Sunday, 16 October 2016

Tony Watch (4)

Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott slowly inching his way towards political center stage......

Using the one step forward, two steps back method of advancing. 

The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 October 2016:

Tony Abbott's world tour arrived at the Tory conference in Birmingham where he is appearing at an event hosted by the conservative magazine The Spectator to talk about the opportunities about Brexit. Never mind he opposed Brexit in an opinion piece forThe Times – much to the dismay of his supposed natural base of hard-right Leave supporters – but now he is  "quietly thrilled" with the result because that was then, this is now, he's a politician and on we go. 
I've learned that Abbott has been privately telling Tories he thinks he has a reasonable chance of making a come back to the PM's job. What's more, in every conversation I've had with Liberals, they are no longer ruling out the prospect, saying with Malcolm Turnbull's continued dismal performance, anything is possible. Now hopes does not a leadership change make, but this does put one thing to rest: Tony Abbott's claim that his leadership is "dead, buried and cremated" is more "Lazarus with the triple bypass." [My report/Fairfax]

Business Insider, 5 October 2016:

Former prime minister Tony Abbott has claimed London-based Fairfax Media journalist Latika Bourke is “making things up” in a report that he told right-wing allies in the UK that he thinks he has a “good chance” of returning as PM.
While the Coalition backbencher did not respond to Bourke when asked about the claim before publication, he used Twitter to subsequently deny it, saying: “As for unsourced, unattributed, unprofessional reports, the journalist in question is yet again making things up.”

Express UK, 5 October 2016:

Speaking at a fringe event at the conference on Tuesday, the former Liberal Party leader said his proposed deal needs to have "full recognition of each country's credentials and standards".
He added: "There should be an entirely seamless economic relationship based on free entry of goods, mutual recognition of services and standards, and easy entry of qualified people.
"If a motor car, say, could be registered in the UK, it should be registrable in Australia; if a trade qualification, say, was recognised in Australia, it should be recognised here."
He said the deal should include free travel between the UK and the Commonwealth country.

Financial Review, 11 October 2016:

Former prime minister Tony Abbott has blamed the NSW Liberal Party for almost losing this year's federal election and challenged his successor, Malcolm Turnbull, to back the conservative wing's attempt to overhaul the state division.
Mr Abbott challenged Mr Turnbull in person on Tuesday morning to support greater democracy in their home division, a shift that centrist Liberals fear will lead to the selection of more conservative political candidates, and shift the balance of power in the division, which is controlled by moderates.
"This is going to require leadership from the top," Mr Abbott told The Australian Financial Review. "The problems of the NSW party are quite extensive and one member, one vote is not a panacea but a first step to revitalising the party in NSW."
Demonstrating that he intends to remain a prominent figure within the party, Mr Abbott used a meeting of federal Liberal MPs to argue for "democratisation" of the NSW party and asked Mr Turnbull to respond, sources said.
A source said Mr Abbott and Defence Minister Marise Payne, a leading NSW moderate, traded pointed comments during the discussion, which is part of a campaign by Mr Abbott and other conservative Liberals in NSW, including Assistant Minister for Cities Angus Taylor, to introduce grassroots votes for all state and federal candidates in NSW and the party's executive committee.
Mr Turnbull gave a positive but non-conclusive response, the source said, which was followed by a complaint from Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne that federal Liberal MPs should not have to discuss the party internal matters of one state.

