LEAP OF FAITH
WILL VOTERS BUY THE NEW TONY ABBOTT?
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
WORDS PAUL TOOHEY
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