September 23, 2011

Abbott in a Zegna suit?


Shaun Carney’s recount today of former Treasurer Howard sending Treasurer Keating a congratulationary note on becoming the world’s greatest treasurer, caused me to ponder what sort of Opposition Leader Keating would’ve been.While no more than a fantastical imagining, I can’t help think he’d be more in the Abbott mould than the Turnbull one.

Because, when you think back, is there any other modern Australian politician who was more singularly negative in pursuit of their political quarry than Keating was?

My memory is a little dusty but I can’t recall Keating employing the Howard/Rudd tactic of agreeing with the other side’s policies when they had merit. Putting aside that this was a tactic to emphasise the points of difference, I can only remember Keating going for the jugular every time.

While Keating had more rhetorical flair to his parliamentary jibes, he never pulled his punches. Andrew Peacock was the soufflé that wouldn’t rise twice; John Hewson was the feral abacus who’d be done slowly; Alexander Downer was ole darlin’ and the salmon who jumps on the hook for you; and John Howard was a miserable political carcass.

Would Keating have traipsed into misogyny to score a few points? Maybe. The PM who implemented a number of progressive policies for women, was nevertheless known to universally address them as darl’ and sweetheart.

Would he mercilessly court the media to support his policies to the exclusion of all others? Well, yes, because that’s exactly what he did. There was nary a journalist or news organisation that did not support his tilt against Bob Hawke, his destruction of Hewson and the Fightback package, and his ill-fated run against Howard.

Would Keating have abandoned ALP philosophies and overturned public promises to get back the political advantage? Of course! Do the sale of the Commonwealth Bank or “L.A.W. tax cuts” ring a bell?

As astute political observer Malcolm Farnworth said recently on a related topic,

… politics in 2011 may be lively but it barely rates against some of the great upheavals in our history. Those who see the nation beset by crisis really should do some reading.

Perhaps the same observation applies to our perception of Tony Abbott as the most negative politician to have ever walked Australia’s democratic stage.

Join the conversation! 4 Comments

  1. I think what Farnsworth misses is that the political class is in much deeper crisis at present because they have become so detached from any serious social base. So Abbott’s negativity is also tied up with an almost incoherent right-wing populism because he cannot rely on mobilising a stable voter base with the usual methods.

    This is making the political class nervous because using normal democratic channels to manage discontent has become less of an option — I think this is Robert Manne’s worry.

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  2. Keating was undoubtedly a very negative politician, but at least he had policies and a vision of where he wanted to take Australia. Abbott has the same feral negativity but not much else.

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    • I certainly agree that Keating had policy depth, I still can’t help but wonder whether he would have employed the same tactic of keeping the policies back until closer to the election and just causing merry havoc through negativitiy in the meantime. D

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  3. Nice post Drag0nista. Nice comment Dr_Tad. The Libs under JohnW seemed to lose their Australian-ness and become Obamaland style Republicans, running similar game plan, pushing Trickle-Down Reaganomics, fear-threats and security, courting religion, even odd-ones, like the deluded brethren.

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