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Chris Ford: Tony Abbott's fate might be sealed

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Chris Ford
Chris Ford

This afternoon former Liberal Party leader and opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull appeared to be inching closer to declaring his candidacy for tommorrow's leadership spill in Canberra.

It appears that, yet again, Australian politics is descending into what has correctly been described as another 'Game of Thrones' style contest reminiscent of the Labor years.

It seems that the same disease that blighted the ALP up until recently may now be creeping into the Liberal-National Coalition - particularly the Liberal half. What appears to be happening is that in both major political parties - and given that both adhere to the neo-liberal consensus to a greater or lesser degree - there is more concentration on personality and messaging and less on policy. And if the personality or messaging isn't seen to be right from the leader, then all hell can break loose.

This is what has happened with Tony Abbott - his backbenchers think that he can't communicate an unpopular budget to voters - and that's what, in their view, is causing the Coalition grief in the polls. More likely, it's that many Australians don't like the excessively neo-liberal policies spelt out in Joe Hockey's first Budget statement as Treasurer last year. In other words, regardless of who fronts the message, the message from voters is they don't want to pay more to go and see the GP or face outrageous fees for their children or grandchildren to attend university while the rich get richer.

From reports coming in from Australia this afternoon, it appears that Malcolm Turnbull, the Communications Minister, is positioning himself to run should a spill motion succeed tomorrow morning. Abbott, just today, brought the vote forward to Monday morning in order to try and fend off any challenge to his leadership. But this may have backfired given the short notice Abbott provided which might be the last straw (alongside Turnbull's possible candidacy) for those fence sitters in the federal caucus. I think now that many of those fence sitters will see Abbott's arrogance for what it is and choose to dump him.

It won't matter though if either Abbott stays or Turnbull becomes leader tomorrow - there might be a short honeymoon if the latter becomes leader but in the long run, Australians will still be facing the same policy prescriptions.

On balance, I believe there will be an almost inevitable shift towards Turnbull in the party room. Whether it happens tomorrow or later this year, it still won't change things for the Tories in the long-term as Labor found out to their cost. After all, this is a contest for power due to the political failings of an incumbent leader and nothing else. And with Turnbull having been removed from the leadership before, there are no guarantees that he'll be safe either, especially if the policy settings remain the same.



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