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Only Abbott can hope to fill Molan’s shoes for the Libs

21 January 2023 121 views No Comment


Despite some opposition to the move in Liberal circles, given the current political situation Tony Abbott would be an excellent replacement for the much-lamented Jim Molan in the Senate.

Previously a fine major general in the Australian Army, Molan was an extremely capable and straight-shooting conservative Liberal senator for NSW.

Molan’s untimely death has created a five-year upper house vacancy for the Liberals in NSW, which has to be filled by a current member of the Liberal Party.

This important political position will be decided by the 750-member Liberal Party state council.

This week, conservative powerbroker Michael Kroger, a two-term Victorian Liberal president, argued in The Australian that there could be no better candidate than the former Liberal prime minister to help the poorly performing federal opposition.

Kroger unambiguously claimed that “Tony Abbott is ­arguably the most successful ­opposition leader during my lifetime and his depth of experience would be a major benefit for the new opposition.”

The energetic Abbott has a proven capacity to be extremely effective in opposition.

These skills would be especially helpful when the Coalition is facing extremely challenging times in countering the Labor government, led by the currently popular Anthony Albanese

But there needs to be a groundswell of opinion for Abbott to be drafted to fill the Liberals’ NSW Senate vacancy

In the next election, Labor’s greatest vulnerability will be on energy policy. Right now, many members of the public seem happy to go along with achieving net zero, and putting emission reduction ahead of a reliable and affordable power supply. But this will certainly change as soon as the closure of more coal-fired power stations leads to potential rationing, the closures of heavy industry and, most likely, blackouts.

As Abbott proved with the campaign against the carbon tax, there’s no politician better than him to get Australian citizens focused on the downsides of ALP government policy. As a former industrial relations minister, he’s also well placed to talk to business about the damage of Labor’s return to 1970s-style union control of workplace conditions.

After the bitter disappointments of the Turnbull-Morrison years, Abbott’s brand is big enough to persuade donors to again unlock their wallets, and to persuade conservative voters who might be tempted to flirt with One Nation to give the Coalition another chance.

Of course, there’s a challenge for Peter Dutton here. Is the current Opposition Leader a big enough politician and a secure enough leader to welcome into federal parliamentary ranks this year someone who’s as imposing a political figure as he is?

Dutton’s readiness to do so would certainly help to indicate that he has the strength of character and magnanimity to make a capable PM should the Coalition manage to win the next election. But to have any chance of doing so, the opposition needs to have in its ranks someone with Abbott’s unusual mix of public stature and political pugnacity.

One of the reasons Molan was such a standout, in a parliament full of former political staffers, was that he brought a lifetime of real-world experience and high achievement to the affairs of state.

By virtue of his long ministerial experience and serious thinking about public life, Abbott would be one of the very few potential ­replacements who would be at least his equal.

As always with a former MP seeking to re-enter public life, there will be some who say that “he’s had his turn and his time has passed”. Although he sought to enter the Senate, where he wouldn’t have been a leadership threat, rather than the House of Representatives, former leader of the Nationals John Anderson fell foul of factional enmity before the last federal election.

Instead of a former deputy PM offering once more to serve his party and the country, the Nationals picked someone who, so far at least, has risen without trace.

Surely the NSW Libs are not so consumed with factionalism as to make the same mistake.

Our federal parliament is not so richly adorned with the best and brightest that it can afford to be without people of character and substance prepared to make the sacrifices public life requires.

Ross Fitzgerald is Emeritus Professor of History and Politics at Griffith University.

The Weekend Australian, January 21-22, 2023, Commentary p 13.

We need Abbott

Ross Fitzgerald (“Only Abbott can hope to fill Molan’s shoes for the Libs”, 21-22/1) writes how some might say “he’s had his turn and his time has passed”. Mere months before the outbreak of World War II, a huge anonymous poster appeared in the Strand, London, asking “What price Churchill?”. Winston Churchill had been in the political wilderness for a decade. But Churchill returned and saved Western civilisation.

Right now, Australia is facing an existential threat. The country needs Tony Abbott. Churchill was only included in the government as Germany invaded Poland. So we might well now ask: What price Abbott?

Michael Schwartz, Doncaster, Vic

The Australian, January 23, 2023, p 10.

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