election had given the government a mandate to reintroduce the Australian Building and Construction Commission and tighter union governance controls – both Abbott-era priorities that had stalled in the Senate.

Monday’s television appearance, ostensibly to promote next year’s Pollie Pedal charity bike ride, followed a media blitz by the former PMlast week while Mr Turnbull was overseas at a series of global summits. He presented a prescription for reform of political donations, said the government had established the Northern Territory royal commission “in panic” and publicised his annual visit to remote Indigenous communities.

<i>Illustration</i>: Cathy Wilcox.
Illustration: Cathy Wilcox. 

Also on Monday, Ms Credlin published a stinging column in The Australian in which she labelled the prime minister “a bitter disappointment” who had lost the Coalition its moral authority.

“Once so loved in the seats that don’t determine elections, he’s now reviled in those that do,” she wrote.

Ms Credlin was highly critical of Mr Turnbull’s media strategy, calling it Sydney-centric and neglectful of the Coalition’s base.

The government will attempt to get some runs on the board this week as it proceeds with its “omnibus” budget savings bill and plans for a plebiscite on same-sex marriage.


Source : The Canberra Times

Tony Abbott left grinning as Malcolm Turnbull flounders

SEPTEMBER 4 2016 – 12:15AM
Adam Gartrell
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Tony Abbott’s grin said it all. When the former prime minister left Parliament House after Thursday’s embarrassing lower house debaclehe looked perilously close to schadenfreude overdose.

Abbott’s government was an incompetent mess from top to bottom; a circus that lurched from one self-inflicted crisis to another until it finally tore itself apart. But at least it never lost a vote in the house.

Abbott will never get the vindication he truly wants – he’ll never reclaim the top job – but he’s already getting the next best thing: a front row seat to watch as the man who vanquished him falls apart.

Malcolm Turnbull had one job last week: to prove to Australians that his “solid working majority” was real.

He stuffed it up big time.

And in typical Turnbull style he blamed everyone but himself.

Bill Shorten reneged on his promise to be a constructive opposition leader in favour of “schoolboy tricks”; frontbenchers Peter Dutton, Christian Porter and Michael Keenan were guilty of “complacency” for leaving Parliament early; the government whips clearly didn’t crack the whip hard enough; the media was making a mountain out of a meaningless, procedural molehill.

It was all very reminiscent of his graceless election night speech. Shorten was a big liar; Labor sent out tricky text messages; the Australian people were too dumb to see through the Mediscare campaign.

Tony Abbott was on the verge of schadenfreude overdose after question time.
Tony Abbott was on the verge of schadenfreude overdose after question time. Photo: Andrew Meares

The result had nothing to do with his dull and lacklustre campaign. Or his uninspiring and threadbare agenda. Or the previous nine months of backflips, thought bubbles, scandals and sellouts. It wasn’t until days later he finally shouldered some of the responsibility for the disaster.

But make no mistake, here too the buck stops with Turnbull. He’s at the top of a government that was careless and sloppy.

Malcolm Turnbull has one job to prove last week. He stuffed it up big time.
Malcolm Turnbull has one job to prove last week. He stuffed it up big time.  Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Whenever Gillard’s Parliament descended into farce – and it certainly did from time to time – Abbott didn’t blame whips or frontbenchers or backbenchers or anyone else. It was all Gillard’s fault, all the time.

The PM’s authority – already at its lowest ebb after July’s humiliating result – has taken another knock. Labor’s line – “If you can’t run the Parliament you can’t run the country” – is both accurate and effective.

Bill Shorten is now following Abbott's playbook.
Bill Shorten is now following Abbott’s playbook.  Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

And Turnbull can’t blame Abbott for this stuff-up, as Gillard could so often blame Kevin Rudd.

Except in that Shorten is now following Abbott’s playbook. From Abbott, Labor learnt all it needs to know about how to destabilise a weak government and prime minister. Abbott helped Labor sharpen and hone its parliamentary tactics. Labor is good at this stuff because up against Abbott, it had to be.

The PM can't blame Tony Abbott for this stuff-up.
The PM can’t blame Tony Abbott for this stuff-up.  Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Turnbull called last week’s debacle a “wake-up call”. But what sort of government needs a wake-up call three days into a new Parliament after coming within a whisker of losing power? If July 2 didn’t wake them up, nothing will.

