Tuesday, 10 February 2015

What a "Weak" For Abbott

One of the more genuine moments from the ABC broadcast of the spill earlier this morning was Chris Uhlmann's observation that Tony Abbott was "weak" because he issued a statement rather than doing a press conference immediately after the spill. Uhlmann made the remarks in an uncharacteristically critical moment as the news of Abbott's refusal to do a press conference was beamed into his ear by a producer. The news led to a flurry of speculation from the other panelists, who perhaps naively suggested that he may be planning to resign. Once everyone regained their composure (and their marbles) the discussion inevitably turned to comparisons between Gillard and Abbott in their handling of spills for the leadership.

Julia Gillard's leadership was stalked from go to wo. Kevin Rudd and his supporters relentlessly undermined her Prime Ministership and sought to make the difficult task of running a stable minority government nigh impossible. On top of a infamously hostile media, it does speak to Julia Gillard's character that she managed to stay in the Prime Ministership for as long as she did. What also spoke to her character was the way that she handled spill motions. Before and after party meetings, Gillard was defiant. After each spill, she would immediately call a press conference, giving journalists in attendance the opportunity to grill her about the happenings. During these conferences, she was steely in the face of criticism. She gave insight into the strong and capable person she is and was always defiant in the face of leadership tensions. There were no concessions. There was no grovelling. When she said "we're going back to governing" you felt she meant it.

Contrast this with Tony Abbott. Before the spill motion today, he was grovelling. 16 months into his government and the best he had to give to the media was that "we [the Liberal Party] are not the Labor Party". Prior to the party meeting, it is believed he reversed the decision to have ADF submarines built in Japan to secure votes from the South Australian members of the party room. His public appearances and the information being leaked by back benchers indicated that Abbott's campaign to keep his job reeked of desperation and weakness. This was confirmed by his reaction after the party room meeting, when he decided to opt out of a press conference immediately after (delaying it four hours) and instead gave a statement to a camera in his office. He was rightly criticised by Chris Uhlmann as weak.

The general consensus has it that Tony Abbott is a rough-and-tumble, hardened political warrior and that Julia Gillard was a disorganised and chaotic Prime Minister who was too weak to handle the job. It is somewhat ironic that, in the face of difficulty, they each proved to be the exact opposite.

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