It's … Tony Time!


The Libs are back to doing what they do best: being arrogant, self-righteous and unwaveringly delusional. Isn’t it fantastic?

For the past two years the Libs have seemed like shadows of their former selves. Ghostly cadavers like Dr Nelson stalked Parliament, looking to elder statesmen like Ruddock for guidance. And Turnbull always looked pretty dapper but he clearly never had enough support to last. Under his leadership, it was as if the Liberal Party had taken in an exchange student who somehow got billeted with the wrong political party.

Thank goodness all that’s changed.

Logic was the first casualty following Turnbull’s pre-ETS Sunday School chat. Fancy thinking all those votes were shored up! A majority in the party room ready to get it over with and give the ALP their aimless, coal lobby-loving ETS bill? Of course not. But in the power-fueled rage that is politics and Nick Minchin’s wet dreams, this was as good a time as any to start a rumble.

It was clear that the selection process was slowly drawing the party back on track when Kevin Andrews emerged late for his press conference. Outlining his troubling concerns about an emissions trading scheme wholly similar to the one John Howard proposed just a few years ago, we could all tell that this was someone willing to put his hand up and call time on Turnbull’s leadership.

But everyone knows that you can’t remove a leader by metaphorically slapping them in the face. You have to metaphorically stab them in the heart or, better, in the back. You have to squeeze every last metaphorical drop of life out of them. Unfortunately Kevin Andrews proved himself to be incapable of performing any of these feats of political combat, metaphorically or otherwise.

Andrews was, however, a great sport. It’s hard not to feel a twinge of sadness at the likelihood that his pale complexion will never again be exposed to the bright light of political relevance. Who knows when we’ll next see a man of Andrews’ ilk in Australian politics? He did so well that in his press conference he exceeded all of Minchin’s scripted answers. In fact, it went so far beyond a month of Paul Kelly sermons on Insiders that, on two occasions he actually blinked in morse code to camera, "Should I stop speaking?"

And that was only last Thursday! Since then, it’s been hard to find a moment to stop and reflect. To be honest, I haven’t done so yet. The past seven days have felt like election night in 2007. No matter what happened along the way, we all knew that plenty of Liberal blood would get spilled in the end and that we would realise once again that Janette Howard was a complete sicko. It was she, after all, who famously said, "politics is the only game in town". Shudder.

Once the body of Joe Hockey was dispatched Queen Margot style, the Liberals rallied. Quite simply, the party said "Yes" with their hearts. Of course, one of them said "No" and 41 of them said "Not Tony", but you know what I mean.

Tony Abbott is, to quote Miranda Devine, "the intellectual leader of a pared-down Liberal Party". And this is a good thing. We need a clear, conservative voice in Australian politics. If Wilson Tuckey, Bill Heffernan and Tony Abbott are the representative voices of the Liberal Party, then it is their well-formed heads and views which should be foremost in the minds of voters at the ballot box. George Brandis, Greg Hunt, Marise Payne and the like are merely wet fringe dwellers — and hardly representative. We should all embrace "the paring" the Party has undergone, for it has delivered us this new clarity about the Liberal Party and Australian politics. And by gum, if a pared-down party means hairy-chested men in Speedos get more exposure, we all have much to gain.

One of the worst things about John Howard, you will recall, was that he would stand up for anything if he thought it would get him elected. Abbott has a much broader shameless streak which will make him unpredictable and, better yet, a significant contrast to Kevin Rudd.

The hysteria of the past few days and the disbelief that Abbott actually got elected will obviously subside. The worst thing that could happen now would be for us all to keep turning into shrieking ninnies every time Abbott says what he thinks. We cannot "demand an apology" or "start a petition" every time Abbott makes a statement. For as long as Abbott is leading the Liberal Party, he should be allowed as much air time as possible to put forward his views and, if we’re lucky, some policies. Let him continue that discussion to its "logical" conclusion.

We cannot go into a panic every time Andrew Bolt extols the Abbott’s gifts and virtues. When Bolt dishes up prose like this — "Wait until Abbott next asks how many billions of your dollars Rudd is spending to bribe Third World countries into signing up to an international deal to ‘stop’ global warming" — we need to keep quiet.

Besides, even Bolt himself has serious reservations. He writes, "… all this is putting the Liberals’ hopes at their best. Abbott is still an undisciplined man, whose out-there Catholicism still attracts the licensed bigotry of the media and the Left. Women resist him." Yes, women resist him. Ungrateful, unintelligible women. Sure, Abbott called the old/his new deputy Julie Bishop a "loyal girl" and gave her a pat, but people used to talk like that all the time!

So for all of the torment and backward-looking declarations to date, I think there’s a lot of fun in store. Rather than retreating into comfortable enclaves of likeminded elitists far away from the hordes of hideous conservatives, we should be reinvigorated by Abbott’s emergence. Just what do Australian voters stand for? What do we want? And why is it that the Rudd Government has been incapable of satisfying these aspirations?

Abbott won’t win the next election. It’s even possible that he won’t make it that far. He has never really succeeded in anything to date. Young parent = FAIL. Boxing = FAIL. Priesthood = FAIL. People skills = not often.

But his sudden rise may do us all a great service. Even those without faith need to know what they believe in. Yes, faith is a wonderful and powerful thing. Just look at Kevin Andrews — he still thinks he has something to offer.


Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.