08 January 2015

Abbott's Year of Failure

Well it was certainly a crazy 2014 here in Australia.  Politically the government is currently more on the nose than prawn shells left in the sun for a few days.
 
Fifteen months into the stewardship of the Abbott government and it looks that, barring a miracle, it will be a one term government.  However, John Howard was facing decimation prior to the 9/11 attacks – and look what happened to him at the next election! 

Tony Abbott was elected mainly on an anti-labor vote.  The Rudd – Gillard – Rudd debacle had left a lot of voters disillusioned with the ALP.  Abbott fed on this disillusionment by using effectively three word slogans and reminding all and sundry how bad the then government were.  Abbott would fix the budget, stop the boats and would bring stable adult government back to Australia.  Oh, and the sun would shine and lovers would walk hand in hand through corn strewn fields!

However, Abbott and his cohorts did not experience any form of ‘honeymoon period’ that all new governments generally experience.  In fact, the Abbott government never really made it to the bedroom on the wedding night!  The country had already developed a ‘headache’.

Most voters trust their governments to do the right thing.  So if pre-election promises are clearly stated then they must be honoured.  Australians do not like governments to get elected and then to not stick to their promises.  For whatever reason, the Abbott government chose to break theirs thereby potentially cutting ‘their jugular’ with the electorate.  What made things worse was that the 2014 budget had some extreme measures in it that were not ‘hinted’ at before the election, or prior to the budget announcement.

The backlash was immediate and the government was probably surprised at the anger shown by the electorate at large.  The budget was seen as being pro-business and anti-working class.  An example was the proposed lifting of caps on university course fees which meant that some courses would triple in price.

I have always held the view that selling the budget and government policies are akin to selling a second hand car at a dealership.  You have to be able to put across your message simply and succinctly and with no small amount of professionalism.  So how come this government has failed on so many levels to get their policies and messages across?  Let’s take a look.

The Prime Minister is the figurehead of the government and must be stately when required and also empathetic.  John Howard was one of the previous Prime Ministers that could do this effectively.   However, Tony Abbott comes across stiffly and without any real fluency to his speaking.  He looks at times like he has been stunned by the headlights of the oncoming truck heading his way.  I like to call it SMS – Stunned Mullet Syndrome.  The fact also that he has to wear an earpiece to help answer questions doesn’t look good to the average Aussie out there.   I won’t even go into the ‘foot in mouth’ things that our PM has said in the past 15 months.

Our Treasurer has probably had the worst year out of anyone in the government.  Roll back the clock a few years and there was Joe, an amiable and affable type of fellow.  Someone that had a great rapport with the public.  Nowadays that rapport is non-existent.  Joe has sent out so many mixed messages “we must fix the budget”  “the budget is not a problem” that it’s hard to work out what the situation is!  He has looked especially nervous especially after his budget was totally panned by all bar the right wing commentators and obligatory Newscorp journalists.  Nowadays he is looking like a spent force – a parody of his former self.

Aside from Julie Bishop, the Coalition’s only shining star, the general public does not have high opinions of Chris Pyne, Barnaby Joyce, Eric Abetz, Warren Truss and especially Scott Morrison.   The way this government has put the electorate offside so quickly is quite an achievement in itself.  The question is how can they fix it?  In short, it may already be too late. 

A revamp is required aside from the mini cabinet re-shuffle that was announced recently.  For the Coalition to win another term in office, or at least put pressure on the ALP, they must sack Peta Credlin.  Ms Credlin comes across as a total power hungry control freak albeit one who has the full backing of the PM.  However, her stifling of senior ministers means that they are unable to be themselves or put across their message to the country.   If ministers were allowed to be themselves more then maybe, just maybe, the public would warm to them.

Joe Hockey should be axed as Treasurer as he has totally made a complete hash of the job to date.  If this was an office job he would have already been sacked.  It would probably pay the government to appoint a lesser known candidate to this role.  That way there would be less backlash than, say, if Matthias Cormann is appointed to Treasurer.

However, the biggest problem for the government is Tony Abbott himself.  He is clearly not winning over many with his policies and actions.  The Catch 22 is that if he is removed as PM then the Coalition will be deemed to be no better than the previous government.  The only two pretenders to the throne would have to be Julie Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull.  However, Malcom has lost favour with the public due to the cost cutting exercise with the ABC and SBS.

So what can the government do?  Probably not much if the truth is known.  The good ship LNP is floating rudderless into dangerous waters and there doesn’t seem anything that they can do to stop this.  So the next 20 months will see more of the same.  The Senate will continue to be troublesome and the expected economic forecast for Australia isn’t all blue skies and sunshine either.

Given that most of the cabinet are devout Christians then they could always spend more time praying for an upturn in fortunes.  Only One person knows whether this policy will work!