Hartcher on Abbott

Peter Hartcher, the SMH Poitical Editor, writes:

There was no due process on gay marriage. Abbott did not consult his Cabinet, rode roughshod over the Liberal party room’s sensibilities, rushed to a Coalition room discussion, and led the party to confused non-decisions on future process. 

None of this mattered to Abbott. Why? Because all he wanted was to kill any prospect that same-sex marriage would come to a free vote on the floor of the Parliament. 

That done, to hell with the rest of it. That’s why, two days later, his Cabinet ministers were out in public arguing with each other on referendum versus plebiscites, George Brandis lecturing Scott Morrison, conducting government by Sky News. 

Did it seem odd that a Prime Minister would corral his party to block same-sex marriage, putting the Government on the opposite side of two-thirds of the electorate? 

It is odd for a Prime Minister who wants to win an election to wilfully alienate most of the country. 

But winning the election is a second-order issue for Abbott. His first priority is surviving long enough to even make it to election day.

The whole point of Abbott’s gay marriage gambit was to appease the conservative side of his caucus. 

He sees this as vital to his survival as leader. 

Remember that the February spill motion was moved by two of the party’s right-wing conservatives. 

The outcome on gay marriage this week may drive much of the public to despair, but it satisfies Abbott’s right and protects his flank. That’s the hard calculus that drove the process.

This means that the next spill effort against Abbott won’t come from the right. If it comes, it’ll have to be from the left of the Liberal caucus. 

The last thing the Liberal Party should do is drag this out until after the next election. Either allow a conscience vote in Parliament, or call a referendum before the next election.

When Abbott introduced at a business lunch during that trans-Tasman bonding a year and a half ago, he quipped that he realised some of the Australians in the room would prefer to be prime minister of Australia instead of himself. 

He got polite laughs but it was true.

People are voting with their feet. 

For the first time in 30 years, the relentless flow of Kiwis to settle in Australia has stopped. And started to flow the other way. 

“Good government” doesn’t have to be a joke.

I’ve not been in favour of joining NZ and Australia together, but John Key as Prime Minister of Australasia has a nice ring to it 🙂

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