No, the Australian people don’t care about Parliamentary procedure. But they know chaos when they see it.

They’ve seen a lot of it, after all.

And so now the tone is set. Turnbull and his team wanted the first week to be all about economic management and budget repair, with a side serving of union-bashing. They introduced 26 bills in a bid to reassure Australians that they have a plan and they’re executing on it.

(Just what they plan to do once these 26 bills are passed – or perhaps more likely stalled in the Senate – remains something of a mystery. Like I said: uninspiring and threadbare agenda.)

Instead, the first week raised serious questions about Turnbull’s competence and his government’s longevity.

So what now?

Turnbull has to work twice as hard to convince us he knows what he’s doing. If he gets stuck in the same cycle of endless stuff-ups that ensnared both Gillard and Abbott, he’s finished.

One way or another, leaders who lose authority lose their jobs. If his party doesn’t tear him down, the voters will.

In the short-term Turnbull has a couple of things going his way that could help him regroup.

First, Parliament’s barely sitting; it will convene for just four of the next 35 days. So not much opportunity for more stuff-ups.

Second, it’s summit season. For the next couple of months Turnbull will spend a great deal of time outside of the domestic fray, looking important and prime ministerial on the world stage.

The benefits of such trips often prove ephemeral – just ask Julia Gillard – but they can be a useful circuit-breaker when things are going awry.

Of course his number one asset – apart perhaps from that $50 million harbourside mansion – remains that he has no obvious internal challenger, unless Kevin Andrews finally decides to have his tilt.

But that won’t necessarily last.

Nature abhors a vacuum and politics abhors a power vacuum. If Turnbull can’t start providing leadership someone else will.

Source : The Canberra Times

Claims Tony Abbott plans to return as prime minister are ‘fanciful’

January 20, 2016 – 7:21AM

James Massola

Political correspondent

Tony Abbott is not plotting a return to the prime ministership and suggestions to the contrary are “fanciful”, according to his spokesman.

Mr Abbott has not yet announced whether he will stand again for his seat of Warringah, though there is growing expectation in Liberal ranks that he will run again.

Tony Abbott has yet to announce whether he will recontest his seat in this year's election.

Tony Abbott has yet to announce whether he will recontest his seat in this year’s election. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The Daily Telegraph claimed on Wednesday the former prime minister turned humble backbencher was being urged by his former chief of staff, Peta Credlin, to stand again for Parliament in the hope of returning to the Lodge one day.

It further claimed that Mr Abbott had been told by former prime minister John Howard and cabinet secretary Arthur Sinodinos to pull his head in and stop criticising the Turnbull government.

But Mr Abbott’s spokesman said of the claims that “the whole thing is fanciful”.

Newspaper reports claimed Mr Abbott's former chief of staff Peta Credlin was urging him to stand in the hope of one day becoming prime minister again.

Newspaper reports claimed Mr Abbott’s former chief of staff Peta Credlin was urging him to stand in the hope of one day becoming prime minister again. Photo: Andrew Meares

Despite that denial – and much like former prime minister Kevin Rudd, who spent year agitating from the backbench before finally tearing down Julia Gillard – Mr Abbott does have a core group of conservative supporters and allies in the Liberal party room.

And similarly, there are MPs who believe that the times will once again come to suit Mr Abbott, as they did his political hero Winston Churchill, who spent years in the wilderness.

Mr Abbott’s supporters include former defence minister Kevin Andrews, former industrial relations minister Eric Abetz and a group of MPs who meet for regular lunches in the so-called “monkeypod” room.

Preselection opened for 22 Liberal-held seats across NSW on Tuesday, with a host of other MPs including Bronwyn Bishop, Philip Ruddock, Craig Kelly, Angus Taylor, Bill Heffernan and Concetta Fierravanti-Wells under varying degrees of pressure to retain their seats – despite Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull throwing his support behind incumbents.

Mrs Bishop has made clear she intends to contest the next election, and is expected to face a preselection challenge, while Mr Ruddock and Senator Heffernan are yet to make clear whether they intended to go around again.

Source : WA Today

Tony Abbott urges Oxford to keep ‘imperialist’ Rhodes statue

December 25, 2015 – 9:22AM

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Oxford risks 'moral vanity': Tony Abbott.

