Palaszczuk shows Abbott how it's done


Annastacia Palaszczuk

So, Queensland is to have a new government. Its new premier, the first woman ever to win leadership from the diminished benches of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, a ‘nonentity’ whose winning was not considered even probable by those who write opinion columns in Murdoch newspapers. 

Yet her party has been triumphant after an incandescently self-confident three year reign of Campbell Newman, who also lost his seat. This woman with a ‘foreign’ name will lead: a plain-spoken, modest-campaigner, reasonable and assured winner of her Dad’s old seat just eight years before. 

Why? The swings were wild but ubiquitous. There would be those who didn’t like losing community services, public servants, public ownership of Queensland, or dreaded the planned befouling of the Great Barrier Reef, though not enough of them to matter (they vote Green). 

Quite possibly, there would have been some who heard Fitzgerald plead that they note and act against the rising tide of nepotism, corruption and cosy deals between government and the privately rich and powerful in the Moonlight state. And there will be those who just don’t like being lied to or hectored.

PM Tony Abbott had done his bit for Queensland. Federal issues counted in this state election. Just five days before polling day Her Majesty’s obsequiously loyal Prime Minister made his Captain’s Pick in the Australia Day honours, appointing Her Majesty’s consort the Duke of Edinburgh to be an Australian knight. ‘Twas greeted universally with disbelief and laughter. Defence Minister Kevin Andrews was the only man willing to defend the act. It had been, the disappointed LNP said after the Poll results, merely a diversion. 

I think it was more. It was provocative. It was a great over-reaching act of a self-described man of power: it showed the country the character of the man.

Abbott’s act went down so ill that Australian-born media baron, Rupert Murdoch, by twitter instructed his wooden-eared Prime Minister to sack his chief of staff, or that Peta Credlin herself should do her patriotic duty and resign, not that she had been consulted: one must punish the nearest powerful woman when men behave like boys. 

Let us compare how Abbott, at his political nadir, is treated by the media and his political colleagues, with Julia Gillard. The irony.

After just 15 months of disastrous, unexpected, hamfisted decisions – from a bizarre budget that sought to break pre-election promises from no changes to pensions and schools funding, no cuts to legal aid, the ABC or SBS, but a calm and measured rule of openness and responsibility – to slashing community services and legal aid, reducing access to disability support pensions to ‘fund the NDIS’ for a tiny number of people, defunding community legal services and disability advocacy groups.

Yet Gillard was damned from pillar to post on every move she made, while being ruthlessly undermined by Rudd and his supporters, from the moment she succeeded Rudd. Each mis-step and mistake was a catastrophe: every personality trait, a flaw. 

Abbott’s central attack on Gillard was on her lack of trustworthiness. He did not mind association with sexist attacks: he provoked a magnificent 'misogyny' speech from Gillard which will go down to the ages. Yet he loyally defends Peta Credlin against her critics and sees the sexism in it. 

Tony Abbott does not want to be loved: he wants respect and lacks it. After 15 months of tripping over his own tongue, despite wins on carbon tax and a vicious assault on asylum seekers to ‘stop the boats’, even his own backbenchers are revolting. 

Yet nobody wants his job. He has no Rudd to contend with. There is none in his own pack that hates the very sound of his voice, his clothes, his hair style, or even his presence. There were plenty that did, of Gillard.  From the moment she succeeded Rudd in 2010 she was mercilessly attacked from opposite and undermined from within. Yet having contributed to coalition losses in Victoria, Queensland and even the SA by-election, Tony Abbott’s reign is not really under threat. 

Though he has half apologised for the old knight, and said that the ‘difficult’ result in Queensland holds lessons for all governments, including his own, by the following day his spokesman, Queensland senator and Attorney General George Brandis blustered under friendly questioning for an hour that there was nothing to learn from the Queensland rout, but that governments must be strong and brave enough to do what is right for its people. 

Abbott is still the king, but there’s a Damoclean sword above his head. He has craved respect, and lost it. He’s made so much of his personal leadership and the unwisdom of changing horses in mid stream. Yet confidence in him has plummeted within the party and in the polls. Neither Turnbull nor Bishop wants that throne. Bishop would be a fool to take it, and suffer death by a thousand cuts, like Gillard. Brough and Morrison hover in the wings. All must learn that the right to rule has to be earned, every day, from the people. 

Moira RaynerMoira Rayner is a barrister and writer. 



Topic tags: Moira Rayner, Tony Abbott, Annastacia Palaszczuk, Rupert Murdoch, Peta Credlin, Tony Fitzgerald



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Existing comments

Ah yes, Morrison. We thought that no one could be worse than Howard, then we got Abbott. Now we think that no one could be worse than Abbott. Will we now get Morrison?
Ginger Meggs | 02 February 2015

Just look at the state Qld is in, an hour behind the southern states picking up things doing a chore. No wonder we changed the government to put another one in for sure.
Len Heggarty | 02 February 2015

Beautiful piece of writing. Brutally honest. Women still suffer in Politics. Overseas people could not understand the way Gillard was treated here. On Abbott, when you say "There is none in his own pack that hates ......., or even his presence please also add, 'his blue tie'. His Ignorance at G20, 'hard to imagine this place was all bush before 1788' what an INSULT to the indigenous. G20 Obama had to point out the devastation to the Grt Barrier Reef thru dredging. Our own Aust PM doesn't think so. Or maybe money speaks another languageonly heis priviledged enough to understand ???
Nara_Maree | 02 February 2015

Moira got it wrong when she said that not enough people voted Green to matter. Green preferences went to the ALP and in many seats it was Green preferences that got the Labor candidate across the line.
Peter Hanley | 03 February 2015

