Leading article Australia

Lurching to the right

27 July 2013

9:00 AM

27 July 2013

9:00 AM

It’s the great irony of our times: Tony Abbott, derided as being an unpopular opposition leader, is in fact the most successful political leader our nation has had in recent years. Or to put it another way: having conned his way into office in 2007 by convincing voters that he was a trendier, touchy-feely version of John Howard, Kevin Rudd is now trying to trick his way back into office by pretending he is tougher than his conservative nemesis. Unable to find a single ‘progressive’ or social-democratic policy in his own or the Gillard government’s swagbag with which to mount a case for re-election, Mr Rudd has attempted to leapfrog to the right of the Coalition.

First came Labor party reforms purporting to weaken the political clout of the unions. Then came ‘terminating’ the carbon tax: could there be a more macho yet mendacious term to describe the relatively insignificant shifting of the ETS timetable? And finally, of course, he promised (again) to ‘stop the boats’. Putting aside the duplicity of the PNG deal, cobbled together on the back of a napkin in classic style, under which a non-binding and unenforceable arrangement is flogged (expensively) to the public in tough-guy language and graphics as a done deal, what this latest scam proves beyond any doubt is the Labor leader’s whole-hearted acceptance of the Abbott agenda.

Not only is Mr Rudd an emperor without clothes, he is desperately trying to steal Mr Abbott’s: sweats, fluoro vests, hard hats and all. Every move the Labor leader makes is an acknowledgement that the Liberal leader was right all along. To the pathetic acquiescence of the metropolitan sophisticates (see below), Mr Rudd has capitulated to Mr Abbott and the Coalition’s core principles and convictions, exposing his own hollowness and that of his party.

That is an acknowledgment on Mr Rudd’s part that he can’t win the election unless he separates himself from the albatross of his party’s left wing. After all, there aren’t enough feminists, public servants and do-gooders outside a Q&A audience to win an electoral majority. But it also demonstrates the power of Mr Abbott’s leadership. The public have clearly accepted as priorities the key planks of the Coalition’s agenda: the issue of asylum-seekers must be forcefully resolved; the carbon tax should be repealed; union power should be reined in.

Alone among recent political leaders of any party, Mr Abbott has demonstrated the wisdom of staying true to your principles. Whenever the usual suspects roar with approval at Labor’s resurgence, they are unwittingly applauding the political and philosophical superiority of their bête noire. Regardless of who is winning the daily news skirmishes as we march towards an election, it is Tony Abbott who has been victorious in defining the territory on which the final battles will be fought.

Where is the moral outrage?

Ever keen to facilitate public discourse over the perceived moral failings of our political class, we approached a bevvy of left-wing luminaries. Our proposition: would you, as a well-known humanitarian and vocal opponent of any and all of the John Howard-Philip Ruddock offshore processing and detention schemes, care to write a lead column this week expressing your outrage and unequivocal condemnation of Kevin Rudd’s PNG ‘solution’?

Imagine our surprise at the deafening silence that ensued. Much to our astonishment, it would appear that the rules change when it is Labor, rather than the Coalition, who are touting supposedly inhumane policies. Indeed, what was most perplexing was how easily hitherto vocal opponents of mandatory detention found themselves incapable of uttering even a single word of criticism against this latest idea, whereby asylum-seekers are not only denied access to the Australian legal system, but are sent off to our own Port Arthur-style convict settlement on remote Manus Island. Oh, the shame and horror to be an Australian?

What paralysing affliction has so comprehensively crippled the larynxes of the Left? Perhaps it’s something in the latte, or worse an outbreak of the highly contagious Burnside Syndrome that has seen the luvvies all struck mute. ‘Let’s face it,’ Julian Burnside QC tweeted last week, ‘the PNG arrangement is a shabby deal, but at least if [sic] might stop Scott (‘illegals’) Morrison becoming Immi Minister.’ Or as Robert Manne reportedly said at a writers’ festival: ‘I am not willing to fight for a cause — or not anyhow for this cause, if it’s going to help the Coalition.’ Sadly, it’s not only journalists and commentators, but also senior left-wing Labor politicians who rejected our invitation. No doubt should the Coalition prevail, these hypochondriac hypocrites will suddenly find their voices again.

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  • Robert Manne

    Tom, a number of left wing critics of Rudd’s PNG Solution have expressed their outrage, eg Davd Marr and Christine Milne in The Guardian. My position is more complex than theirs and is not remotely covered by the quote from a transcript I have not seen that has been selected here. However if The Spectator has found it difficult to get one of these people to contribute might it not be that there are other, more interesting places to write than in your pages, an impression only reinforced (while I was thinking about an invitation) with comments as superficial and partisan and disappointing as seen here ?

    • Peter Cosgrove

      Robert Manne aka Bob Humbug

  • simon

    Unfortunately we see with Robert Manne the typical dismissive evasion of the obvious strategy used by the left – ‘you are unworthy of my debate due to your partisanship’.

    Yet, shamefully these outspoken critics of the Liberal Party have shown their hypocrisy by remaining silent at the actions of the ALP. The irony that Manne has the gall to accuse you of partisan comments would be lost somewhere in his estimation of his self-worth. Trely debate has been lost when our so called intellectuals refuse to speak anywhere but an echo chamber.

  • Kim Sinclair

    I have tried to imagine how things would look if Rudd was leader of the LNP. The intelligentsia along with the love media would be beside themselves. There would be ripped shirt protests and moralizing intellectuals on every TV station. The team is what matters not the policy. The left have proven themselves to be morally corrupt yet present themselves to be the ones with the big hearts.