The New Daily

Abbott is preparing for a not-so-civil revolution

ANALYSIS: A former PM is threatening to turn the Turnbull government into the Rudd-Gillard ‘omnishambles’.

Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott: cut from the same cloth?

Seemingly not content with wedging Malcolm Turnbull on social, international and national security matters, discarded Prime Minister Tony Abbott created trouble on a new front for his successor on Tuesday: economic leadership.

In doing so, Mr Abbott all but dispelled any doubt he is deliberately making life difficult for Mr Turnbull. What is not yet known is whether Mr Abbott has serious delusions about regaining the prime ministership or is simply a vengeful wrecker.

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Perhaps aside from his staunchest supporters, most Australians wanted to take the vanquished MP at his word back in September when Mr Abbott promised not to snipe from the sidelines or undermine his replacement.

Most of us could sense the ghost of One K-Rudd hovering at the back of the media scrum that day, evoked by Mr Abbott in deed if not by name as the epitome of bad sportsmanship that he was apparently refusing to emulate.

Even until recently, many of those same voters would have still been prepared to give the Member for Warringah the benefit of the doubt. They may have been willing to attribute his spirited defence of totemic conservative issues to the oft-mentioned need for the Liberal Party to accommodate a range of political values and beliefs.

Tony Abbott

Some suspect Tony Abbott is plotting a coup from the back of the party room. Photo: AAP

The speech in London, calling for European nations to close their borders against asylum seekers, may have been seen by such voters as Mr Abbott relying on one of his government’s limited number of achievements – “stopping the boats” – to slow the rate of his rapidly shrinking sphere of influence.

A subsequent speech defending the sanctity of heterosexual marriage, and a newspaper column calling for a revolution within Islam were more pointed interventions. Not only did Mr Abbott’s provocative comments guarantee the conservative perspective on these issues remained prominent in the public debate, but they emboldened other conservatives to publicly join the fray.

Inconveniently for PM Turnbull, the more that conservative Coalition MPs freelance on a range of policies and issues, the more the government looks to voters like an ill-disciplined and unmanageable rabble. And at some point it is possible voters will begin to see not only the similarity between Tony Abbott and the vengeful Kevin Rudd, but the Turnbull government and the omnishambles that was the Rudd and Gillard regimes.

Mr Abbott would be foolish to deny any awareness of this implication. In noting after losing the leadership that he would not be a wrecker, the ex-PM was acknowledging that to be one would damage the government.


It is possible voters will begin to see similarities between Tony Abbott and the vengeful Kevin Rudd. Photo: Getty

Yet he has persisted, using speeches and other public statements to put pressure on Mr Turnbull to take a range of policy actions that Mr Abbott already knows are “courageous” – that is, politically suicidal in the current electoral environment.

Mr Abbott has suggested Mr Turnbull needs to go hard on industrial relations reform, even though the union movement has proven to be a formidable grassroots campaigning force and is itching for the opportunity to destroy anything that resembles a resurrected WorkChoices.

And just this week he applied the screws to the Prime Minister on economic leadership – the key point of differentiation that Mr Turnbull drew between himself and Mr Abbott when he announced he would challenge for the prime ministership.

Mr Abbott is trying to rewrite history by claiming, as he has reportedly done this week, that his 2014 budget was simply misunderstood, he should get credit for its “bravery”, and PM Turnbull must show economic leadership by adopting a similar slash and burn approach to government spending.

Tony Abbott

The former PM issued a challenge to the party leadership to make further budget savings. Photo: AAP

In reality, the 2014 budget was neither brave nor economically sound, given it made the poor and weak shoulder the burden of economic repair and did nothing to arrest the growth of middle-class welfare and perks for the rich.

It was also built on a convenient lie, the debt and deficit budget emergency, which was unceremoniously discarded by then PM Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey in the 2015 budget – the ultimate coward’s budget that did nothing for fear of further upsetting voters.

