Tony Abbott will be the next authentic leader of Australia, no matter what happens between Gillard and Rudd, nor whatever shenanigans the not-quite-so-faceless men of Labor attempt to trick us with over the next twelve months. By authentic, we mean many things. In all likelihood, Abbott’s government will be able to claim an authentic mandate to implement its policies, in stark contrast to the existing faux-legitimacy of a cobbled-together coalition built on broken promises and dodgy backroom deals.
The Abbott government will also be authentic in its policy prescriptions. The constant flip-flopping and obfuscation that has come to epitomize the ‘Gillarudd’ government will mercifully be consigned to the past. Forgotten in all the endless political games, the abandonment of ill-considered projects (let’s not bore ourselves by running through them all again), the trashing of commitments, the swapping of leadership roles and the giddying spinning of the truth is a simple matter of fact: this is not how responsible governments should behave.
Tony Abbott himself will be authentic. Over two decades in public life he has stayed consistent to his convictions and core principles, and been frank about his Catholic beliefs. There has been no need to spray-paint a “real” Tony onto a battered up old one. No need to present himself in terms that don’t ring true, or reek of hypocrisy and opportunism. To an extent, the rough edges have been smoothed out, and the language toned down, but none of this is different to how a Bob Hawke or a John Howard were spruced up by the image-makers. At heart, we all know what drives him and what he will fight for. Perhaps that is why his enemies fear him so much.
Compare Rudd in opposition to Abbott in the same role. Rudd busied himself with his silly stack of notes and weird silences on the floor of parliament, falsely painting himself as Howard-lite. He was the great moralist who believed in climate change, yet blinked at the first hurdle. He was eager to “stop the boats” but capitulated entirely on border control. He was the “economic conservative” who went on to denounce capitalism. Gimmick after gimmick, falsehood after falsehood. Abbott, on the other hand, has just got on with the job: aggressively opposing policies and highlighting their flaws. As an opposition leader, he is the real deal.
Australians are crying out for an authentic leader; one who will stand by their commitments and provide a stable, prosperous and competent political and economic environment for the rest of the decade, devoid of the dangerous hysteria and doomsday cultism of the Greens and the relentless ‘whatever-it-takes’ connivances of Labor. At his National Press Club speech, Abbott finally showed he holds such a vision. He can inspire.
In this issue, we have asked prominent commentators to share with us their thoughts on how Tony Abbott can “nail it” over the next twelve months - as he steps into his almost certain role as the next authentic leader of our nation.