Hawke’s PPL attack is a warning to Abbott

Behind Alex Hawke is an army of Liberal 'dries' who don't want an Abbott government to be like the Fraser government, which they believe was too soft on economic issues.

The Conversation

The fracas over Tony Abbott’s “signature” paid parental policy has given a glimpse behind the curtain of discipline that the opposition leader usually keeps firmly in place and, much more importantly, a hint of the pressures and problems he could face in government.

NSW Liberal backbencher Alex Hawke did not just say what he thought in a random moment of frankness. He launched a major written critique on Abbott’s pet policy, offering it to the Institute of Public Affairs Review. He then followed up with radio and TV interviews. He was on a mission.

The Abbott PPL policy is an “albatross around the neck of the party”, he declared; it wasn’t a “signature policy of the Coalition”; it had “crept into our policy”; it was ill suited to an economically Liberal agenda; it should be scrapped before the election.

You wouldn’t want any money on Hawke’s advancement in an Abbott government. It’s not that his view isn’t shared by quite a lot of Liberals. Indeed, it is. And that’s what makes it more difficult for Abbott.

A couple of colleagues, including moderate Mal Washer, also voiced criticism of the PPL plan, but many others, including at senior levels, are holding their tongues, perhaps their breaths. Discipline is so tight that such a deliberate and determined breach is startling.

Especially as the assault is on something that for Abbott has moved beyond policy to political theology. The man who once objected to government-funded parental leave is offering a vastly more generous scheme than the one Labor has implemented.

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