Style was wanting, but Tony Abbott’s substance is right

Style was wanting, but Tony Abbott’s substance is right, by Jennifer Oriel.

The reflexive rage against former prime minister Tony Abbott blinds the government to his ­constructive ideas.

Tony Abbott

The frontbench has rejected a suite of policy proposals pregnant with potential because Abbott crafted them. If refined, the proposals could propel the government from a sunset state into a period of policy renewal and coherence. …

The Liberals have all but ­ignored Abbott’s policy proposals and focused instead on style over substance. Their collective anger rests on two comments: that many people view the Liberals as “Labor lite”, and the government is drifting towards electoral defeat unless it changes course. It is on the ­second point that Abbott justifies the need for a policy reset. …

The policies Abbott suggested:

The first reform is aimed at making the legislative process more democratic. It is to change section 57 of the constitution so that legislation rejected twice by the Senate three months apart can go to a joint sitting without the need for a double dissolution election.

Subsequent reform proposals are to: freeze the RET; reduce ­immigration rates; avoid all new government spending while eliminating “frivolous” expenditure; withdraw funding for the Human Rights Commission so that responsibility for protecting liberties rests with the parliament, the courts and free press; maintain ­secure borders; promote beneficial free-trade agreements; and strengthen defence.

Polling:

In the first Newspoll this year support for the government plummeted to its lowest point since Turnbull took the leadership from Abbott in 2015. Labor is ahead of the Liberal coalition 54 to 46 in two-party preferred terms. The Turnbull government’s primary vote sits at 35 per cent. …

The real problem is the record 29 per cent of people polled who would decline to give first preferences to either major party. Given Pauline Hanson’s rising popularity and the Coalition’s sustained decline, it ­appears Liberals are bleeding ­voters on the Right flank.

A game-changing possibility:

It is unlikely the Liberals can recover the New Right, which has a counter-revolutionary outlook, unless they form a coalition with one of the emerging minor parties. Such a coalition might encourage the Liberals to adopt a drain-the-swamp strategy consistent with classical liberalism, which will appeal also to conservatives battling to end neo-Marxist corruption of public institutions.

The times they are a’changin:

The lesson both major parties should learn from their removal of sitting prime ministers is that the party does not know better than the people. Abbott was the right man, but before his time. Turnbull was the right man for the centrist era, but it is drawing to a close. The centre is holding, but it is no longer a centrist enterprise. A new order is emerging. It will be led by ­muscular conservatives, a counter-revolutionary mass, or some combination thereof.

he government should show maturity and give due ­respect to the policy brain that won it office — twice.