Oxford risks ‘moral vanity’: Tony Abbott. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Former prime minister Tony Abbott says the University of Oxford “will damage its standing as a great university” if it bows to pressure and removes a statue of African colonialist Cecil Rhodes.

The university’s Oriel College has agreed to remove a commemorative plaque to Rhodes following a campaign by a student group calling for the statue to be pulled down.

The students say the 19th century imperialist’s views are against the “inclusive culture which promotes equality” at the university.

But Mr Abbott, a former Rhodes scholar, has told British newspaper The Independent that Oxford would be “substituting moral vanity for fair-minded inquiry” if it allowed the statue to be pulled down.

Brian Kwoba, a doctoral student, told The Independent that Rhodes was responsible for “stealing land, massacring tens of thousands of black Africans, imposing a regime of unspeakable labour exploitation in the diamond mines and devising pro-apartheid policies.”

“The significance of taking down the statue is simple,” he added, “Cecil Rhodes is the Hitler of southern Africa. Would anyone countenance a statue to Hitler?”

RW Johnson, an author who is an emeritus fellow of Magdalen College at Oxford, compared the campaign to remove the monument to what al-Qaida and the Islamic State “are doing in places like Mali when destroying statues.”

“They are destroying historical artifacts and defacing them,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “I think you have got to respect history. In addition, there are many people in history that are far worse than Rhodes.”

Some British politicians have sought to depict the campaign as a demonstration of political correctness and an effort to erase history, a notion that supporters reject.

Instead, they argue that any commemoration to Rhodes sends out a hostile signal to some modern-day students. To an extent, the debate has also become caught up in a broader discussion about whether the university is attractive to minority students, and is sensitive to them.

Britons were already struggling to define their global role and facing other calls to confront the past, including demands from Caribbean countries that Britain pay reparations for its role in slavery.

Born in 1853, Rhodes attended Oriel College in the 1870s before founding the De Beers diamond empire in South Africa, where he rose to be premier of the then Cape Colony from 1890 to 1896.

Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) was named after Rhodes, but he is perhaps best remembered for beginning racial segregation in southern Africa and for his belief in the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race.

The campaign against the monument in Oxford, called Rhodes Must Fall, is modelled on a similar group in South Africa, which succeeded in having a statue pulled down at the University of Cape Town.

In a statement, Oriel College said that it was starting discussions with the local council about the removal of a plaque commemorating Rhodes, erected in 1906 by a private individual on a property it owns.

“Its wording is a political tribute, and the College believes its continuing display on Oriel property is inconsistent with our principles,” it said.

The statement added that the statue raised more complex issues and that “in the absence of any context or explanation, it can be seen as an uncritical celebration of a controversial figure, and the colonialism and the oppression of black communities he represents.”

The college said that it plans to start a six-month “listening exercise” in February to seek a range of views as it looks for “a positive way forward.”

AAP and The New York Times

Source : Canberra Times

Tony Abbott should go, say most voters in his electorate: poll

December 19, 2015 – 4:17AM

Mark Kenny

Chief political correspondent


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Former prime minister Tony Abbott should quit Parliament at the next election to make way for new talent according to a majority of electors within his own safe Liberal seat of Warringah.

With Liberal MPs and supporters reading the signs of growing disunity within the Turnbull government as Mr Abbott and other malcontents continue to speak out, exclusive ReachTel polling conducted for the Australian Institute, has found most voters in the 65 per cent Liberal electorate believe the ex-PM’s time has passed.

The survey has also laid bare the scale of the political challenge for Mr Abbott’s replacement as prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, in the crucial area of tax reform. Just 16.6 per cent of respondents are “strongly in favour” of a GST hike – which would fund income tax cuts – and less than 40 per cent overall are in favour, compared to 46.5 per cent who opposes a GST increase. Just over 14 per cent remain undecided.

Voters polled on Tony Abbott want the former prime minister to go.

Voters polled on Tony Abbott want the former prime minister to go. Photo: Andrew Meares

Another finding has challenged the accepted wisdom that conservative voters are unfazed by climate change, revealing that even in blue-ribbon Warringah three quarters of electors believe the country should be moving gradually towards the goal of 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030.

