OPINION: Up to Abbott to make change, if he's to remain PM

OPINION: Bronwyn Stevens is a University of the Sunshine Coast political lecturer.

Tony Abbott claimed his election in 2013 marked the end of the chaos and instability of Labor.

But just seventeen months later chaos returned.

The characteristics that made him such an effective opposition leader were not so well suited to government.

Abbott found it difficult to moderate his combative style.

His propensity for unilateral policy declarations caused problems.

He would not give up his paid parental leave scheme despite its unpopularity.

Unnecessary promises not to cut health, education or the public broadcasters were soon broken creating distrust among voters.

The Government's first budget was widely seen as unfair.

Abbott's crash through style failed to carry the Senate leaving his government fighting for months for unpopular budget items like the medical co-payment and deregulation of higher education.

Abbott's Chief-of-staff came in for special criticism and Abbott himself was accused of making poor policy choices, and failing to consult.

Some back-benchers felt ignored or bullied.

Initial reports of a revolt were denied but tensions were clearly simmering. 

Abbott's 'Captain's pick' award of an Australian knighthood for Prince Phillip was the last straw for many.  

The reintroduction of knights and dames was not popular but awarding one to a British Royal seemed to indicate a serious lapse in political judgement.

When the spill motion was proposed Abbott moved the ballot forward a day at short notice and to gain support promised that South Australia could be part of the new submarine tender, without consultation.

The result of the ballot was 39 for a leadership spill with 61 against.

Nearly 40 % of the parliamentary party had failed to support the Prime Minister and there wasn't even a declared opponent.

Many commentators believe his leadership has been terminally wounded.

Yet there are examples of leaders who have overcome poor polls and party dissatisfaction, John Howard being the most obviously.

The outcome of the spill has undoubtedly undermined Tony Abbott's authority and has opened up divisions with in the Liberal Party.

If Abbott is to survive as Prime Minister he will this time have to keep his commitment to be more consultative with his colleagues and more judicious with policy choices. 



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