Thank you Moira for yet another articulate contribution which (to my mind) cuts to the core of the issue...respect must be earned not demanded or expected and perpetuating a class based society where the very wealthy are pandered to and the rest of us are treated with contempt is guaranteed to alienate the very people whose respect you desire.
Angela | 03 February 2015

"[Abbott] did not mind association with sexist attacks." ... do you mean that "Ditch the Witch" poster put up at a rally behind him without his knowledge? He issued a statement that very night saying he regretted the language of those protesters and did not endorse offensive signs at the rally. As opposed to Julia Gillard, who failed to apologise or take responsibility for the Australia Day riot, orchestrated against Tony Abbott from her very office. Double standards?
HH | 03 February 2015

Sound assessment of recent Australian politics. Rudd - Gillard - Rudd, Beatty, Bligh, Newman and now Abbott have all been disastrous. I reckon the time has come to appoint a bloody gum tree to run the country - it would at least embody the true Australian spirit.
john frawley | 03 February 2015

The leader of the Queensland Labor Party copied Tony Abbott. She was certainly no model for him. She adopted the same "small target' as he projected as Leader of the Federal opposition. Apart from telling the electorate what she would not do, privatise assets, her party was bereft of anything resembling a policy. Quo Vadis? Will she make the transition from opposition to government better than the P.M.? For Queensland's sake let us hope and pray so.
grebo | 03 February 2015

Moira - great & lucid summary of demise of C Newman, rise of A Palaszczuk & plight of T Abbott. I only differ on PM's job - not like Rudd's removal, but it is not far off. Mr Turnbull wants PM job badly, but someone like Mal Brough will call for partyroom spill of LP leader. All media after spill will cover up bad PR & T Abbott will get a senior ministry. All in hand as I type & orchestrated by R Murdoch. PS Annastacia Palaszczuk should be a good premier & leader as she is what C Newman was not, BASICALLY HONEST.
John Cronin, Toowoomba Q | 03 February 2015

Great article, on the whole, but I agree with Peter, Greens preferences and those who would like to vote Green but voted Labor pragmatically does matter. I question too the comment about funding the NDIS for "a tiny number of people", people matter no matter how many or not there are, a better wording could have been used. Otherwise, fair comment all round.
Jennifer Herrick | 03 February 2015

Lovely sense of Justice in the current drama. Julia Gillard was most unfairly treated. I think it is simplistic to judge my fellow citizens as acting like teenage boys; lacking the lacking the maturity to behave decently. The attack on Gillard was motivated by keeping the established order in place.
Mike Pauly | 03 February 2015

Queensland has always been a renegade and unpredictable state. Campbell Newman got what he deserved due to his "bombastic" arrogance. It is ludicrous to assume Queenslanders were affected by Federal Government shenanigins. The problem was self-created by Newman without any help from the Feds. To assume a newly appointed premier can magically solve all Queensland's unique problems is "pie-in-the-sky" thinking. Let's see how she looks after 18 months in the job. Yesterday surprised many in the audience at the Press Club The PM looked like - spoke like -and acted like a Prime Minister. Before we crucify him with words let's see him in action. He has only been in office for a little over 12 months. Labour is in denial over the substantial debt they accumulated and are doing all they can to downplay their disasters and to obstruct a government that inherited them. They need time We have a society that has been "on the pigs back" for too long. Like Greece, no one wants to face up to the reality of austerity measures. "Welcome to the real world Australia." We are only just managing to pay $1billion a month to pay off current debt. Lets face reality for once. We can still be the nation we are.meant to be but we need to change our mindset from a Welfare State.
white knight | 03 February 2015

As an ex-patriate Australian resident the UK it distresses me a great deal to see the clown Abbott make a laughing stock of my country
joan thomas | 03 February 2015

I find it strange, belittling and insulting that people denigrate politicians e.g. fall over themselves to attack the PM or anyone for that matter with very little to back up their so-called indignation and lots of jingoism. Instead of focussing on a knighthood (after all both sides love their AOs and we often honour outstanding overseas awardees) lets focus on being a truthful, deeper and compassionate society where proverty, jobs growth, DV and homelessness garner all attention. It's not dignifying to follow the so-called intelligentsia nor media who rapidly condemn but cant seem to honour our roots nor HRH Prince Phillips contributions. After all 800 Australians were also rightfully honoured on Aust. day for rolling their sleeves up and caring for others. Shame on us for being so petty and quick to condemn. More energy in building up than tearin down! Cheers.
Peter Devenish-Meares | 03 February 2015

I don't believe in political back & forth arguments about LNP vs ALP in Qld can solve any real issues. However, from my very own personal experience and from my ongoing work-related legal case (I am an ex Qld public servant), I can say that the past Cambpell Newman-led government was corrupt. My legal case (at big $$s cost to my family) is ongoing & sub-judice, so I cannot say any more.
John Cronin, Toowoomba Q | 04 February 2015

I note that our comments should be 'respectful' (that's interesting). What a calm, factually rich, balanced political analysis from Ms Rayner. No overlay of emotive, political or gender based invective. Wow! I must keep an eye out for more of Moira's calm words of wisdom.
Ambrose | 04 February 2015

The 'mysogyny speech' resonated with many as a welcome, powerful and articulate rejection of misogyny. The difficulty I have is that its target, the hapless Tony Abbott , is not a misogynist. For falsely labelling him such, he deserves an apology from Julia Gillard.
patrick wright | 05 February 2015

Any argy-bargie over whether Tony is a misogynist or where he should be the Minister for Women is irrelevant in the light of at least one third of the new Queensland Government being women. How many women will be a part of any Abbott Government come the horrific prospect of another Abbott term of Office? Julie might even lose her seat!
Col Jennings | 05 February 2015


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