News National Will this be Tony Abbott’s last Christmas as PM?
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Will this be Tony Abbott’s last Christmas as PM?

Tony Abbott
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Tony Abbott began 2014 on a high.

Just four months after leading the Liberal-National Coalition back into power, the newly-crowned Prime Minister had a mandate to deliver his election promises – stop the boats, axe the carbon and mining taxes and fix the so-called “debt crisis”.

Then on a Tuesday night in May, the federal budget was delivered. Touted as a blueprint to correct the direction of the economy and put the nation on a path to a “believable surplus”, the PM and Treasurer Joe Hockey released a document that divided the nation.

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Apart from reviving the Labor Party, it was also a plan that Mr Abbott and his senior ministers failed to sell as a solution to fix the “debt and deficit disaster” that, in their words, was imperilling the country.

But as Christmas looms, major policy measures remain stranded in the senate. On Monday, the Treasurer will stand before the nation and tell it that the economy is much worse than it was in May, and 2015 will be no easier.

There are reports of divisions between the PM’s office and cabinet ministers. The list of broken election promises is long and impossible to hide from. And there have been backflips on policies that were integral to Mr Abbott’s pitch for the prime ministership.

It all seems very familiar to Australian voters. A sudden, ruthless change of leader lies right at the heart of the story of Australia’s last government.

With the Abbott prime ministership enduring its most challenging period, is history about to repeat itself? In a bid to regain control of the national debate, could the Liberal Party turn to one of the many internal candidates who like the idea of living in The Lodge?

The New Daily spoke to a group of national opinion-makers to ask, will this be Mr Abbott’s last Christmas as prime minister?

Their responses were clear and unambiguous, and good news for a national leader eyeing his summer break.

John Hewson
John Hewson.

John Hewson
Federal leader of the Liberal party, 1990-94

I don’t think so. I think he’s in the process of consolidating his position.

The Liberals don’t change positions easily and they learned from the period of destabilisation with the Rudd/Gillard government, which would loom large in just about everyone’s minds.

There’s no doubt Tony would be worried, the polls have been down and the one-term government in Victoria is also a worry.

It’s just a question of taking the time over Christmas to reset their strategy. They’ve got to use the time constructively.

MungoMacCallum
Mungo MacCallum.

Mungo MacCallum
Veteran political commentator

The quick answer is that I very much doubt it – after the leadership traumas from both major parties the Libs are gun shy, however dire the polls might be.

And even if they do get seriously desperate, it won’t be until closer to the election – 2016. Until then, I suspect they will still follow Mr Abbott in the hope that something will turn up.

The other problem is a serious successor – Bishop is the current frontrunner but things can change dramatically and there is no lack of ambition. So Abbott will lurch through the next year at least.

barry-jones-141214-newdaily
Barry Jones.

Barry Jones
Former ALP state and federal politician

I have every expectation that he will be our PM, in fact I rather hope he is.

If there’s one lesson that’s been learned over the last few years it’s that the chances of parties changing leaders mid-stream, so to speak, is going to be extremely remote.

It’s not a good look.

The suggestion that it’s going to help them isn’t soundly based.

Grahame Morris
Former chief of staff for John Howard

He’s the best man for the job and he has the support of the party room.

Yes, the government has had it tough over the last 12 months, but it’s collective responsibility. They’ve already done a lot of the heavy lifting. Next year will be better.

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Michael Kroger.

Michael Kroger
Liberal Party powerbroker

It certainly won’t be his last as Prime Minister.

It’s difficult with the senate as it is, difficult with the Labor Party reneging on agreements.

But he’s tackled the budget and stopped the boats, so he’s done a great job.

Emeritus Professor David Black
Political analyst, Curtin University

At this stage I don’t see an obvious replacement for him. What’s more likely is a significant ministerial reshuffle. There’s all sorts of predictions.

There’s a lot of speculation about whether Joe Hockey will remain treasurer and about the Defence Minister with his recent comments about canoes.

peter_lewis_director
Peter Lewis.

Peter Lewis
Director of Essential Media, former political advisor

There’s no doubt.

I cannot see a scenario where he’s not going to be. I think he’s locked into a story that he will keep pushing regardless of how bad the polls go. That Labor was unfit to govern because they kept changing leaders – he’s created his own safety net there.

Tim Fischer
Former Deputy Prime Minister, 1996-99

No, it is not, absolutely not.

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