That is the question addressed by Peter Brent in his Mumble Blog in today’s edition of The Australian – read it here.
“No” is the short answer given by Brent, who argues that the recent election was effectively a campaign between two Opposition leaders, in the sense that neither was for the electorate a known quantity as governmental leader.
Brent concludes his analysis:
If Abbott survives until the next election, it will be tempting to anticipate a good campaign from him, as we got in 2010. But that’s all over. Barring another ALP brain-explosion, the next election will prime minister versus opposition leader, an equation that doesn’t suit Tony.
And if the parliament goes full term, lasting three more years as leader is also a huge ask.
Abbott’s best - perhaps only - chance of becoming prime minister is on the floor of the House.
That looks unlikely. But not impossible.
I agree with this – I have felt since the outcome of the country independents' deliberations was known that Tony Abbott’s political career peaked on 21 August 2010.
Apart from the advantage that incumbency will give to Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott has other problems. I think that the outcome of the negotiations demonstrated one of them. Government was within Abbott’s reach, but he conducted an incompetent negotiation. Unlike Julia Gillard he was too impatient for an outcome, and failed to get onto the country independents’ wavelength. These are both fundamental failures of negotiating practice. It is an enormous disadvantage to feel that you need a quick answer, and if you cannot understand what motivates the other party you have no hope of offering something acceptable to them at reasonable cost to yourself (in the case of both Andrew Wilkie and the country independents, he tried to buy his way in with cash, and in both cases he failed).
This is consistent with a wider problem. Tony Abbott never seems to do the homework that is required of someone who aspires to be Prime Minister of this country. He could not and cannot conduct a sensible conversation about the National Broadband Network or the alternative he is proposing, he cannot conduct a sensible conversation about the economy (we just get slogans about reckless spending, debt and the need for the budget to be always in surplus), he presents arrivals of asylum seekers by boat as one of the nation’s biggest problems but seems to know nothing of our international obligations regarding either asylum seekers or safety of life at sea, and when his Defence spokesman David Johnston said that he trusts the advice of the troops on the ground in Afghanistan over that of the Chief of the Defence Force (see here), Tony Abbott said that he supported him, but then declined to clarify whether the Opposition was changing its policy on Afghanistan, and protested that he had not had time to obtain a briefing from the CDF. In other words, he knew he supported his spokesman, he just wasn’t sure why, which suggests again a man who has not done his basic homework on what is clearly a major national issue.
I think that if Tony Abbott is to have any chance of leading his party to electoral victory he is going to have to ease up on the manic personal fitness regime and devote some time to the long hard slog of mastering the subject matter of the key policy issues that the nation confronts, and deciding where he stands on them.