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Chess without pieces

By Bruce Haigh - posted Thursday, 24 February 2011

Conventional political analysis has Tony Abbott almost beating Julia Gillard at the last election. Much praise and kudos has been bestowed upon him for coming as close as he did to victory. I don't see it that way. Gillard should have been wiped at the last election based on the lack of delivery by the Rudd government, compounded by spin and denial that had the electorate angry, to say the least.

Abbott should have beaten her hands down and the fact that he did not says much about the man and the party under his leadership.

Somewhat surprisingly Abbott is not liked or respected by people that might otherwise be termed supporters. His public persona makes people uneasy. They can't roll with him, waiting always for a gaff or foot in mouth moment.


His jerky, fish in a fish-tank response with eyes popping and mouth cavitating has him better placed for French comedy than the faux gravitas of Australian politics. His barely concealed anger and naked, whatever it takes, ambition are not pleasant to behold and are redolent of student politics.

Abbott is devoid of vision and policy, his claim to be Prime Minister rests on his ability to attack Julia Gillard and the Labor Party. He makes no effort to court the swinging voter, to capture the middle ground. He is a bottom feeder, basking in the praise of the prejudiced right. It will not win him an election. It will however, increase the vote of the Independents and Greens.

He has waxed and waned on restricting migration including the notion of banning professing muslims. He questioned the wisdom of allowing Christmas Island detainees to attend the funeral of family members in Sydney and ignorantly believes that keeping refugees in detention will act as a deterrent to other desperate asylum seekers.

He ruthlessly plays the refugee card, which means he neither understands nor seeks to understand what drives an individual to seek asylum and what are the obligations by the state and individuals, such as himself, toward asylum seekers. For a Rhodes Scholar he is poorly read; in all of his opportunistic pronouncements on refugees, there wafts about him the odour of racism and intolerance.

It does not require an overactive imagination to transport those attitudes, should, heaven forbid, he become Prime Minister, onto the most needy and desperate in our community, particularly those that might need help outside the dictates of Roman Catholic dogma.

Within his party he has unleashed and encouraged the maladroit and mendacious Scott Morrison who elicits more jeers than cheers and has done nothing to enhance his party's prospect of election to office.


Julia Gillard fares no better. It is hard to identify what she believes in and difficult to discern any trace of vision. Her sincerity is not enhanced by her flat uninspiring delivery and her robotic hand and body movements. She appears awkward and ill at ease and manages to make an audience feel the same, if they haven't fallen asleep from boredom during her opening remarks.

A 9 year old refugee boy is pushed from pillar to post by her feeble Minister for Immigration, Chris Bowen, and she does nothing, says nothing, so much for her forced compassion during the floods. Julia chokes in Parliament and we squirm, Bob Hawke sheds a tear and we shed with him.

Name an issue and its odds on the Gillard government has not come to grips with it; climate change, mining tax, refugees, water, infrastructure, health, education are beyond anything but their spin. No leadership and no guts. They are led by opinion polls and managed by the federal public service.

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About the Author

Bruce Haigh is a political commentator and retired diplomat who served in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 1972-73 and 1986-88, and in South Africa from 1976-1979

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