Whatever Abbott’s BIR speech was, it wasn’t the Gettysburg Address that the pundits are saying it was.
The whole thing was stage-managed from the start.
From the adoring fans in the gallery, to the heartfelt, earnest looks into the camera, it was a put-up job.
You can always tell when Abbott is nervous. His voice goes up an octave. There it was on Thursday, shrill and feathery, almost boyish, as revealing as his new hairdo, the disappeared wrinkles, and the smarmy photos of him and Margie, looking like they’ve long forgotten how to embrace each other.
He only talks to captive audiences, bussed-in from the nearest Liberal enclave.
Murdoch – Randolph Hearst to Abbott’s Marion Davies – gives him free publicity, adoring reviews in rags like the Daily Telegraph, phoney gravitas in The Australian, and use of the high tech Foxtel studio space for speeches about the NBN (as if we needed any reminding that Murdoch’s pay-TV operations are in dire trouble from a fast NBN).
Sky News follows him around like a puppy dog trailing its master. It stacks its shows with IPA nutjobs, foaming shock-jocks and Labor traitors… all there to condemn Gillard and inflate Abbott’s meagre talents into “political genius”.
They are sure laying it on thick, far too thick in my estimation.
When Abbott looked yearningly and directly into that parliamentary camera I averted my eyes in embarrassment. Before I glanced away, all I had seen was a man desperate to win at any price, the man that Tony Windsor described as willing to sell anything but his arse (and maybe that too, if the circumstances required it).
I saw fear.
The pundits praise Abbott for his political acumen, his avoiding of interviews (unless with Hadley, Jones or now, a compliant Leigh Sales playing the tamed shrew), his refusing to commit to anything very much at all, his ambiguous and ambivalent phrasing on major policies. They even now praise him for his numbers not adding up.
They went so far as to cede him “victory” in the Disability Debate, despite his 180 degree about face, Hockey’s abject humiliation at his hands, Gillard getting everything that she wanted in the space of one week (after a handicap start that would have seen Black Caviar an also ran) and his entire party staging a disgraceful No Show – a slap in the face to the disabled people there to see it – when the bill was introduced.
How disheartened those disabled people, their families and carers in the gallery must have felt when they saw living proof, in absentia, of Abbott’s (and his party’s) commitment to their cause, and how joyous they must have been that Gillard had forced the issue, giving them a fighting chance.
How genuine was Gillard’s wavering voice on that morning, that the more rabid of her critics had to try to turn her emotions into crocodile tears with some muttering commentators even wondering whether they made her unfit for office… after three years in office against tougher opposition than their hero, Abbott, has ever encountered!
Maley, surely one of the most vacuous journalists ever to sit down to a keyboard at Fairfax, wrote one of her usual thoughtless pieces on why, suddenly, the Coalition didn’t need Alan Jones despite all indications to the contrary. Insofar as Jones’ audience is rusted on to the Liberal cause, perhaps they don’t, but they don’t need Jones to throw one of his famous hissy fits either, and for the old bloviator to start hating them out of spite. A word will be had, and they’ll continue to turn up. No worries there.
Hartcher seems to have revealed his true colours. Transferring his fanboy crush on Kevin Rudd directly to Abbott, Hartcher is a man who is not complete until he has plummily swung in behind a stronger seeming male, either intellectually, physically or socially superior to his sorry self. He will never admire Gillard. She speaks like a Westie, and is a woman.
Kenny, a gun for hire if ever there was one, does a workmanlike hack job every day, fiddling with his political Ouija board, channelling Abbott’s minders, coming out with ever more convoluted justifications for the inevitability of an Abbott triumph.
Common sense would dictate Fairfax could probably do better being fairer towards the government, perhaps even running a slightly favourable line for Gillard. If nothing else, it would distinguish them from the pack of wannabe king makers (it’s never a Queen is it?) across Media Street at News.
Fairfax has never been any good at the tabloid thing. Their tepid radio stations show that. Their recently introduced “compact” newspaper format has failed, relegating them to the status of the throwaway local rag you find on your lawn in the morning. Their customers have left them to their almost nihilistic path to self-destruction. They can wallow in their own pre-apocalyptic ennui, until “pre” becomes “post” and eventually Fairfax is a vague memory, a “brand” and a banner for sale cheap to the first bidder with a half-decent cheque book.
Fairfax exists only on the whiff of former glories now, and persists simply because there is nowhere else to go but down. The shareholders have long since given up hope of any kind of recovery, back to the Rivers Of Gold days. They only hope that Rinehart will give them a few extra cents for their shares, now valued at not much more than the cost of a postage stamp.
However it may be that the cards are stacked in Abbott’s and the Coalition’s favour, the fact that this week it was decided to take over the parliamentary galleries and corridors so that the cheer squads could applaud to order and pop champagne corks into the night (plus the glowing reviews the next day), shows that despite their outward professions of certainty and confidence, the media still believes Gillard Labor can win the election.
The overkill we have seen this week does not happen unless the opponent is nervous. It gives the lie to their “more in sorrow than in anger” line of patter that Gillard is a lousy politician.
If she was as lousy politician as they claim, she wouldn’t have been Prime Minister for a month shy of three years. Tony Abbott would have been.