Nevertheless, Mr Abbott reportedly stood in the Coalition party room on Tuesday, claiming the upcoming budget should have no tax increases at all, and calling on the leadership (that is, the Prime Minister) to “take on the savings challenge again”.

Some MPs have reportedly said this makes it “practically impossible” for the government to cut negative gearing concessions. This suggests Mr Abbott is attempting to wedge Mr Turnbull between the economic dries in the Liberal Party who see any tax increase (or cut in tax concessions) as economic irresponsibility, and voters who want to see the government equitably raise the revenue needed to adequately fund services.

Mr Howard did not know of Tony Madafferi's links to organised crime.

John Howard said in a TV interview that he wholly backed Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership. Photo: AAP

However another parliamentarian, Turnbull supporter Russell Broadbent, is reported to have cautioned the Coalition party room against resisting necessary reforms, telling colleagues they should back the leadership instead of shying away from difficult decisions.

However it may take someone with greater influence over the conservatives than Mr Broadbent to bring Mr Abbott into line. Someone perhaps like Mr Abbott’s political mentor, John Howard, who appeared in a television interview on the ABC’s 7.30 on Tuesday night, and who made it clear during the interview that personalities were far less important than retaining government.

“Tony Abbott had my strong support while he was there and now Malcolm Turnbull’s there he will have my strong support,” said Australia’s second-longest serving Prime Minister, who also added that his “operating principle” was “to keep the Labor Party in opposition”.

Mr Howard went on to remind “all Liberal supporters” of “the validity of that operating principle”, stressing there was no such thing as an unloseable election, and it was always a good idea to remember that any government can be defeated.

Of course, Mr Abbott would only heed this wise advice if he didn’t want the Turnbull government to lose the next election.

* Paula Matthewson was media adviser to John Howard in the early 1990s and then worked for almost 25 years in communication, political and industry advocacy roles. She is now a freelance writer and communication strategist. Paula has been tweeting and blogging about politics, the media and social media since 2009 under the pen name @Drag0nista.

You can read more of her columns here


  • captain0

    Abbott Is doing the attack dog thing that he perfected while in opposition. Turnbull is doing the bidding of the backroom Abbott supporters but with a smoother tongue. The majority of Australians have a lot to lose if they believe either of these supporters of big business and investors at the next election. The pie is only so big and if investors want more and big business want lower company tax it has to come from some were. So if your willing to have lower wages / living standards so your boss can have a bigger house and a flasher car, Vote LNP, because nothing in their plan is going to benefit the average working Aussie in the long term.

  • Athinker

    Liberal solidarity.

    Hilarious to watch.

  • Arrrgghhh!!!

    It’s clear to anyone with half a brain why Rudd and Abbott could not get along. They’re cut from the same cloth. Twins in all but birth parents.

    • Malcolm

      Sorry Arrghhh but their differences are so vast that their similarities are only coincidence.

  • Abbott was a large part of that “legacy”, he’ll never repudiate it, he’s proud of it. Added to which Howard is by and large supporting a return of Abbott to the leadership.

    • Gympie

      Howard is ”very, very strongly supporting” Turnbull, just as he said he would.
      He damned Abbott with faint praise, and claimed a Trump Presidency would cause him to tremble.
      That’s a warning to Abbott not to embrace nationalism and populism, 2 things that are just as popular here as in the U.S..
      Howard is the day before yesterday’s man, and everyone but the MSM switched him off years ago.

  • cliff

    If it was not plain before , it is now. Abbott is not a team player unless he is the whole team. The Australian people elected the liberal party to govern. Pity they seem to have no talented people and were not ready to govern anyway.

    (They had no idea what the public would accept as policy changes – because they had not asked !) Hopefully the public will see through all the ‘shirt front politics’ and elect some talent next time. It must be embarrassing to the libs, when a Motor Enthusiasts micro party can field a more skilled and hard working politician than most of their own MPs.

  • Mrfunbro

    Let’s face the reality. If Mal had filled the vacuum of leader, Abbott wouldn’t have an oxygen or space to move. He’s driving a tank through the party room such is the void. Mal or is it Martha? Not sure he even knows is leader of a rabble of distrust and malfunction.