In July this year, Labor leader Bill Shorten released a policy of 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030 prompting derision from the government, which said the 50 per cent target was impractical and potentially ruinous to the economy.

The Thursday night survey of 743 residents in Mr Abbott’s well-to-do North Shore electorate, found just over half of those polled believe their longstanding local member should fold his tent at the next election and make way for another Liberal candidate.

Mr Abbott has not said whether he will quit Parliament in the 2016 election.

Mr Abbott has not said whether he will quit Parliament in the 2016 election. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

It put support for Mr Abbott’s retirement at 50.9 per cent, with 36.7 per cent of voters saying it would make them more likely to vote Liberal in 2016. Another 45.8 percent, however, said it would not affect their decision.

“The polling indicates that the electorate is quickly moving on from the Tony Abbott era,” said Australia Institute executive director, Ben Oquist, who commissioned the independent polling.

The poll is a morale blow to the famously punchy Mr Abbott who was unceremoniously dumped by colleagues in September after a series of broken promises, unproductive political fights, and an unwillingness to address structural problems identified by those colleagues including an ineffective treasurer and a dysfunctional prime ministerial office.

Illustration: Ron Tandberg

Illustration: Ron Tandberg

Mr Abbott has not said whether he will remain in parliament beyond the next election, but has been urged by a small cabal of conservative backers to pursue a come-back to the leadership.

Interestingly, the poll also found that 77.2 per cent of voters want Australia to move to 100 per cent renewable energy.

Mr Oquist said the public was ahead of the rhetoric from all political parties “when it comes to renewable energy”.

The survey comes as the cracks widen in the coalition facade especially over the nature of Islam as a religion, and its violent manifestations.

Mr Abbott recently called for government and community leaders to openly acknowledge the “massive” problem at the heart of Islam, and to assert the superiority of Western social and democratic values.

While Mr Turnbull has dismissed such suggestions, choosing to stress instead the need for maximum inclusiveness, some right-wing Liberals have complained of being leaned on to use more temperate language regarding Muslims, by the head of ASIO, Duncan Lewis.

However it has been revealed that the claim was wrong, in that only two MPs were contacted and neither had felt intimidated nor inappropriately pressured.

Source : Canberra Times

Tony Abbott ‘determined’ to stay until next election, maybe longer

December 11, 2015 – 9:01AM

Fergus Hunter


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Former prime minister Tony Abbott says he will serve in Parliament until the next election and has left the door open to staying on beyond 2016.

In an interview with Alan Jones on Sydney radio station 2GB, Mr Abbott said it is a “tremendous honour” and a “noble calling” to serve as a backbencher.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott will not quit Parliament before the next election.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott will not quit Parliament before the next election. Photo: Andrew Meares

“I am determined to do what I can to serve the people of Warringah and Australia for the rest of this Parliament,” Mr Abbott said.

“To be a backbench member of Parliament…is a noble calling. It is a very noble calling. And to represent 100,000 people, as I do, is a tremendous honour. There’d be nothing wrong, I think, with continuing to do that in the Parliament.”

Mr Abbott’s comments will concern those in the Liberal Party who would prefer he move on to clear the air after his tumultuous time in the top job, and minimise the fallout form the September switch to Malcolm Turnbull.

Conservative radio host Alan Jones.

Conservative radio host Alan Jones.

“Time will tell” whether he ultimately decides to stay on beyond the next election, Mr Abbott said.

He has previously stated he is “too young to retire” and won’t make a final decision until April or May when the preselection processes begins.

In Friday morning’s interview, Mr Abbott also took another swipe at the media, agreeing with Jones’ claim that the former Liberal leader had been subjected to “astonishing heckling and even vilification from the media class and pretty feral opposition in the Senate”.

Jones said people had criticised “even the way you spoke, the way you walked, the way you ate an onion, the fact you’re a [surf] lifesaver”.

“They’re all fair observations but…politics has always been a pretty rough business and you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth,” Mr Abbott responded.

“Yes, there was plenty of unfair criticism. There was some criticism that was merited.

“There was also a lot of praise, a lot of support and of the things that I’ve found very gratifying, humbling, moving, touching has been the absolute avalanche of letters and emails I’ve had since the middle of September saying ‘thank you for what you did’.”

Source : Sydney Morning Herald