Robb, Hockey and Bishop: The Opposition’s woes
Just look at the debris out of the weekend. Andrew Robb is mounting a case to be admitted to leadership contention. Is the man serious? Isn’t he aware we all remember his potentially-perilous stumbles, interview by interview, in the last Federal election campaign and more recently. Joe Hockey wears the mantle of statesmanship matched against the media hesitancy of this nervous and unconvincing spokesperson.
Malcolm Turnbull barely conceals a grin laden with schadenfeude as Abbott’s tell-tale seconds of silence are subjected to media analysis. But a return to Turnbull would require an abandonment of Liberal climate change agnosticism. As Labor moves to firm up its position on carbon trading the Liberals will be tempted to run more stridently against it. No room here for Malcolm unless he does the unthinkable – that is, shift his position on climate change itself. Yes, unthinkable.
Greg Sheridan’s skilful evisceration of Julie Bishop in today’s Australian will be read, reread and shared until every member of the Liberal parliamentary party knows it by heart. To be taken seriously as an opposition the Coalition must have rock solid, gold-plated national security and foreign policy credentials. Greg Sheridan has stripped her (and them) of any credibility in foreign policy whatsoever. Linger over his indictment:
Bishop has been the worst opposition foreign affairs spokesperson in the 30-odd years that I have watched this position closely.
You couldn’t even begin to list the astonishing blunders she has made in the portfolio. She criticised Kevin Rudd as prime minister for raising human rights publicly with the Chinese, a truly bizarre position for someone claiming to belong to a party called the Liberal Party.
She criticised the government for “failing to work constructively” with the Chinese when it gave a visa to the dissident Uighur leader, Rebiya Kadeer. There are many egregious Bishop errors of this kind, combining a complete lack of feel for foreign affairs, an inability to relate the area to any political principle and an unerring ability to pick the dopiest political response available…
But how can the Liberals generate such tension over the deputy’s position – and in opposition? It defies the first half dozen rules from the textbook for oppositions – don’t make yourself the story, the leader is right every time, when the leader is wrong refer to the earlier principle, keep the attention on the government’s mistakes day-in-day-out, be positive when you can and nuture your credibility.