Wanted: A leader who’s actually up to the job
Watching Prince Charles potter around Australia this week, it struck me that he’s got quite a bit in common with opposition leader Tony Abbott.
They both perform well in front of the cameras: charming, crooked smiles; friendly, if slightly goofy demeanours.
But when it comes time to open their mouths: Blah. Blah. Blah.
For Prince Charles, I suppose one needn’t concern oneself.
As absurd as it might seem to some of us, he will one day reign over the Commonwealth and Australia despite what he says or he does or he believes.
Oh to be so lucky, eh Mr Abbott?
It’s another matter entirely when you need to step out of today’s photo opp and woo voters with clever ideas and alternative plans to improve the lives of those you hope to rule.
Increasingly, Mr Abbott does not seem up to the job. In fact, he looks a bit of a dill.
On Friday, the opposition leader was repeatedly asked by Today host Lisa Wilkinson about how he would bring down energy prices “beyond taking off the carbon tax”.
It’s a fair question given Mr Abbott claims energy prices have risen 89 per cent since Kevin Rudd took office, and his well-documented plan to axe the carbon tax would reduce household power bills by just 10 per cent.
But beyond bleating about the carbon tax, he couldn’t answer the question.
Over and over – he couldn’t answer the question.
Which led Wilkinson to eventually surmise: “Well I have to take it that you don’t have a plan – unless you’re going to put one forward it doesn’t look like you’ve got a plan.”
A couple of weeks back, respected political commentator Niki Savva wrote in The Australian about Mr Abbott’s lacklustre leadership, with complaints reportedly increasing among Liberal frontbenchers over the centralisation of power and advice in the Coalition chief’s office.
“The criticisms have become louder and are more widespread,” Savva wrote, adding, “One frontbencher described Abbott’s office as ‘constipated’, another as ‘rigid’.”
I can only imagine what those frontbenchers were saying after Mr Abbott’s Today show performance on Friday.
If the US election taught us anything, it was this: bagging the current regime without articulating your own policies will not get you across the line come polling day.
For four years, the Republicans were as unconstructive as possible, determined to limit Barack Obama to a single term and shout their way back into the Oval Office.
In the end it just didn’t wash with voters outside the core conservative base, despite continuing economic gloom and millions of Americans remaining out of work.
Mr Abbott was apparently focussed enough on the US presidential race to tell Lisa Wilkinson that Australians do not want to see the “nasty, personal side” of the American election campaign mirrored here.
I couldn’t agree more on that score – and shame on federal Labor MPs if they continue to ramp up the Abbott-hates-women rant.
But surely the best way for Mr Abbott to combat a negative personality campaign is to ignore it, while focussing on his own positive agenda and fresh policies that resonate across Australia.
Therein lies the problem.
During his victory address on Wednesday (and it’s a pity our own Prime Minister can’t sound this passionate unless she’s talking about sexism), President Obama said: “Tonight you voted for action, not politics as usual.
“You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours. And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together.”
I know it’s rhetoric that probably won’t (and can’t) be matched with reality.
But I bet more than just a few Aussies wished it could happen here.
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