Tony Abbott’s idiot populism can undo his apparently election-winning political ascendency. It is obvious from the opinion polls that the Julia Gillard Labor Government is ‘on the nose’ and faces the real likelihood of electoral defeat at the next election. But a surprising feature of the switch away from Labor is the continuing unpopularity of Abbott. The electorate seem to be inclined to lean towards the Coalition primarily because they dislike Labor’s policies particularly with respect to the carbon tax. The carbon tax will however be introduced and – despite the anguished hysterics of the irrational right – it will not have significant adverse economic impacts and, as Matthew Warren points out in the AFR today (subscription required, page 79), the decarbonisation of Australian industry is already occurring and will continue over the rest of this century irrespective of who rules in Canberra. Claims that a carbon tax will cause significant economic damages are lies by interest groups and fact-free fantasies by unscrupulous right wing think tank groups and their intellectually bankrupt hangers on.
Given a reasonable level of rationality in the electorate this gives the Gillard government a small chance of at least significantly cutting into the Labor revival. The Coalition’s policy on climate change is simply daft, its opposition to the Malaysian offshore processing solution is opportunistic as is the claim it would reverse policies requiring use of pre-commitment technology in relation to poker machine gambling. There is substantial community concern with respect to all three of these issues despite a majority shift against the carbon tax. All in all its not a pretty picture for the longer-term viability of conservative politics in Australia and could be the reason that the more mature political conservatives, such as Peter Reith, continue to urge Abbott to offer something positive in the policy mix – for example with respect to industrial relations. If the Liberals do win the next Federal election one can anticipate opposition to Abbott from within his party as well as an ongoing community perception that he is a gib opportunist who is not really on top of the issues that matter to many Australians.
Update: Laura Tingle in the AFR makes very similar points. Quote re Abbott: “But two years is a long time to get away with being such a negative, opportunistic and hollow man.” This is how the dwarf-throwers at Catallaxy see this Tingle article. I guess it is predictable that these mental midgets go into overdrive in defending someone like Abbott.