The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - FRONT PAGE -

IN the red cor­ner stands Kevin Rudd, con­ser­va­tive man of strong re­li­gious con­vic­tion. In the blue cor­ner stands Tony Ab­bott, con­ser­va­tive man of strong re­li­gious con­vic­tion. Stand­ing be­tween them, ref­er­ee­ing, are peo­ple who con­sider God to be less rel­e­vant than at any time in the his­tory of this na­tion. Yet it some­times feels like the state and the church have be­come one.

“Yeah,” says Ab­bott, “but I don’t bring re­li­gion into the square the way Rudd did and does. I am Catholic. I’ve al­ways taken my re­li­gion se­ri­ously, even though I have strug­gled many times in vain to live up to its ideals. I do not re­gard my­self as a Chris­tian politi­cian. I re­gard my­self as a politi­cian who just hap­pens to think re­li­gion mat­ters. I would be ap­palled, ab­so­lutely ap­palled, to think re­li­gion drove any­one’s pol­i­tics in a sec­u­lar democ­racy like ours.” Ab­bott says his party never has, and never will, have an im­age of God wa­ter­marked on their bal­lot slips.

Ab­bott is mov­ing about the coun­try, vis­it­ing the troops, both the cam­ou­flaged kind and the party faith­ful, sell­ing the mes­sage that while sur­viv­ing the fi­nan­cial cri­sis made Rudd look good, the tri­fecta of low in­ter­est rates, high wages and low prices will not last. Doom is


PIC­TURE AMOS AIK­MAN not sexy but Ab­bott says: “Our job is to get the pub­lic to un­der­stand that the Rudd Gov­ern­ment is mak­ing their sit­u­a­tion worse.” Things, he says, can “de def­i­nitely get worse for La­bor” over com­ing months. “We can win. It won’t be easy. I’m not say­ing it’s likely, but it is pos­si­ble. I don’t go to the races of­ten enough to be much good when it comes to odds. We are not a 50-50 chance, but we are not a rank out­sider ei­ther.”

Ab­bott has not had to rein­vent him­self for the role of leader. It would not be his style to be­come toned-down Tony and, be­sides, no one would buy it from a man who comes to the lead­er­ship as an al­ready fully formed politi­cian. But nor is he ad­ver­tis­ing his be­lief that di­vorce is too easy and abor­tion is ab­hor­rent.

If it is cor­rect that peo­ple find Ab­bott phys­i­cally ap­peal­ing, a bit like they do Obama, the ques­tion re­mains whether women in par­tic­u­lar like tra­di­tion­al­val­ues Ab­bott. “I’m not go­ing to get into this is­sue be­cause that was then and now is now. My po­si­tion is well known and it hasn’t changed. I just ob­serve that my view, Kevin Rudd’s view and (NSW Premier) Kristina Ke­neally’s view are all sim­i­lar, and yet jour­nal­ists aren’t in­ter­ro­gat­ing Kevin Rudd and Kristina Ke­neally

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