The guilt that threatens Abbott’s conquest

Having executed the role of Opposition leader with rare force, Tony Abbott may fall victim to a lingering feeling of culpability among the Australian people if he can’t reinvent himself.

Australian markets need to accept that there is more than a 50/50 chance that in 2013 Australians will elect their third consecutive Labor government.

Suddenly Coalition Leader Tony Abbott finds himself at a dangerous disadvantage to Kevin Rudd. I don’t think Australian markets and the business community have fully comprehended what has happened, and what Tony Abbott will need to do to overcome this new disadvantage.

In particular, Abbott will need to have a vision for Australia that can be marketed to the Australian people. There is a real risk that some of his current Rudd attacks are actually harming him.

It is a unique situation in Australian politics and rare in the world.

Tony Abbott is the best Opposition leader Australia has ever seen but he has been too successful. First he toppled Kevin Rudd as prime minister, helped by the shortcomings of Rudd himself.

After that victory Abbott had to fight an election against Australia’s first female prime minister. It was close but Abbott lost and Julia Gillard ended up being prime minister for almost three years. But once again Abbott destroyed a prime minister – although like Rudd, Gillard’s mistakes also contributed to her demise (Seven deadly Gillard sins, April 30).

However I believe there is a sense of guilt among many Australians that an elected prime minister, and then our first female prime minister, were deposed in such a brutal way. That guilt is not being taken out on Rudd but rather on Tony Abbott.

Tony Abbott has a very detailed plan for Australia but has announced only parts of it. Some sections of that that plan involve a big increase in the productivity of public servants and a smashing of many regulations. It will not be popular in many quarters and will therefore be attacked vigorously.

In my view Tony Abbott would have won the last election had he campaigned on his small business policies, which were far ahead of the government’s.

In the last three years Julia Gillard attacked small business and we are now seeing a government advertising campaign being run to try and smooth that market.

It’s not going to be easy to mount a campaign that converts Tony Abbott from ‘the female prime minister destroyer’ into the person with a vision for small entrepreneurs and their staff and for the whole country. Attacks make much better television and headlines. Rudd is far better at promoting a vision than Abbott and is now taking some of Abbott’s lines.

Marketing of the Abbott vision should have been started months ago but instead all efforts were concentrated on removing the first Australian female prime minister.

It has backfired.

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