That metric – three years as Prime Minister (and over 500 pieces of enacted legislation to go with it) – is the plain and simple truth of it, the ultimate confirmation of political acumen that the media are desperate to deny. In their world view, failure to play their game, failure to send obscure, convolved signals and inattention to their inflated egos equals “political failure”. Ultimately, in their eyes, political failure equals unfitness for office.
Gillard is living proof that it’s possible to survive, even prosper, unhitched from the iron lung of media adoration and approbation.
Ironically, she is proof also of Maley’s thesis that you don’t need Alan Jones or Ray Hadley on your side to survive and get some work done, some accomplishments up on the scoreboard… a thesis that Hockey and Abbott are too terrified to test.
Her tenure in office has been a testament to taking on difficult causes and implementing them, fighting for them and sticking to them.
The tyranny of numbers – both parliamentary and economic – has forced some about faces, true, and it has generated the consequent red faces that come as a natural reaction to the heckling of the media hyenas as they occupy their increasingly untenured seats, and of the crowd they have whipped up into a frenzy when the target du jour, today’s occupier of the stocks in the village square, makes the slightest error.
But mistakes and blunders aside, nothing succeeds like success. And success in political terms is all about being in office and getting things done while you’re there.
Against all the policy and political metrics that Gillard has posted (I won’t repeat them here) the baying media mob has only… The Polls: photo finish snaps taken before the finish, as useless as More Joyous on an “off” day, a favourite on paper only, as valuable as a discarded betting slip.
The pundits don’t get that the polls are simply a reflection of their own urgings, repeated back to them, laundered and pressed, echoes within echoes useful in geeing up the troops before the barriers open, but of much lesser worth once the real race begins.
This week has seen the election campaign proper begin its four month long journey to September 14th.
In it, Gillard has already scored some notable wins – on disability, having her budget cuts grudgingly accepted (albeit in the most weasel-like way), and having a heart-warming front page dedicated to her and her greatest fan, little Sophie Deane.
Abbott, on the other hand, has had only a Renta Crowd of far too enthusiastic, hubris-engorged media fans go into bat for him, plus the clowns in the public gallery, with their whistling and their champagne, who’d have applauded if Abbott broke wind, much less simply getting through his speech without giving offence to too many voters.
To do his bit for the disabled, he went on a bike ride, of which he has reminded us to the point of exasperation, bringing it up triumphantly on Thursday night to a national audience, as if that peddling play-act makes up for his contemptuous orders to his caucus to desert the parliamentary benches when the actual, substantive debate began… a debate he and his Shadow Treasurer found themselves demanding two weeks ago, after starting out that week plonkingly dismissing any extra budget spending.
Can readers imagine the “out of body” feeling they must have experienced after blurting out their hankering for a new tax? Was it someone else, some socialist perhaps? No… it was Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey who, desperate to close the Disabled issue down, the better to return to their set-piece campaign plan, betrayed their own principles and their own promises.
Oh, he’s scared alright. On Thursday in parliament he was a bunny in the headlights. That is what the look he gave direct to camera reminded me of. He has a set-piece campaign planned, and it can’t survive too many deviations.
Everything’s been arranged. The place cards have been printed for the high table. His sugar daddy, Rupert Murdoch and the deluded me-too’ers at Fairfax have assured him he can’t lose.
The spruikers and fanboys, the assassins and thugs, the blushing female scribes who just want to be young mums paid their full salaries off the public tit are all in place and have been issued their instructions.
The election, now well on the way, will boil down to Performance versus Promises, Success versus Slogans, Humility versus Hubris.
Performance, success and humility will win every time against the vain bellowings of the media foghorn, the ego bolstering and sexist barracking of slow thinkers and the ever more convoluted knots into which Abbott is tying himself, to the point of political immobility.
Rudd had to agree with Howard’s tax cuts four weeks before the 2007 campaign.
Abbott has already agreed to Gillard and Swan’s Budget cuts four months before the Big Day. Joe is still trying to pick up the pieces behind his leader.
It ain’t over till it’s over.
If Gillard keeps succeeding in getting Abbott to agree with her on just about everything, leaving only his vapid protests against a Carbon Tax and Boats (that are so dated now they have whiskers on them) as the main points of differentiation, then premature photo finishes aside, the run to the finish line will be all uphill for him.
Something changed this week. It’s hard to put your finger on it. There has been no confidence from the Coalition even in their own No Confidence motion, disappeared off the notice paper like so many other Abbott blood oaths. Abbott is too busy reacting, agreeing with the government to spend time on a pointless motion he can’t possibly win.
Sure it may come up – to assuage hurt pride more than anything else – and it may have the opinionistas tweeting at his brilliance in purveying a “sense of doom” for the government. Ho hum…
But I’ve noticed a new spring in the step of Labor politicians this week, too.
They’re finally realizing that there’s a fight on. It’s a fight they can win if they visualize that finish line clearly enough in their minds and want the prize passionately enough.
The next four months will be the summing up of the past three years – three years of accomplishments under intense artillery bombardment against three years of armchair whingeing from behind the lines.
Labor is coming to understand the reason McTiernan used that opening speech from Patton.
“No bastard even won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”
A united, purposeful, passionate Labor will win the election.
Abbott is about to politically die for his party of time-servers, business lurk merchants, Howard throwbacks and fossilized reactionaries.
That he’s begun to suspect the enormity of the task he’s taken on in beating Gillard was written all over his face last Thursday night.