To get a good handle on how the election is playing, your best best is to watch the first ten minutes or so of any commercial news channel (though Nine and Seven have a bigger footprint than Ten).
Tony Abbott won’t have been helped by signing a ‘contract’ not to reintroduce WorkChoices during an interrogation by Neil Mitchell. Not only is it a reminder of Mark Latham, but it’s also playing right into the trap he set for himself – only commitments he gives in writing can be trusted. Then there’s the fact that he’s talking about a toxic policy he’d tried to neutralise. Oh, and the ghost of Peter Costello mocking Julia Gillard’s accent is hardly a good look.
Spare a thought for Abbott. He was one of only a small number of Ministers to oppose WorkChoices in the Howard Cabinet. Whether that’s his Santamarian heritage, or whether he actually has a political antenna is moot. Nor would a Senate with The Greens in the balance of power contemplate a package of WorkChoices nasties. And the government does have to take a position on cases before Fair Work Australia, the legislation does require ministerial determinations and instructions, and it’s the second most heavily amended act after the Taxation Act. But Eric Abetz, the wrong person for the job if ever there was one, was very unwise to be talking about ‘tweaking’.
There’s something else going on here. Abbott has annoyed business by raising taxes to pay for his parental leave thoughtbubble, and non-mining business (most of it) by opposing a tax cut along with the RSPT and MRRT. The WorkChoices pledge will also gnaw at the Liberal base. Abbott’s strategy was to consolidate that first, then move to the centre. Whether a Liberal party led by him, and obsessed with its defeat on this issue by the ACTU, can ever do that is another question entirely.