Tony Abbott’s announcement of his new shadow cabinet today proves more than I ever dared imagine just how much he wants to lead the party that used to be in government – specifically, the party that was turfed out the last time. If he really thinks this marks the change from a government in exile to being a true opposition, he’s half right. He is bringing back as much as he can of the Howard cabinet which really does make them an exiled government, but an opposition is all they will ever be with this front bench.
Climate change deniers (I refuse to call them sceptics – to be a sceptic, you have to have some evidence or lack of evidence on your side, not just say, “I don’t think so,” and deride those who accept the science) Nick Minchin and Barnaby Joyce have been given the portfolios of Resources and Energy and Finance respectively. This move is an unmistakable signal that the Abbott Liberal Party’s position on climate change is one that would make the Howard government look positively.... well, liberal. Former leader Malcolm Turnbull has already labelled Abbott’s position as “bullshit.”
And the Shadow Minister for Seniors is Bronwyn Bishop, who crashed and burned in the similar portfolio of Aged Care over the kerosene baths affair. Abbott says they are going to give the government the fright of its life. An unnamed Labor MP was quoted as saying, “Now I know how the Libs felt when we elected Mark Latham as leader!”
It’s always been claimed that there are no factions in the Liberal party and Tony Abbott repeated that claim today. That’s clearly bullshit too. There are just no official factions. Rumour is that many moderate Liberals are annoyed with this pull to the right. It suggests that if a spill were moved this week (and why not? They had two in as many weeks), Abbott could lose. It would only take one changed vote.
Of course, part of the opposition’s job is to provide an alternative and there’s no denying that this is an alternative. Continuing to smoke is an alternative to giving up too. What’s needed is a desirable alternative. Abbott’s opportunistic appeal to hard right elements in the party who think the Libs had gone wishy-washy is not going to win the party any votes that they wouldn’t have gotten anyway.