Tony Abbott – much to like, many reasons to doubt

There’s much to like about Tony Abbott. Almost everyone I’ve spoken to who has met him (I’ve known him slightly since my mid-1990s Sydney days) finds him to be engaging and affable. I find his internal struggles to reconcile his Catholicism with his political imperatives and personal desires interesting and even appealing. If other Liberals change their minds because they never believed in anything in the first place, Abbott sometimes seems to change his mind because he believes in too many things, which are competing for his loyalty.

But can things that make him attractive as a person make him successful as a Liberal leader? The pundits are saying he has trouble with women. Kerry O’Brien and Nic Economou both said this on the 7.30 Report tonight, Bernard Keane at Crikey said that he is ‘deeply unpopular with female voters due to his hardline and aggressive Catholicism’. But the evidence for this is thin. – the Newspoll this week in fact found that women voters preferred Abbott over Turnbull. We should not confuse the self-appointed feminist representatives of women with women voters. The Newspoll this week found that Abbott’s support was near identical between male and female voters.

Abbott is not a simple ideological conservative. His centralist views, for example, put him outside the conservative mainstream. In my criticism of his recent book Battlelines, I argued that the problem-solving approach he adopted as a Howard minister and still defends leads to a far larger and more interfering government than most people on the centre-right would prefer. However, this approach does reflect the Australian public’s approach to things. They want problems fixed. Continue reading “Tony Abbott – much to like, many reasons to doubt”