  • mcars

    Garbage. Then it is a Presidential system like in the US and where currently the leader of the country does not command a majority in parliament and it is nothing but shit fights as we have seen in the States with the GOP determined not to cooperate with Obama.

    • Tony Peters

      NO. A Presidential system would mean a change in the Governor General status, not in the Prime Minister status.
      And anyway, are you saying the current system is your favoured system? That ‘it ain’t broke so don’t fix it’?
      That’s the real garbage.

  • Arrrgghhh!!!

    I too loved that line: “To keep Labor in opposition”. A grand plan. Seems like he and his posse thinks that’s all that’s needed to govern Australia.

  • Thai Trev

    The Libs voted in Abbott as PM,not the electorate,so what does that say about them.

  • Thai Trev

    Who said the poor,students and pensioners have no say,anybody over 18 can vote.

  • Thai Trev

    Your on to them Anthony,pity the sheep refuse to wake up.

  • Tony Peters

    Which ever way you look at it, the electorate is fuming. This ‘born to rule’, mentality that is killing the LNP is fast swing the voters away from the Coalition.
    Question is which way will they turn. I’m even hearing the Greens are a viable option in some quarters.

    • Robert Cohen

      The only party that is not a option is “The Greens” they have no idea unless it involves saving a tree or stopping a Dam in Gippsland which needs it because of all the floods they have.
      The Greens is half the problem, the other half is the Libs and Labour — all of them are useless and only there to line their pockets and rip off the normal Australian worker

  • Veganow

    See those black marks on the tongues of Murdoch’s minions?
    That’s boot polish from the shoes of coalition members.

  • Malcolm

    The war crimes tribunal will eventually drag him out of the pavilion at lords and try him for his crimes.

  • Gillard was actually quite successful passing more legislation than Abbott and Turnbull combined without control of either house.

  • Lawrence Winder

    The biggest difference is that Labor had policy to implement ….the ruling rabble has nothing except slash, burn and sell!

  • Well, it is Paula, what can you expect?

  • Gympie

    Is that why he sacked so many ministers?

    • You answer with the bleeding obvious, if Turnbull was any good he would be sacking ministers, but he is a clueless wimp with no ticker and NO policies.

      • Gympie

        You are correct, but remember that Turnbull has already scraped the bottom of the barrel with his current ministry.
        He can go no lower, and he dare nót look any higher.

  • jmscnny.

    Seriously. There was any doubt as to Abbott’s character and personality?
    Tony Abbott is doing the only thing Tony Abbott has ever done, lower the tone and drag everyone around him down to his level.
    The man is a one trick pony, and that trick got tired real quick.

  • jmscnny.

    Agreed. Hard to argue against that, but, Anthony is spot on.
    The right is always the first to sacrifice the common good to political expediency.
    There is no doubt the right of politics has a much harder time with identifying and accepting the lines between truth, exaggeration and outright lies.
    But, I would never vote for the clowns in opposition either.
    They say our public servants serve us right, although I like to think we deserve better.
    Come the revolution, that wall is going to get a lot of use.

  • jmscnny.

    He was a nasty little man. The only period in Australian politics that was more divisive was the Abbott shambles.

  • jmscnny.

    He really should just man up to the best of his limited abilities, take his bat and ball, and go home.
    Do us all a favour.

  • easygoing777

    You really are a rusted on Abbott supporter as such there is no point telling you anything but if you get Abbott back in power the Libs will be nearly wiped out in both houses

    • Leigh

      Not so much a rusted Abbott supporter but an inherent dislike of Turnbul.
      “According to internal party “experts”, I and the many thousands of “floating” voters that didn’t vote for either in the Gillard Abbott election but did vote for an Abbott lead government don’t count.
      We’ll see.”
      And useless legislation?
      Put it back in the sand.

