Interesting reads, both, however it’s worth noting that while Kelly’s position identifies Turnbull for what reads like all the right reasons, Pearson identifies Abbott on the somewhat flawed basis that he believes Abbott to be someone which hasn’t yet displayed the traits he lauds to the public at large.
As Paul Keating stated rather eruditely, Abbott is too much like Howard. He seems to be one of the last to recognise and admit that the Howardian era, especially the last 18 months thereof, was fraught with errors. Stubborn, ideologically wrong-headed errors. To my mind, Turnbull is far and away the more polished performer and has grown in stature markedly since attaining Ministerial status. Turnbull is a realist, non-ideological and far more socially oriented than Abbott can ever hope to be. It’s also unlikely that Turnbull will suffer from the foot-in-mouth disease which has constantly afflicted Abbott throughout his career on the frontbenches..
Pearson, to me, doesn’t seem to grasp the importance of abandoning anything to do with the Howardian era, striking out in a new, more progressive and right-of-center position as opposed to the jackbooted attitudes displayed by the Howard government throughout it’s reign. Abbott is central to those attitudes, both in industrial relations and in health, even though he did put forward the model for federal government owning the public hospital issue. The fact that he allowed himself to be slapped down, and cowered to Howard’s position doesn’t sit well with the new style change which is now an absolute necessity if Liberal Party values are to be re-worked into something plausible. This lack of real understanding is borne out, as Pearson writes…
“Abbott is an accomplished parliamentarian. In attack and effective mockery he’s second only to Costello. He’s quick on his feet and has the capacity for forensic detail. When the occasion calls for it, he can speak movingly. By contemporary political standards, he is well read and the author of two books.
Abbott is capable of sympathetic engagement with people from backgrounds different from his and wry remarks at his own expense. The weekend firefighting with his local brigade, which he downplays, and the annual Polly Pedal, cycling great distances to raise money for charity, suggest a man middle Australia can warm to. These are important attributes in public life and attest not just to attainments but to character.”
Two diametrically opposed personality assessments. The attack-dog bover-boy persona which might play well during the theatre of Question Time doesn’t sit well alongside the caring, sharing, push-bike riding, volunteer firefighting, community spirited politician. As Mark Latham proved, you can be one, but not both, so which is it Tony Abbott really is?
To my mind, you can’t take the pugalist out of the brawler, nor can you make a silk politician out of a sow’s ideological in-fighter. It’s Turnbull, for mine, and for all the reasons Paul Kelly so clearly points out.