The Guardian, 11 October 2016:

The former prime minister told Guardian Australia he was “dismayed” by the leaks after Tuesday’s regular party room meeting in Canberra. “It’s a cancer on our polity – this culture of leaking.”
“The fact that people readily leak pejorative stuff to damage colleagues is pretty dishonourable I think,” Abbott said on Tuesday afternoon.
“Leaks are poisoning our political culture.”
Shortly after Tuesday’s regular party room gathering of Liberal MPs, reports surfaced, including in Guardian Australia, that Abbott had been slapped down by the defence industry minister, Christopher Pyne, for raising a proposal to democratise Liberal party preselection procedures in New South Wales.
Pyne rebuked Abbott on Tuesday after he exchanged cross words with Liberal backbencher MP Julian Leeser about plebiscites in NSW preselections.
According to party room sources, Abbott had declared angrily that Leeser “did not believe in democracy for Liberal party members” before Pyne expressed an objection to Abbott bringing state organisational matters into the federal party room.
Abbott later told Guardian Australia it was “absolutely appropriate” for issues within the NSW division to be ventilated in Canberra because the Coalition had “almost lost the [federal] election in NSW”.
He remarked that it was “just crackers” to say state organisational issues could not be considered during party room meetings in Canberra given organisational issues in electorates and in various states were considered all the time.
“This line that it shouldn’t be raised in the party room is self-serving at best,” Abbott said – returning the rebuke to Pyne.

The Australian, 12 October 2016:

Tony Abbott has received cheers and applause from across the chamber as he asked his first question in parliament since returning to the backbench.
The former prime minister, who was ousted by Malcolm Turnbull in September last year, rose on Wednesday during question time to ask Trade Minister Steven Ciobo how the Singapore-Australia free trade agreement is supporting jobs and growth.
"Nice to be popular, Mr Speaker," a grinning Mr Abbott said, to ironic cheers from Labor and more supportive cries from the government benches.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 October 2016:

He looked as relieved as a schoolkid who's been excluded from the cool bunch for months...and out of the blue, someone offers to share sandwiches at lunch, or maybe a smoke behind the shelter shed.
"C'mon down," Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull motioned to ex-prime minister Tony Abbott. Abbott's grin could very nearly have split the air. He rolled into an "aw shucks" shuffle as he made his way down from the loneliness of the backbench.

The prime minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, was visiting the Parliament. Lee and Abbott shook hands and Abbott patted Lee on the shoulder, Turnbull overseeing it all, before the little official party moved on. 

The Sydney Morning Herald, 13 October 2016:

"The point that I want to make is that the vast majority of Trump supporters are not deplorables, they really aren't," he said.
"They are decent people who want to see change inside their country and that's fair enough."
Democratic presidential Hillary Clinton was forced to apologise for attacking half of Mr Trump's supporters as belonging in a "basket of deplorables" who were "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic".
Labor leader Bill Shorten has launched an unprecedented attack on Mr Trump in recent months saying the Republican nominee is "entirely unsuitable" to lead the United States and describing his views, including his threat to ban Muslim immigration, as "barking mad."
But Mr Abbott defended Mr Trump's policies, which include building a wall between Mexico and the United States to repel migrants, as reasonable.
"Many of the Trump positions are reasonable enough," he said.
He warned that if Mr Trump loses the November election, hundreds of millions of American voters would still support his views.
Describing himself as an "admirer" of America, Mr Abbott said it was in the international community's interests to have a "great and strong" America because the world would be worse off without Washington's leadership.
"America is the one country in the world with the strength and goodwill to be a relatively acceptable arbiter of all the problem the world faces."
Mr Abbott's defence of Mr Trump will be interpreted by his colleagues as another attempt to reach out to far-right voters who abandoned the Liberal party at the last election following the installation of the moderate Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister, and a further sign he is jockeying to be returned to the leadership.
An upcoming meeting of the NSW division of the Liberal party will be closely watched with sources saying a showdown on party democratisation will be seen as an opportunity for Mr Abbott to showcase his strength amongst the so-called "base" or party membership.
Mr Abbott is pushing for NSW members to be allowed to preselect their parliamentary candidates, which would strengthen the hand of the conservative membership.
But his motion has been scheduled 11th on the agenda.
Mr Abbott said he would speak to party officials about making his motion a priority for discussion at the October 22 meeting.
"I'd like to assume that's there's no malice or manipulation here, I'd like to assume that it's just inadvertence."

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