      • easygoing777

        You have got to be kidding Josh Frydenberg as a critique of Labor legislation, Christ you may as well refer me to BIS Shrapnel or the IPA all three are Liberal mouthpieces though BIS have not had a correct forecast on anything for quite a while especially Housing.
        Now your just getting silly

  • easygoing777

    Well I Suggest you either move to some where that suits your Political outlook like Great Britain where austerity is all the rage, stick to reading NEWS CORP where you know they will never publish either the truth or something you disagree with, watch SKY news and listen to 2GB you should have all your prejudices reinforced and be happy never having to listen or read anything that will trouble you or make you think

  • Carol Miller

    Well that is a ridiculous comment, if anyone thinks he was born to rule, it’s Turncoat. Everyone knows that. He has been plotting for years to get accolades and applause and he won’t give it up too easily. He I’m sure wants to be the first President. ??????????

    • Veganow

      Think about it Carol.
      Fighter, runner, swimmer, cyclist, politician, “captain” of the ship.
      He IS ambition writ large.
      He is dangerous for democracy.

      • mulga mumblebrain

        You forgot intimidating misogynist-just ask Barbara Ramjan.

  • Gympie

    Google is your friend, Tony, but, try [snigger] Al Grassby, Jimmy Cairns, Rex Connor, Frank Crean, & Speaker Jim Cope.
    3 Treasurers in 3 years might give you some idea.
    Then there was the attempt to borrow $500 mil from Saddam Hussein, and put it on the Aussie credit card.
    Those were the days, all right . Laugh a minute stuff.

    • mulga mumblebrain

      Cope resigned. The money was being borrowed from a chap called Khemlani, and, in any case Saddam was a close US ally, like us, in that time. Gough sacked too many Ministers, but at least he had some standards.

  • mulga mumblebrain

    No different from the regime of ‘Honest’ John Howard.

    • Tony Peters

      I guess if you want to take that tact, actually the Liberals haven’t told the truth since their inception. So in that sense the party should be known as the Coalition of the Mendacious.

  • mulga mumblebrain

    Cairns’s election as Deputy PM after the election in 1974 (which was caused by the Right’s obstructionism, where they blocked more legislation in the Senate in Gough’s three years than in the 72 years before)prompted the USA to undertake urgent subversion to overthrow Whitlam in a process they have undertaken in scores of countries, including ‘democracies’, over the years. In the end they had their ‘asset’ Kerr (whose intelligence contacts Cameron had warned Gough of when Gough appointed Kerr G-G)stage the constitutional coup.

  • Gympie

    Frank Crean was Treasurer.
    Whitlam sacked him.
    Cope resigned after Whitlam had intimidated him into reversing his ruling from the Speaker’s Chair.
    Whitlam wanted to quit in late 1975 and leave Bill Hayden holding the bag, but Hayden wasn’t that big of a mug.
    Then, along comes Gough’s old school friend of 45 years and longtime colleague at the Sydney Bar, bumbling John Kerr, to give the would be dictator a leg up.
    Fortunately, Australians weren’t having a bar of it, and Gough kept claiming he was robbed, until his dying day.

    • Tony Peters

      So where’s the apology for you getting your first statement concerning ‘sackings’ so wrong?
      There first three lines here just confirm what I said against what you originally posted.
      As to the rest, you just made that up.

      • Gympie

        Whitlam’s behavior in the Cope Affair was so over the top that it made Cope’s position untenable, a de facto sacking.
        Al Grassby was already known to be an unsavory character, and it reflects poorly on Whitlam that he tried to pitchfork him into a safe seat.
        As to making things up, that version of events was a common topic among ALP branch members for many years.

  • Tony Peters

    Are you saying Gillard, the Independents and small parties didn’t form a temporary alliance for combined action over the term of that one Government?

  • Veganow

    An incoherent, ill-informed diatribe.
    The world is in a mess for ONE reason Carol; Empire building.
    By individuals (the 1%)
    By corporations feeding the cancer of endless growth.
    By “elected” leaders in the name of their Gods (usually Mammon) egos or psychopathic belief in some higher calling.

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