Tony Abbott leaves the party room after today's party vote. Picture: Ray Strange
Tony Abbott leaves the party room after today's party vote. Picture: Ray Strange

PM’s big problem is now Abbott

ANALYSIS

THE growing perception that anything Tony Abbott touches turns to manure has been highlighted by the swift and angry voter response to Liberal leadership chaos.

And that will mean the what-to-do-about-Tony question that has plagued the Liberal Party for years has been diminished, although not completely removed.

Liberals will be keen to see whether Mr Abbott's disunity drive was purely aimed at former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull or whether the resentment will be transferred to new leader Scott Morrison.

Mr Morrison has offered Mr Abbott a "special envoy" role in indigenous affairs, but he wants to know more about it before accepting.

Speaking outside his Sydney home this morning, Mr Abbott said it's "not exactly clear what he's offering".

"I obviously had a chat to the new Prime Minister yesterday and, as you know, I've been working hard in indigenous affairs for a long, long time, before I became prime minister, after I became prime minister," he told Nine News.

But Mr Abbott has confirmed this morning will stay in Parliament after the next election.

"I'm not retiring; I regard myself as a young man," he told 2GB this morning. "I still think I have a lot of public life left in me and I am determined to make the most of it."

So the Abbott issue isn't going anywhere for a while.

But it is what he was not offered that is critical.

Mr Morrison did not include Mr Abbott in his ministry in a necessary recognition that "wreckers" should not be rewarded, even though Peter Dutton is back in cabinet with reshaped responsibilities.

And it is recognition that while Mr Dutton was the frontman, it was the inexhaustible bitterness Mr Abbott held towards Mr Turnbull, who had ousted him in a coup, that fuelled the leadership plot.

Mr Abbott increasingly has been isolated along with a clutch of backbench mates such as Kevin Andrews, who will have to rely on media cheerleaders to be heard. Or to be taken seriously.

 

Mr Abbott's support for a leadership change has quickly been established as a disaster for the government.

Speaking after the spill, former Liberal frontbencher Amanda Vanstone told ABC: "All I can tell you is my own experience of Abbott is whatever you do with him, unless he gets his way he'll be disruptive.

"That's my own experience of him. My personal view is putting him in any ministerial position doesn't mean he'll be a team player unless he gets what he wants.

"It's up to them to decide whether they can cope with that or not. That's their decision, not mine."

It was something backed up by former Liberal leader John Hewson.

"He's got one goal, which is to get back to the prime ministership. Even though he's made some smooth sort of statements coming out of the room today, it sounds pretty much like, 'I won't snipe, I won't undermine', the sort of commitment he's made once before," he told ABC.

The week of Liberals talking about each other and pumped-up egos replacing public service was condemned by voters in the first post-coup Newspoll, which was published in The Australian today.

The survey outcome had Labor leading the Coalition 56 per cent to 44 per cent on a two-party preferred basis. Cop that, plotters.

That result will be added to the list of remarkable missteps Mr Abbott has taken, a catalogue of unforced errors that will litter his personal history.

It already includes his opposition to same-sex marriage in contrast to the 75 per cent of voters in his Warringah seat who voted for it in a national plebiscite.

His knighthood for Prince Philip stunned voters, and his ministerial colleagues.

The concept of a "captain's call" allowing him to bypass due process also hasn't been warmly accepted.

And his threats to effectively invade Nigeria - after the kidnapping of school girls - and Ukraine - after the Russians shot down MH17 - were dangerous impetuosities.

The 2014 Budget when he was Prime Minister, including the GP co-payment then Health Minister Dutton had to implement but couldn't, is a trove of unhappy economic measures.

And to a significant block of Australians, Mr Abbott has ignored the 21st century by rejecting the science of climate change. As PM, he approved Australia signing the Paris agreement on emission reduction but now says in effect he didn't understand it because he had been misled by bureaucrats.


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