All polls point to a change of government across the Tasman. But the best polling news is the likelihood of the ghastly former Liberal leader (and unsuccessful brief Prime Minister) Tony Abbott getting the bumrush. Here’s why I’ll rejoice at his demise.
When Queensland fish and chip shop owner Pauline Hanson put her hand up and began her own political party, “One Nation”, in 1996, she had two principal policies. The first was to rein in welfare excesses and the second to confine immigration to Europeans. Both are perfectly valid viewpoints. I agree with the first but not the second, indeed as I’ve often written the best thing ever to happen to New Zealand has been the Asian migration here of recent decades. So too with Australia.
Nevertheless, instead of respecting Hanson’s efforts as a reflection of an open democracy the Sydney smart aleck journalist set poured scorn on her as a simpleton. They had a field-day at her expense when a television interviewer suggested to her she was xenophobic, to which she famously responded, “Please explain?” But how many ordinary citizens would know what xenophobic means? Very few I suspect.
There’s no doubt Pauline’s not too bright but our political system is open to all including the ignorant which in Pauline’s case provides a political vent for like-minded voters.
Hanson’s party attracted instant support, mainly in the country and she and some of her members soon found themselves MPs. As her party’s support continued to thrive at the expense of the National party, (the renamed Country party) and long-standing Libs coalition partner, the possibility of never another Liberal-led coalition government loomed large.
It’s at this juncture when Abbot came in. Following an election, the fairly standard list of incorrect election expenditure filings were published, including from Hanson’s One Nation party. She as a leader signed it off, albeit she hadn’t personally prepared it. Spotting this Abbott organised a criminal complaint resulting in her finding herself in prison.
This was huge news and misreading the public’s basic decency Abbott went on TV bragging about his role in her incarceration. The back-lash was huge and a day later he was hypocritically apologising. This led to an appeal resulting in The Queensland Supreme Court, expressing its outrage in no uncertain terms and ordering her immediate release, but not before she’d spent 11 humiliating weeks in prison for electoral fraud.
Abbott holds a prosperous urban North Sydney seat, Warringah. Out of the blue 45-year-old barrister Zali Steggall, Australia’s most successful alpine skier, a former world champion and Olympic medallist, has put her hand up as an Independent to challenge Abbott on his global warming denials. Among her credentials Zali has the Order of Australia, being Australia’s dame-hood equivalent.
Polls suggests she will win and Abbott is panicking resulting in a much mocked abrupt U-turn re his outdated attitude to global warming. Worse, he’s becoming a laughing stock as he’s announced a number of blundering initiatives he intends promoting, all the domain of State and not Federal politics.
Normally a strong Liberal seat, Warringah voters know there’s going to be a change of government and given no dramatic polling change up until the mid-May election, can afford to indulge themselves, just as often occurs in by-elections.
The situation has an astonishing parallel with the demise of John Howard, by any measure one of Australia’s most successful Prime Ministers. In 2007, Howard, Prime Minister for the past 11 years lost his prosperous Sydney North Shore seat when his government was swept out of office. Just as today the government had trailed Labour in the polls for the past two years. Thus the Labour victory was no surprise but the PM losing his own seat was a shock. And what swung it narrowly against Howard was the Green vote no less.
Australian politics and the Liberal Party in particular will be well rid of Abbott. Let’s hope it happens.