Having served less time as PM than Julia Gillard, is Tony Abbott now staring down the barrel of a one term government?
The rout in Queensland is shocking news for Tony Abbott. It will terrify federal backbenchers and further destabilise his leadership.
It puts up in lights that the unpopular federal Coalition could easily become a one term government.
That the Liberal National Party would be on the brink of losing Queensland – with the ABC’s Antony Green predicting a Labor win as the most likely outcome – was almost inconceivable before the vote, given the massive majority that Campbell Newman won just three years ago. A swing of more than 11% to the ALP in one election is mind-blowing.
Newman’s unceremonious demise in his seat of Ashgrove had been on the cards; he was on the nose in the electorate and Labor’s Kate Jones, a former minister in the Bligh government, had run an intense and effective grassroots campaign.
State factors – especially the government’s assets leasing plan, Newman’s cuts and his arrogant style – were the primary drivers of the Queensland result, as Labor’s Wayne Swan conceded on ABC TV.
But Abbott is clothed in some of the blame and, given his weakened position, the implications for him will be very serious.
Abbott was totally banned from the campaign because he was considered toxic by the Queensland LNP. His knighthood for Prince Philip was a distraction in the final week and particularly bad for Newman’s seat. The government’s to-ing and fro-ing over Medicare could not have been worse timing.
Most importantly, people see the Abbott government as having the same arrogant style as the Newman one. “Two peas in a pod,” as Swan put it.
Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls, who is a possible successor to Newman as leader, said: “There were certainly federal factors, and there were less than helpful things.” He referred to discussion about raising the GST, as well as the Medicare co-payment and the knighthood.
The waves from Queensland will rock the federal ship. Federal LNP backbencher Jane Prentice was blunt. “We need to take lessons,” she said. “We can’t continue as we are”.
Prentice said that last week she had told Abbott – who has been ringing around the backbench in recent days – that “you are not taking the people with you; we are not explaining why we are doing things”.