The Liberals’ “crisis pragmatism”

September 16, 2010

After Tony Abbott won the Liberal leadership in 2009, the conservative political strategy has been one of reaction, ad hoc decisions and opportunism (“crisis pragmatism”), rather than clear, rational planning and preparation for the 2010 election.

I think this has been evident in almost all of Abbott’s policies before the election – paid parental leave, the “green army” and “direct” climate action, the “unfair dismissal monkey”, appointing Barnaby Joyce to finance, then changing him to regional development, the risible broadband policy, etc, ad nauseam.

Fundamentally, crisis pragmatism is about expedience overtaking all else.

During the election, commentators marvelled that Abbott managed to shut his mouth over almost every controversial issue that he is notorious for, especially abortion. In fact, Abbott’s campaign was successful in that he managed to put his foot in his mouth relatively few times – the first week and WorkChoices being the major exception.

Now that Gillard has been re-elected, Tony Abbott and the Liberals have decided to target the National Broadband Network as a major policy attack. This is an example of crisis pragmatism – where short term political tactics overtakes longer policy objectives. The Liberals (for whatever reason) have identified that the NBN, if exposed as a massive waste, will destabilise the Government.

Abbott destabilised Labor when he blocked the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, which led to the deposing of Rudd. If he can achieve that with Gillard and the NBN, he reasons the Labor Government will collapse and the independents will have no other alternative but to side with him.

With no institutional strategy, and no vision of what he wants Australia to be (other than a return to a fantasy golden age of Menzie-ism), Tony Abbott will oppose, oppose, oppose every policy, every initiative, every program of this Labor Government.

Tony Abbott is trying to replicate a distorted, corrupted form of Howardism, but one characterised by reaction and ad hoc tactical decisions.

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