The idea that Tony Abbott’s decision to withdraw his support for the government’s proposed retrospective extension of public funding is somehow a plus for the government is bizarre, and demonstrates just why the government and its supporters are losing the Australian people.
It’s being pushed by all and sundry. I’ve heard Mark Dreyfus hum the tune, Bill Shorten as well, and in some of the worst political analysis I have read for a while, Michelle Grattan decided to harmonise on it: “Abbott’s backflip is a godsend for the government”.
No, what would have been a “godsend” is if he hadn’t backflipped. Then he wouldn’t have been mired in the same grubby sty as them. Instead he’s seen as being flawed, but ultimately having the good sense to listen to the public and step back from the mud bath.
This government runs a deficit in honesty even larger than its financial one. When its spokesmen step up and condemn Abbott for dishonesty all they do is draw attention to their own deficiencies.
What sort of promise is it that Abbott has broken anyway? An undertaking to the government to back a bill that he now realises he shouldn’t have given in the first place.
In the hierarchy of promises this is pretty low grade stuff. It’s not a promise that he made to the Australian people unlike the promises the government has been breaking (“There will be no carbon tax”, “you will get a tax cut” etc).
And if the government had any sense it would have broken its implied promise to Tony Abbott to introduce the bill before he could have withdrawn his support.
The truth about promises is that the public don’t care if you break them when breaking them means you do what the public wants. The public views that as democracy in action, not dishonesty.
As it stands at the moment, the smartest thing the government could do is to give credit to Tony Abbott, apologise for their mistake, and move on. But they won’t and can’t. Self-righteousness and hatred of Abbott govern their every action, and as a result they turn every issue into a wedge between them and the Australian people.
I ran into an erstwhile opponent this morning, a former ALP state member. It was at a Liberal Party fundraiser.
When I asked him what he was doing there he first told me that he was just a “businessman” these days, but then volunteered that Anna Bligh and Julia Gillard had trashed Labor’s brand and that he couldn’t vote Labor anymore.
You’re in real trouble when people who were your majors just a few years ago have defected to the other side.
I wonder how many of the departing Labor members will be voting Labor this election?