05 June 2015
by Sean Stinson

The Canberra Challenge: Is Abbott playing the long game?

What I find more curious than how a blundering twerp like Tony Abbott ever got to be prime minister of Australia is how anyone so clearly intellectually impoverished could score themselves a Rhodes scholarship in the first place.
He’s probably not the sharpest tool in the shed, but was it ever the case? One tinfoil hat theory purports that during the now infamous channel 7 interview which gave us the famous 28 seconds of awkward silence.

Abbott suffered a minor brain infarction and it’s been all downhill from there. Others have argued he may have been beaten around the head too much in his varsity fights at Cambridge and is now paying the price; there is much evidence today linking chronic brain injury and Alzheimers to sports such as football and boxing. So are we seeing our PM’s mental faculty beginning to fade as he babbles and blunders his way across the media? (Ahh, you bet you are. Ahh, you bet I am.) Or could it be that Tony actually knows what he’s doing?

Gaffes aside, the defining characteristic of this government could probably be summed up in one word: Overreach. The original plan of forcing unemployed youth into crime by making them live on nothing for six months has now been reduced to merely starving them for one month. The over generous paid parental leave scheme has been scrapped, along with the planned medicare co-payment. Abbott has defended the 2014 budget in classic style by saying “we tried to do too much too soon”. Or was this the plan all along?

Cancelling the citizenship of a dual national is one thing, but rendering a person stateless surely goes beyond the pale. They must have known this wasn’t going to float, neither with the parliament nor the international community. It seems the best defence they can come up with is that it appears to be current UK policy and if it’s ok for them it’s ok for us. Hmm. The media were quick to spin this story as evidence of division in the ranks, with the tacit suggestion that last week’s cabinet leaks must have come from the office of either Bishop or Turnbull for their own political ends. But what if the leaks were deliberately planted in the media to stymie the debate as part of a wider strategy? I wouldn’t put anything past these scheming reprobates.

I’ve argued previously that the 2014 budget was never meant to pass. Given the $100bn of savings measures still held up in the senate, and this year’s extra spending contingent on last year’s savings, it’s likely this year’s budget isn’t going anywhere fast either. So what are we to make of this budget strategy other than a monumental cock up? I’d suggest that this government’s methodology might borrow less from the calm, measured, proportionate approach publicly espoused by Abbott, and more from the military doctrine of shock and awe. This would at least seem consistent with Abbotts boxing technique. It seems that Abbott’s modus operandi is to over promise and under deliver; to hit hard with obscene policy measures which he knows will offend our sensibilities, but which condition us to the idea, making any watered down version seem respectable by comparison. A kind of reverse bait and switch if you like – promising something cruel and harsh, delivering something slightly less cruel and harsh, and then like a mischievous dentist admonishing “there, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” While I have no doubt of the LNPs desire to lead Australia down a path of tea party conservatism and crony capitalism, as ever, the game is all about controlling the middle ground.

If there’s one thing I’m confident in it’s that having fought so hard and stooped so low for it, Abbott will not give up power easily. He plans on going the whole nine yards. What’s more, having capitalised so heavily on Labor’s instability in office, his party are unlikely to roll him. Just like Tones, they too are playing the long game.

With a liberal stooge in charge of the most piss weak opposition we’ve seen in decades I have no doubt the current batch of so-called reforms will pass in one form or another. Whatever the fickle whim of the electorate we can expect to see many a watered down LNP policy sliver its way across the floor of parliament either in this term or the next. It all smacks of a good cop, bad cop routine. With the most draconian of Abbott’s policies being falsely tied to national security Shorten seems only too happy to reach out the hand of bi-partisanship, but on necessary reform measures such as taxing superannuation and removing negative gearing Labor seem unaffected or conspicuously silent.

The term master strategist is not a label many would be quick to pin on Abbott, but whether he merely plays the fool, or is actually as incompetent as he seems, he wouldn’t be the first blabbering idiot to get a second crack at the top job. Though perhaps not as well stage managed as Boris Yeltsin or Bush the Younger, one still finds oneself asking could this man really be as stupid as he looks?

The government is in turmoil and the parliament in deadlock while our rights and liberties are being slowly eroded and social programs flushed down the toilet at an alarming rate. Society is being wedged on every front, be it age, race, religion, gender or sexual preference. Public assets continue to be sold into private ownership while our land, water and environment are raped and pillaged, and despite Rosie Batty being named Australian of the Year for her campaign against family violence, two women every week still die at the hands of their partners.

In spite of all of this the voting public somehow believe that that the greatest threat facing our country right now comes from pimply faced angst ridden teenage jihadi wannabes. Meanwhile our bare-chested surfing cycling superhero appears on the telly daily encouraging us to work harder and reassuring us that he and his government and law enforcement have our backs.

All of which still leaves me wondering, is Abbott clueless, out of his depth and winging it? Or is everything is going exactly to plan?