Left should beware Tony Abbott’s war on wankers
A lot of my comrades on the Left of politics are walking around as if the ascension of Tony Abbott is an early Christmas present, but I’m not so sure.
While some see the rise of the Mad Monk as the Tory version of Latham’s 2004 election car crash, I think the risk is we are gearing up for a re-run of the 1999 Republic referendum.
That was the ballot where Abbott, as executive director of the ‘No’ vote managed to convince battlers to keep the Queen as Head of State because the alternative would be to have the nation run by a bunch of wankers - like Malcolm Turnbull. A decade later and the Left is still coming to terms with the anti-elite backlash that the Republic Referendum – and arguably the 2001 Tampa election – unleashed.
And my growing concern is that a similar dynamic is at play with the climate change debate, now chrystalised into a meaningless acronym, the ETS.
Take this exchange with a Labor-voting cabbie last week:
“Bloody Rudd and his ETS – all he’s going to do is increase power prices; the poor pensioners won’t be able to afford it. And who says we need to pay more? Bloody scientists, that’s who. What would they know – all they’ve ever done is gone to uni”.
These sentiments show the fertile ground an Abbott scare campaign on the ETS has to work with: not just the personal cost embodied in the mantra ‘a new tax’; but the backlash against people from uni telling us what to do.
While Kevin Rudd and Penny Wong refer to the expert advice; Abbott will not engage on the science – he will go after the scientific community as ideologically driven tossers working in league with the phoneys from Canberra.
And for those who want action, he will unleash the nuclear bogey – saying if you are serious about clean energy you will embrace a proven ‘clean energy’ source.
Again this will unleash a backlash from those (like me) who have spent decades opposing nuclear energy, which Abbott will anger dismiss as concerns of the latte drinking set (even though I’m a double mac man).
Can the Coalition prosecute a climate change campaign on ordinary folks verses the elites?
Polling conducted over the last week by Essential Research shows Abbott has a little to work with.
By running the centre line, Rudd and Labor have failed to garner widespread support. In fact, given the choice between Labor’s ETS, the Greens coal denial approach and Abbott’s climate change denial, Abbott is the most popular – apart from the perennial winner in this debate ‘Don’t Know’
With the seismic shift in the political landscape, the big question now is how Labor will respond:
Option A would be to run an Australian Republic Movement style – ‘we know best’ – campaign, where scientific experts are lined up to stomp on the growing band of deniers. This approach will play into Abbott’s hands and could well be disastrous.
An Option B will be to take the time to explain the ETS and how it works (something that hadn’t happened to date) and show the economic benefits of moving first, especially around the creation of renewable industries. The problem is this requires patience and cut through in the face of sustained heckling,
Option C would be to match fear with fear – blame Abbott and Barnaby for the drought, for the destruction of the Barrier Reef, for every thunderstorm between now the next election. This story portrays the government as acting because the current economic base of carbon is unsustainable – ads like the coal mining union ran before the last federal lection illustrate how this can be done.
Finally Option D: would be to attack Abbott and the Tories head on and paraphrase the great Victor Richardson during the Bodyline series : “Which of you wankers are calling these wankers a wanker?” Under this scenario, Labor’s job would be to move the debate away from climate change and onto industrial relations, where Abbott’s determination to bring back WorkChoices clearly has him in the camp of the top-end of town.
Whichever path Labor takes, the Liberals have thrown the game wide open by appointing Tony Abbott leader – it’s now up to Labor to show the same diligent attitude to politics as they have been showing to policy over the past 12 months.
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