Why Abbott will stay on as Prime Minister

Victoria has delivered a gift to Tony Abbott. But keep a close eye on Scott Morrison and Bruce Billson, who are now the key ministers in government.

Tony Abbott is now certain to see out his term as Prime Minister of Australia. He made it very clear at the National Press Club that while the party may select a leader, once an election has taken place that leader becomes the appointee of the people. Unless he resigns it’s up to the people to remove him.

That means Abbott will fight, and fight hard. Neither Julie Bishop nor Malcolm Turnbull would want to be prime minister with Abbott on the back bench. Moreover, at the National Press Club Abbott seemed to have discovered a new source of jubilation. His eyes lit up and his jaw went forward as he described the lunacy of the new Victorian government, which is spending $1.2 billion to stop a road that would cost $1.5bn to build.

This is what happens when you elect a Labor government. And Abbott will drive Victoria’s stupidity into the heart of Shorten. Indeed, NSW may get the East West link money because the state has the projects set to go. The consequent misery in Victoria will be held up as an example of what happens when you elect a Labor government. If the new Queensland government slips up a few times, they can expect similar treatment. In contrast, NSW is set to boom as an example of what happens when you have a good non-Labor government.

In the fight ahead, two people will be of the utmost importance to Abbott: First, Social Services Minister Scott Morrison; and second, Small Business Minister Bruce Billson. The Abbott government stumbled because it tried to ram through a series of Treasury-inspired measures that were badly thought out and deserved to be rejected. Treasurer Joe Hockey was simply not up to the task. Morrison’s job is to seek similar or greater reductions in his area but measures that are better thought out and can be argued to the Australian people in the context of lower export prices and the huge deficit. The government’s future very much rides on the ability of Morrison to duplicate his success in stopping the boats.

For the first time in his Prime Ministership, Abbott now seems to have finally grasped that in the modern era it is small business that will provide the jobs. In the past Abbott has given lip service to this truth but never seemed to believe it. Now he understands. The Coalition actually brought forward a fantastic small business policy for the last, election but as I explained earlier today (The Coalition must fix its fundamental flaws, February 2) didn’t introduce it.

Now they’re looking to do it all again. Big business needs to understand that a key plank of this policy was -- and will be -- making sure that all contracts between big organisations and small businesses are fair. That will mean that most large companies, government departments and other large organisations will have to review their contracts because most are unfair. Some businesses have already started. But in the process, this will create enormous employment in the country because smaller enterprises are normally far more efficient in employing labour than big ones. Accordingly, that’s where the jobs are created.

But Tony Abbott has wasted almost half his electoral term. He now does not have much time and has a lot of ground to make up with the electorate.