I am disappointed in Tony Abbott. He exasperates me with his continuing carping at, and denigration of, Malcolm Turnbull. He has become a dogmatic, political know-all. I am appalled by his nonsensical climate change denial opinions. I find particularly offensive his recent taunting of Turnbull over continuing negative Newspoll results, when it is the disunity his attacks have created, that have been largely responsible. Goodness me! How unfair is that!
If that is not enough, 2018 is shaping up for an even more heated internecine fight over immigration quotas.
In 2GB radio interviews this year, Tony Abbott claims that Australia’s current immigration rate of 180,000 to 210,000 persons per annum is unsustainable. On a per capita basis, it is one of the highest in the world, and he claims that contrary to conventional opinion, it is creating economic and social hardship for our society. His target is a radical cull of migration to about 120,000 a year, a policy his political instincts tell him, would be a vote winner.
Having been Australia’s 28th Prime Minister from 2013-2015 he, more than any other current politician, has earned the right to express an opinion on Australia’s immigration policy. Criticized, even by his own church, and by human rights activists, as being too harsh, the firm policies he introduced cracked down on the criminal activities of people smugglers and ended the perilous arrival of desperate refugees on un-seaworthy boats.
But I fear that his immigration opinions are more influenced by divisive considerations of racial integration, than on purely economic, environmental and humanitarian factors.
How do I explain Tony Abbott’s unhelpful and erratic attacks on his own party? I have considered three possible motivations:
1. The obvious one is a bid to regain power, but I think it is the least likely. He has received no encouragement from the polls that the public would wish this.
2. The second view, is that he is intent on revenge for his demotion to a position subservient to his most powerful rival.
Certainly his role as Coalition leader in the overwhelming 2013 win (90 seats to 55 for Labor) merited greater reward than the two years he served. Whilst he deserved credit for the win, it should not be forgotten that Labor’s leadership fight prior to the election significantly undermined public trust in them.
It is a matter of historical record that there was no plot by Malcolm Turnbull to over-throw him, yet it would seem that Abbott has never forgiven Turnbull for his role in criticizing him, and then for winning the ensuing leadership ballot.
The fact is that it was Abbott’s failure to correct the relationship that he had formed with his department’s chief of staff that damaged his standing within the party. Disaffected colleagues, frustrated by the public servant’s deliberate obstruction of access to their leader, in spite of liking him, turned on him, after he had persistently rejected their advice.
I would like to think better of Tony Abbott than to believe he would wantonly mastermind the defeat of his own party at the next election, unless Malcolm Turnbull stands down as the leader. But what other plausible explanation is there for his deliberate and antagonistic mis-representation of the facts.
3. The only other possibility I think, is that he sees himself as the most effective spokesman, and the only remaining effective leader of the right, in their battle with the “wets” for control of the Coalition. It would seem that he has become captive to the right.
Just as he became dependent on, and powerless to act against, his Chief-of Staff, so he has now come to be dependent on the right for direction, and a sense of mission and purpose in politics, even when it results in him taking extreme positions.
In contradistinction to the much maligned Julia Gillard who when she lost the Labor leadership, accepted the result without rancour, and exited federal politics before the 2013 election, Tony Abbott chose in 2015 to stay on and to champion the often rebellious views of the right, despite all the disagreements it engenders.
The Coalition will be strengthened if right wing contributions to policy formulation are constructive, rather than divisive as they have tended to be in the recent past. I hope unity will prevail.