Last week the opposition leader, Tony Abbott, again found himself in an uncomfortable situation regarding his surroundings. On a routine political visit to a factory he was photographed, wearing the de rigeur bright yellow vest and safety goggles, while being shown around the manufacturing operations. The interesting part of the photo was not Mr Abbott or his host, however, it was the pornographic calendar hanging behind him on a locker which raised eyebrows and questions. The Murdoch-owned news.com site which ran the photo the next day strategically placed the word ‘oops!’ over the explicit part of the image.
The standard response was quick in coming: Mr Abbott labelled the photo ‘unbelievably tacky’ and while not personally blaming his staff, official channels suggested that they were to blame as they should have been through the factory beforehand and removed anything inappropriate.
This is not the first time this line has been used in Abbott’s defence. There was his stunned mullet response to the Channel 7 ambush interview with the “shit happens” video back in February, when his staff apparently had a couple of hours notice of the interview and its content but failed to warn their boss. Then there was Abbott’s appearance in March at the anti-carbon tax rally in May when he was photographed and filmed speaking in front of some highly offensive placards referring to, and depicting, the Prime Minister. Again, his staff were blamed for not removing the offensive signs before Mr Abbott took the stage.
There is a pattern emerging here. Either the Leader of the Opposition has the most incompetent staff in Canberra, in which case, one wonders, why are they still there; or his staff are doing the best they can under the circumstances. Those circumstances being a boss who does not listen, who opens his mouth before engaging his brain and who does not consider the consequences of his actions.
The role of the Opposition Leader is to present his or herself as the alternative Prime Minister. Ideally this should be accompanied by a sound and reasonable alternative policy platform and the presentation of a public persona of good judgement. Tony Abbott shows neither of these indicators. Increasingly, he is revealing himself to be only interested in one thing: power, and for this, the end justifies the means. There is no discernible policy platform, only a few blundered economic statements and stonewall opposition to government policy; and his public persona is certainly not one of good judgement.
The Gillard government is not a strong one, the PM’s own leadership lacks decisiveness and direction and her judgement is certainly questionable. However, in its first year of office, this tenuous government passed 191 pieces of legislation without a single rejection, despite the background noise from the Opposition. Tony Abbott lacks the substance and style to become prime minister and this latest episode, trivial though it may seem, is just another indication that this man is prepared to compromise anything to grab power. But then, what?