“Tony Abbott might get kicked out! Well, no one’s challenging him … but … it’s gonna happen … probably….”
-all the political news I’ve read recently
Now, from the outset, let’s be clear. I, like apparently everyone else in Australia, don’t like Tony Abbott as Prime Minister of Australia. I mean, he tries to evoke some sort of Manly Bronzed Aussie Mateship in what he believes is the majority of his electorate, but he doesn’t promote drinking beer? Seriously, Hawke cried several times on national TV and he’s still more of a man than Abbott. I could also bore you with how bad his policies are for Australia but I’m sure someone else already has. The point is, I don’t like Abbott. Okay? Good, because I’m going to defend him now.
As I see it, we’ve two issues here: the media and the backbenchers. They’re sort of connected and feeding off each other at the moment, like the very hungry caterpillar. First, the backbenchers. Listen here. Grow the hell up. The party does not exist for your own career. Sure, fight for your electorate, but don’t make it public and damage your own party, which got you elected and is the reason you have any semblance of relevance at all. Mind you, this isn’t exactly new; there’s been lots of mouthy unliked backbenchers in the past – who can forget Wilson “Iron Bar” Tuckey, the backbencher that always sat in front of the cameras (I’m sure it was just a coincidence…) during parliament sessions? Oh wait, you did forget him? Don’t worry, I only just thought of him myself. Nevertheless, mouthy backbenchers, one can argue, are an integral segment of political parties; they can say controversial things (usually stupid but there are occasional exceptions) without too much fear of reprisal, unlike ministers. They’ll always be around.
So why am I so annoyed now, and why should you be too? Well, mouthy backbenchers were mostly harmless; they said a lot of edgy against-the-grain stuff to puff themselves up for the media but they never really achieved anything. That is, until Rudd. Rudd was thrown out, whilst in government, by edgy party members who got scared of losing. It was a freak event, something that shouldn’t have happened and should never happen again. Or so you’d think. Right now, the same thing is happening; Liberal Party members are getting anxious and apparently lobbying for a leadership change.
Is this now the precedent? Every time backbenchers get edgy from the polls, they try to throw out an elected leader of Australia? Hell, Abbott thinks The Average Voter is impressed by iron man participation more than intellectual credentials, and he has a whole team of people and apparently millions of dollars analysing them. Are we going to say that when these people are uneasy, mid-term, we’re going to take drastic action? While you’re at it, you might as well build a new school because kids have been telling you they don’t like going. We already make jokes about how long it takes for progress to take place here, so are we going to make this new layer of caution that apparently every post-Rudd prime minister has to exercise? Visionary governments will always have times of unpopularity during their terms; they can’t only do the things The Average Voter wants if there is to be any real progress. And I know, I know – Abbott stands for anything but progress, but we can’t make exceptions here. Leadership change is bad for a party, bad for a government, bad for the country.
And the media. There is no news. So please for the love of god, stop ‘speculating’. All this speculation and attention is, I’m fairly sure, 50% of the reason why Rudd was kicked. Of course, report facts and issues that are in the public interest, but let’s be honest, there’s a seriously disproportionate number of articles about the current situation, whose latest bit of news is that there is still no candidate willing to contest Abbott. The thing is, media attention worries people far more than opinion polls; it’s not so much a spotlight on the situation, more a death ray that pulverises instead of seeing anything. If it’s shone on anything, given enough time, something will give way. If the Abbott camp wasn’t in trouble, it sure is now, and it’s going to lead to actions that would otherwise not have taken place. If journalists weren’t just being lazy and regurgitating the same crap over and over again, none of this would have happened.
What’s even worse is that those edgy backbenchers are actually feeding this death ray with leaks and shows of ‘disillusionment’ (spell check assures me that’s a word). They feed information in hopes of bringing about a change of leadership, which news outlets gobble up to make a news story, which brings about more panic within the party, which brings about more leaks. It’s a cycle of destruction that benefits the news outlets but destroys the public image of the party and is sure as hell not going to help those leakers get re-elected. Scott Morrison’s done what he should be doing (I never, ever thought I’d say that) when he told the backbenchers not to follow the Labor Party’s example and stfu.
I, for one, am hoping that Abbott does not get thrown out. I hope the Liberal Party come to their senses and ignore and/or placate the media with something other than a leadership change, not just for their own sake, but for the sake of Australian politics. If mass media, in the aim of getting ever more readers, can bring down a second elected prime minister in 8 years, we can forget about action on climate change, a proper NBN, legalising gay marriage, and the many other very-slightly-controversial reforms Australia needs. We make jokes about America’s difficulties in passing universal healthcare, but ask yourself, if we didn’t have a national healthcare scheme, would we, in our current form, enact one? Or would we have The Average Voter saying it’d only help dole bludgers and have it shouted down by edgy backbenchers and The Herald Sun?