This article first appeared in The Daily Telegraph Thursday September 5, 2013.
BY 7:30 pm Saturday September 7, for all intents and purposes, Tony Abbott will be Prime Minister of Australia.
One must always be prepared for things to go badly wrong at any time during an election campaign, but it’ll need to be something quite exceptional for Tony Abbott not to comfortably have the numbers to form government.
The Tony I know is still kind of a mystery to most Australians – even those who think they’ve come to know him, probably don’t quite get it. Now it’s all actually happening and he’ll soon win, many will wonder what he’ll be like as PM?
Will Prime Minister Abbott be different to his predecessors? Will he in fact be different to Tony Abbott, Leader of the Opposition? Yes to both, and he’ll be different in many ways to anyone else we’ve seen as PM.
You should be very happy about that by the way, because the real fairdinkum Tony Abbott has the capacity to do great things for our Nation. One of his biggest challenges will be keeping on being himself, and we need him to do that.
My first contact with Tony was when he phoned me to discuss Liberal Party selection for the seat of Warringah. It was very early 1994 and he’d worked out he needed to neutralize my influence to have a fair chance of winning party selection.
He came to my office in Manly and made his pitch. It was simple – he wanted me to free up selectors to vote based on their own judgement. He wanted to be sure I wouldn’t influence selectors against him.
I went further than he requested. I was clear to those I could influence that they should vote for the best candidate – if they judged that to be Tony Abbott, then they shouldn’t allow anyone to persuade them otherwise. It made the difference – Tony became the Liberal candidate for Warringah through merit.
So what’s he like? Well Abbott is a bloke, a real bloke, not the latte sipping skinny jeans insipid type that commonly passes themselves off for that, but an actual man. He is as well educated as any PM Australia has had, but he’s without the refinements of the, ‘ruling class’.
He was a competent Rugby player and Boxer, he’s athletic, he’s a Rural Firey and he likes a beer. In many respects, Tony Abbott is what at one time was called, “a good style of a bloke”, and hence of a kind, ‘traditional’, Labor would’ve been proud to call their own.
Smart but not pompous, Tough but not a bully, Traditional and with values, but also pragmatic – for the Liberal Party, Tony Abbott is an Enigma, and they should be very glad they have him.
There’s been quite a bit of blood spilt between Tony and me – few have as much reason to dislike him as I have, but such is not the case, for I always understood and accepted what motivated his actions.
Despite this aggressive history Tony and I share, I have a great deal of admiration for his abilities. With the exception of odd moments, for nearly twenty years I’ve maintained the view he’d be Prime Minister one day.
In recent times, Tony has taken some king hits, all of them unfair and unfounded, but his opponents know perception is everything, even when utterly at odds with the truth, so there is a picture of Tony that isn’t accurate.
He has sometimes aided the knockers by not addressing matters as well as he could and on occasion, I’ve wondered if lies about him had so shattered his confidence that he’d not be able to bring his strengths to the job?
However, once in office, the experiences on the road to where he is now should return the strengths and self-confidence that could help make him our most successful PM this century.
There were big hurdles to stay Opposition Leader after the 2010 election and I’ve noted a loss of direction and confidence, but Tony will likely remember he came to where he is through a conservative driven rejection of the Carbon Tax and Left leader Malcolm Turnbull – such will help guide him.
I believe Tony Abbott will lead for Australia and in our peoples’ interests. He will not be overcome by international flattery, nor moved by criticism from those whose agenda does not serve Australia. Even if I’m only half right, he’ll do a better job than most who came before him.