Pity poor Tony Abbott.
A little over a month ago there could be no doubt he would assume the mantle of Prime Minister.
Indeed, the long slow grind to the then proposed election date of September 14 was nothing more than a formality. The voters were weary of the election, and had tuned out – happily waiting for the whole thing to be over. The countdown to the election was shaping up to be nothing more than a prolonged victory lap for the would be PM.
But then things changed. Gillard was removed, Rudd reinstalled and suddenly – overnight – the political landscape was reshaped.
Yes, pity poor Tony Abbott – or not.
For over three years the Australian media gave him a free pass, especially on climate change policy.
But Abbott’s latest attempt to attack the carbon price did not merely fall flat, but resulted in gales of laughter and derision across Australia and the world.
No doubt feeling the pressure of a resurgent Labor and Rudd Mark II, Abbott committed what has to be one of the greatest political gaffes of the past few years by calling the ETS:
” [A] so-called market in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no one”
I don’t think Abbott could have created a more ugly conjunction of three word slogans slammed together with willed ignorance if he tried.
If Abbott hadn’t killed the English language with his latest clanger, it is certainly spinning in its grave.
It is clearly a dog whistle call to climate sceptics and grumpy old men like Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones. But rather than becoming a new rallying cry for those opposed to a price on carbon, it ranks as one of the more hilarious own goals in recent Australian political history.
Mark my words, this one is going to haunt Abbott for a long, long time.
The experts have not merely been damning, but openly mocking Abbott:
Tony Abbott’s insistence that Labor’s emissions trading scheme is an expensive exercise in buying and selling an ”invisible substance” has drawn derision from climate experts and industry.
As the Rudd government prepares to detail a path from the carbon tax to an ETS a year earlier than scheduled, the Opposition Leader faces claims he is treading his own path back to the ”politics of climate denial and scepticism”.
Mr Abbott’s assertion that an ETS – to be introduced on July 1, 2014, as the government will announce on Tuesday – was a ”so-called market in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no one” sparked an immediate backlash, with critics pointing out that former Liberal prime minister John Howard designed a similar scheme.
Professor Richard Dennis, an economist at the Australian National University, said Mr Abbott should make it clear whether he thinks radiation was harmful or not.”The notion that something now has to be visible to be valuable or harmful is an entirely new concept in Australian politics and one that will concern and confuse many,” he said.
”If Tony Abbott is concerned about people paying for invisible things, then anyone who owns intellectual property should be very concerned, likewise people in the futures and financial derivatives market.”
Martijn Wilder, a climate change lawyer at global law firm Baker & McKenzie, said: ”You might not be able to see carbon dioxide but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t regulate it.
Note to Abbott.
When people no longer fear your crude attacks on science, but instead openly mock you in the press, it’s a good sign that what ever shred of credibility you had on the issue has been lost.
Sure, CO2 is invisible to the naked eye – invisible stuff just like oxygen, germs and radiation. However if there is a lack of substance, it is clearly Abbott on climate change.
I’ve been saying for some time that the LNPs lack of real policy on climate change and its continual flirtation with climate change denial (if not outright support) would start to hurt them. Events are starting to show this.
The LNP is caught between a rock and a hard place – the reality of climate change and the willed ignorance of Abbott. You can’t wish away climate change. Having a serious policy in regards to climate change is now an imperative for all political parties.
Abbott is in denial and the DAP is a policy mess.
Abbott is failing the leadership test on climate change.
And I’m sure one Malcolm Turnbull is smiling on the inside….
Addendum: Abbott v Turnbull leadership crisis brewing
Speculation about Turnbull has begun, as reported by The Age:
It would not be surprising were Liberal members of Federal Parliament feeling nervous, even skittish. Only days ago, they were considered all but certain to win the coming election. Tony Abbott now looks an even bet to emulate his former boss John Hewson (Abbott was Hewson’s media adviser), who in 1993 lost what was widely considered an unloseable ballot against Paul Keating.
The game-changer, of course, has been the painful and pragmatic decision by the ALP caucus to return Kevin Rudd to the prime ministership. In so doing, they followed advice Keating was given long ago by former NSW premier Jack Lang: in politics you should always back the horse named self-interest. In their own self-interest, the Liberals would be wise to at least consider replacing Tony Abbott with Malcolm Turnbull. It has long been clear the two leaders Australian voters would like to choose between are Rudd and Turnbull…
I think Abbott and the Liberals are about to learn constant speculation on the leadership cuts both ways.
What have I been saying for the last year?
For over a year now I’ve been arguing Abbott and the LNP have a growing problem on their hands. Their opposition to the carbon price (Ax the tax!) and Abbott’s “Blood oath” is a trap they have made for themselves. While ditching a price on carbon may be to the liking of far-right-wing columnists such as Andrew Bolt and eccentric mining billionaires, it turns out the vast majority of business in Australia is happy with an emissions trading scheme (see below).
While “Axe the tax”. “Ju-liar” and “Ditch the Witch” were effective (but ugly) slogans they lacked substance. Simple opposition and the proposed Direct Action Policy are now being seen as lacking substance. Abbott has a growing problem, and it is a problem of his making.
I suspect the vicious opposition to the “carbon tax” will prove to have been useful in giving the Coalition a useful short-term tactical advantage, but in the end a strategic blunder. China and now America are now moving towards more vigorous action. This now leaves Australia and Abbott the laggards. The world is moving, and Abbott still thinks it is 1955.
My advice: watch this space.
I’m growing increasingly confident that Abbott may have to breach his “blood oath”. The moment Abbott baulks he is in deep trouble: the hypocrisy will be obvious to all.
Here’s another thought… imagine what Malcolm Turnball, the man Abbott deposed with the backing of climate sceptics, is thinking after watching the return of Kevin Rudd.