DANGEROUS sectarian violence in the Middle East and Europe is shaping the future of Australian politics, and inevitably, Tony Abbott’s reign.
During winter his government was in all sorts of trouble. The Budget was roundly condemned as unfair and unkind. Smokin’ Joe Hockey’s swagger as a charismatic Treasurer and future leader was shot to pieces. The government was looking ideologically driven, arrogant and accident prone .
The polls are slowly trending back towards the Coalition. Polls come and go, and all governments hit a trough, even after a decisive election, but this was different.
The Budget, and ministers locked into keystone amateur hour, were ruining the reputation of the government. A leader can weather the usual controversies, and still retain the respect of voters. But if you lose their respect so early in the term you’re almost a carcass swinging in the breeze, and liable to be cut down by a nervous caucus.
The lead-up to the Budget was well crafted. The “Age of entitlement” was over and the message was gaining traction. But even on Budget night Mr Abbott blew it, by sharing a private joke with colleagues on the front benches, while Joe Hockey detailed every battler’s nightmare. The only nearby minister not chuckling was Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. She is a class act and has already eclipsed Joe Hockey as the Coalition’s heir apparent.
In the midst of Joe Hockey losing his nerve and other ministers struggling with hubris, a lunatic on July 18 locked-on a missile to Malaysian Flight MH-17 over the Ukraine and rammed the 2014 Australian Budget into perspective.
With almost 40 of its nationals on board the flight, Australia, (Julie Bishop again), was quick to react, and led the charge at the United Nations.
The lunacy of Islamic State and the plight of innocent refugees fleeing them in Iraq and Syria shoved the world towards a war of new, sinister dimensions. The rampage of Islamic State was cataclysmic.
The most ardent cynic would accuse the Coalition of exploiting the white-hot atmosphere of these events, but Australians expected no less of their government, in its behaviour over the Ukraine missile.
The home grown nature of Islamic State, with Australian-born converts, has catapulted this violence into our lounge rooms. The fighting in far away places is now only a passport away. With extremist threats against Australians at home, people are nervous. They want national leadership, and they’re getting it.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has absolutely no option but to declare himself and his party side by side with Mr Abbott and the Coalition. The Greens are spreading their usual caution, but no one beyond their 13 per cent support range is interested.
The May 13 Federal Budget is now a memory. The government is backing away from the most unpopular measures.
We’ve seen conflict before, with John Howard’s “children overboard” Tampa election; Prime Minister Bob Menzies’ Petrov affair when a Soviet embassy official in Canberra defected with his wife during the Cold War, and Prime Minister Harold Holt’s “All the way with LBJ” landslide election in 1966, when Vietnam was still a popular war.
But, there’s a dangerous, local element to the current conflict that surpasses all those; even the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers. It is simply that Australia has become unsafe.
The Bali bombing in 2002 under-scored John Howard’s stature as a leader. The 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami reinforced the Howard credentials.
In a similar vein the events of the past two months are defining Tony Abbott’s leadership style and stature.
It is always international events beyond our control that can have such a dramatic impact on local politics, but much more so when these events are so localised and frightening in nature.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.