Tony Abbott’s leadership is now so fragile that he seems nearly beyond being able to rebalance himself.
Abbott is the victim of leaks and general destabilisation, and the continued miscalculations by himself and his office.
The Liberals’ crisis over Abbott’s chief of staff, Peta Credlin, escalates by the day. You wonder how it can go on without exploding at some point.
The most recent leak is of Sunday correspondence from the party’s federal treasurer Philip Higginson to Liberal federal executive members, demanding something be done about the conflict in having Credlin in her position and her husband Brian Loughnane the party’s federal director.
Higginson wrote: “Conflict of interest is a serious problem between the federal secretariat (responsible to the organisational wing) and the PMO (responsible to the parliamentary wing who is governing) and I find the situation if it weren’t so serious almost amusing.
“How this party ever let a husband and wife team into those two key roles, where collegiate competitive tension is mandatory and private consultation between colleagues to see that each side is served well, is a complete mystery … The persons in our party’s history that allowed it to occur should hang their collective heads in shame.”
Higginson is also highly critical of the difficulty he had in getting senior party figures to give him the details and authorities to enable him to sign off on large amounts of party expenditure.
Higginson is described by Liberal sources as a straight shooter, an expert on corporate governance who puts store on proper processes, and someone who is “blindly committed” to Abbott.
So one would think his outburst is likely to have a significant impact.
Abbott is hoping the latest Newspoll, published in Tuesday’s Australian, might bring a touch of relief. Surprisingly, given what’s been happening, the Coalition primary vote rose three points, while the ALP fell three points.
The government trails 47-53% in two-party terms – compared with 43-57% a fortnight ago. Dissatisfaction with Bill Shorten has increased sharply, although he is still well ahead of Abbott as better prime minister. Some 77% believe Abbott arrogant and only one-third of people believe he’s in touch with voters.
The trouble for Abbott is that these days he never knows what will turn up next to throw him off course.