WOULD Tony Abbott be indulging in all the grandstanding he is doing abroad if his government had brought down a budget that was, in the main, acceptable to the people and had cleared parliament with a few changes here and there?
One really has to wonder.
After the budget in May, the popularity of the prime minister dropped like a stone. Little wonder that this happened, given that the budget had several measures that would hit the poorer classes. All of it was done in the name of sorting out a budget crisis which the government insisted existed. Financial experts are still trying to find the reason for the use of the word “crisis”.
Three months later, the budget is still hanging around the government’s neck like an albatross. But Abbott’s poll numbers are up as he has grasped every possible chance to boost them.
The poll standings of any leader tend to rise during periods when the country is under threat. So Abbott has manufactured one; the Islamic militancy in Iraq and the emergence of Australian citizens playing a role in it has given him a handy prop.
He’s also announced a data retention scheme – though what will be retained is unclear. Never mind, it adds to security, says Abbott. The presence of the US State Secretary and Defence Secretary this week, for the annual bilateral ministerial talks, hasn’t hurt.
But before that, the downing of a Malaysian passenger plane, killing 298 people including 38 Australians, came as a godsend to Abbott. He fronted up to indulge in some chest-thumping and fuming against Russia, whom he accused of being responsible. The missile that shot down the plane came from an area in Ukraine which wants to revert to Russian control, hence Abbott’s claims.
Abbott made his foreign minister, Julie Bishop, a show-pony of the highest order, take the lead in pushing an UN security council resolution condemning Russia. And as soon as he could, he imposed sanctions on Moscow. Never mind that Russia’s retaliation, which cuts off something like $500 million of imports from Australia, is going to hurt a lot of small farmers.
Now Abbott has dashed off to the Netherlands, to express gratitude to the Dutch for taking the lead in getting the bodies of the plane crash victims back for examination.
Tony is also threatening to send troops to Iraq – for humanitarian reasons, he says, because the Islamic militants there are threatening a tribe called the Yazidis who live in the north. The fact that the US, which has begun bombing the militants to protect the Yazidis, has ruled out sending ground troops doesn’t bother Tony one bit.
There have been plenty of false leads thrown here and there but with the Murdoch media firmly in his pocket, Tony is going places.
And the budget? Oh, don’t bother, that’s Joe Hockey’s baby. Tony has bigger fish to fry.