Swinging the tide

If Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard had really wanted to be successful prime ministers, their solution was simple: run the country the way John Howard did during his first five years, before he began chucking about the money.

But they couldn’t, could they? They had got elected on the basis of misrepresenting those policies as bad.

So they threw them out and began on their disastrous economic (and political) course.

If it is good enough for Greece (and Ireland, and Spain and Portugal) to win office by making promises that can only be kept by stealing from the future, then it is good enough for us.

And, naturally, it wasn’t. So what to do when support for the Gillard government had dropped to a third of the electorate?

It’s obvious, really. Undo mistakes or, rather, appear to undo them. Pile out more bribe money on the economic never-never. Corner the states so that they are stuck with paying for government policies. And attack Tony Abbott.

Make him the issue – what he might do – instead of what Julia Gillard’s government is doing. As a strategy that has been obvious for a year or more.

Tony Abbott is very attackable, even in the way he walks, with the swaggering gait of an athlete. He looks tough instead of dignified. He is a “misogynist”, that is to say he hates women.

Of course he doesn’t. He has a wife, three daughters, a couple of sisters, one of whom has just partnered with another woman, and his chief of staff who is the formidable Peta Credlin. Indeed they all seem to be quite formidable.

He wouldn’t be allowed to be a misogynist. So why are Gillard’s tactics working? Does it have anything to do with being a misogynist? Of course it does. Misogynist is code for the misgivings that women have about Abbott as a result of his record as Howard’s health minister, and his subterfuges with abortion, contraception, unmarried mothers and stem cell research. So what should Abbott do?

He has made a start. He would reduce the humanitarian intake from 20,000 a year to 14,000. With the example before him of dumping responsible fiscal policy, he needs to change that disastrous direction. He needs to do that soon because there is a selling job.

It’s not good enough to declare that he is not ‘Captain Catholic’, and merely to deny points put to him in occasional interviews. He needs to make a definitive and formal statement beginning with John Howard’s forgotten declaration that a government has no business in the bedrooms of the nation, forgotten by him as well as everyone else.

If Gillard can swing the tide around, so can Abbott.

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