The thought that Costello might come back (backroomers are begging him to) puts Abbott’s leadership deficiencies in a spotlight like no other.
Unlike the beaming former treasurer, he seems indecisive. He seems inarticulate. He seems shifty. He seems likely to go back on his word. He jumps like Chicken Little from crisis to crisis, panicking and getting it wrong — often.
He said about MH17:
“After the crime comes the cover-up."
He doesn’t say that any more.
‘Havering’ is a good Celtic word that describes what he does — a kind of jumpy, agitated two-bob-each-way, don’t quote me, for Christ’s sake don’t quote me.
He also suffers from what others have called The Las Vegas Syndrome. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
Whatever room he’s in, he says what they want to hear, and then he goes on to another room, and says something different, what they want to hear. He never believes he’s being recorded, and what he says will be on ABC radio the next morning.
Thus, he tells Japan he admires the ‘skill’ and ‘honour’ of their wartime accomplishments — though many of those accomplishment were slaughters, rapes, enslavements and exemplary beheadings.
He’s amazed when the Chinese — who remember the Rape of Nanking — object to this. He doesn’t believe they were listening. He thinks they ought not to have been listening. He thinks he’s not important enough to be listened to. He doesn’t believe he’s Prime Minister. He’s just a shifty, havering candidate, surely?
And the net result is people don’t believe him. He never delivers in what he’s promised.
Where are the MH 17 bodies? Where is the MH 370 Black Box? Where is the cancelled Schoolkids’ Money? We’re still getting it. Do we pay the seven dollars, or what? What is going on here?
He’s like a 50s crooner who’s turned up without his Big Band. The band is coming, he assures the audience. Meanwhile, I’ll do these bird imitations I’m good at. This is the budgerigar.
We expect more from a prime minister than this.
We’d like to know, for instance, what side we’re on in Syria.
We’d like to know who killed Reza Barati and when we’ll see him in the dock, the way we’re seeing, night after night, Oscar Pistorius in the dock. We’d like to know what’s going to happen to the 50 Tamil children Morrison kidnapped, messed about and hopes to sell as slaves to Cambodia. We’d like to know if the children on Nauru will be there for a hundred years. We’d like to know if the children on TPVs will be ever able to work, or go to university, or if they’re slaves too.
We’d like to know if he’s abolishing, as Pyne threatens, all research in our universities.
The truth is, he doesn’t know these things. He’s not used to having to have policies he’s settled on himself, decided about as leader.
In the past, he did what Howard wanted. And he opposed what Gillard did. The idea of deciding himself, fine tuning himself, what part of the billionairesses’ baby bonus should alter or be cut back or be scrapped is beyond him.
He’s not good at that sort of decision. He’s not good at decisions at all. Credlin makes his decisions. “
He just looks at the headlines and yells:
“The sky is falling!”
And then havers and dithers about what happens next.
And it’s too late now for him to begin to seem calm and dignified and decisive and commanding — like a leader. Like a prime minister.
He’ll never get there now.
And he’s cactus. He’s a dud. And the people sense it.
He’s last year’s news. And the news has turned sour. And the game is up.
And he’ll join soon the severed heads of Brandis and Andrews and Hockey and Sinodinos and O’Farrell and Baillieu and Buswell, gnawing the basket.
See also: Tony Abbott: Pretender, plagiarist and follower, by deputy editor Sandi Keane.
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