Friday, August 31, 2018

Today by Paddy Manning

The assassin’s creed
Manly Liberal voters are not happy with Tony Abbott

Kevin Rudd is gone. Julia Gillard is gone. Malcolm Turnbull, today, is gone. Tony Abbott, the last of the political assassins, is still there in parliament, representing the people of Warringah as he has for the last 24 years. It’s another world in Manly, where Abbott has his electorate office – as the old Manly ferry sign says, “seven miles from Sydney and a thousand miles from care”. The old codgers at the landmark Hotel Steyne, including one bloke from Abbott’s Queenscliff Surf Life Saving Club, aren’t happy.

After toppling his lifelong antagonist, Malcolm Turnbull, last week, Tony Abbott declared that the age of the political assassin was over. Arguably, however, it can’t be over while Abbott sits in parliament. Former Liberal Party federal treasurer and NSW minister Michael Yabsley, interviewed on the ABC’s Background Briefing, today called on Abbott to quit politics: “I think, as a friend, the most useful thing I can say to Tony Abbott is: ‘Tony, I think it's time to hang up the gloves and ride off into the sunset.’”

The Steyne is a rare beast, un-ruined by pokies: open since 1860, the timber and tiles of the horseshoe bar glow, a log fire burns and it’s full of lunchers. A very respectable-looking grandmotherly type tells me that she has a message for Tony Abbott and puts up a stiff middle finger, but she doesn’t live in the electorate.

Megan, from the Collaroy Plateau, has lived in the electorate for 14 years and voted for Abbott in 2016. She is a solid Liberal voter, but will she vote for Abbott again next time? After a long pause, she says yes, but she is clearly disappointed in the Liberal party. “I was pro-Turnbull so I didn’t like the whole toppling of Turnbull … If I go into an election and I vote, I’d like to see the person through, that I vote for, as we have to vote under our rules because it’s compulsory and I agree with that.” Megan is completely disillusioned “about our government and about our political system, and I thought the States had a problem with Trump … I just don’t feel like I’ll ever be able to go to an election now and be able to vote someone in and they will last … I do not see that happening in the future.” For Megan, it raises questions about the value of her vote, “So I start to think, why should we get fined for not voting?”

People are searching for solutions. A Labor voter, Sam, 42, who has lived in the electorate for 10 years, says the system has become a joke. “The Constitution needs to change to make sure that it doesn’t happen … if you elect a leader, [they] need to be there for the full term, you can’t have all these changes, this instability.”

From Liberal voters and swinging voters alike, the message that comes back is that Abbott is too conservative for the electorate. Ben, a carpenter from the Illawarra, has lived in the electorate for eight years and is a swinging voter. He has voted Liberal in the past, but won’t next time, because he doesn’t like Tony Abbott. Asked why, he and his mates answer “climate change”, and one says: “Your representative should be representing you.”

One stalwart Liberal voter is simply “disgusted” at last week’s coup, and swears she will go independent. Another staunch Liberal, Megan, 47, voted for Abbott last time and says she will “probably” vote for him next time, but she’s also angry and she doesn’t buy the eye-for-an-eye business. “When you work for major companies, you can’t act like that and backstab and carry on and bitch … I’d get sacked if I carried on at work like that … I don’t think it’s a healthy way forward based on revenge.” Megan says she wouldn’t lose a moment’s sleep if Abbott resigned, but had some grudging admiration for him: “I know he’s smart and I know he actually does a lot for the community, but I don’t like his super-conservative views and I don’t like the way he’s made some comments around women’s issues … I just find him too conservative and polarising.”

Her mate Stuart, 52, a resident for 20 years, also voted Liberal at the last election and says he probably will again, but he thinks the party needs fresh blood, and suggests that someone like former NSW premier Mike Baird, who held the state seat until he resigned to go into banking, would be a good candidate: “Someone … who’s not so extreme right … that’s a better play for the area … a bit more moderate and a bit more progressive.”

Having a quiet drink in the old horseshoe bar, I find three locals who have lived and voted in the area for decades. One, a stonemason called Jim, is a member of the Queenscliff surf club, and knows both Abbott and Baird. He’s a Labor voter who calls Abbott a good bloke. “I like him personally very much, his politics are different, his religion is different, [but] I like what he does for charity.” His two mates, however, are both rusted-on Liberal voters and they are struggling with what to do.

“I vote for a party, I don’t vote for individuals,” says Neil. “I vote Liberal and don’t like it when a bloke comes along and fucks up the party and you’re probably getting the message from there that I’m not really happy with Tony Abbott.” Neil says he’s got “no time for him … he did a good job for a while [as PM] then we had a female running his office who was running the country and wasn’t doing the party any good.” Neil is still making up his mind, but today, he says, if Abbott is still there on the ticket at the next election he’ll vote independent.

Likewise David, who has been in the electorate 61 years, has always voted Liberal, but says “I’m in two minds about it at the moment because I don’t believe what Tony Abbott has done is the right thing.” David thinks if somebody stands for election as the leader of a party, the party should stick by them. “I would have to say honestly I would consider donkey voting rather than voting against the Liberal Party … I think the fact that [Abbott] hung around as a spoiler doesn’t sit well with people, nationally and locally.”

since this morning

Labor and the Greens have accused Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton of potentially misleading parliament over his intervention to save an au pair from deportation. Meanwhile, Dutton has defended saving an Italian au pair from deportation, and hinted that leaks about the visa cases are designed to harm him.

Carla McGrath has been removed [$] as a member of the Australian Press Council because her position as deputy chair of GetUp! was “incompatible with her continued role as a public member of the Council”, according to The Australian.


The Australian reports [$] that former workplace minister Craig Laundy – one of Malcolm Turnbull’s key backers – has called on the Liberal Party to introduce official processes to deal with bullying and intimidation complaints in the fallout from last week’s leadership crisis.

In the wake of an ABC investigation, staff claiming to have been underpaid at Flight Centre Travel Group subsidiary Travel Money Oz have taken their case to the Fair Work Commission.

Fairfax Media reports that senior Liberal figures have labelled the Morrison government’s stance on climate change “mad” and “morally irresponsible” as the party’s moderate wing reels at the ultra-conservative takeover of Australia’s energy policy.

by Richard Cooke
Tired of Winning
The energy exchange
Fifty years on, the divisions so starkly demonstrated at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago look irreconcilable

by Harry Windsor
Manly men get moody in ‘Mile 22’
Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg flirt with worldly cynicism in this action thriller

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is also the author of three books, including a recently updated unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


The Monthly Today

“Death spiral”

Who is private health insurance helping, exactly?

Climate insecurity

The real threat is staring us in the face

Wyatt’s voice

It is untenable for the Coalition to reject the Uluru statement twice

Fletcher won’t blink

The game of chicken between the NBN and the telcos continues

From the front page

“Death spiral”

Who is private health insurance helping, exactly?

Image of Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and CFMEU Victoria secretary John Setka

Judge stymies Albanese’s plans to expel Setka from ALP

A protracted battle is the last thing the Opposition needs

Image of Mungo MacCallum

Mungo MacCallum: A true journalistic believer

Celebrating the contribution of an Australian media legend

Cover image of ‘The Other Americans’ by Laila Lalami

‘The Other Americans’ by Laila Lalami

An accidental death in a tale of immigrant generations highlights fractures in the promise of America