Blood could be their own

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    Blood could be their own

    THE parliamentary Liberal Party should spend the five days before they meet on Tuesday pulling in behind Prime Minister Tony Abbott, not plotting to bring him down.
    Australia’s second-longest serving prime minister in John Howard warned that “disunity is death’’ and it is those words that should ring in the ears of the backbenchers who are trying to force the party into a spill next week.
    Mr Abbott was quick to seize upon the words of a Herald Sun editorial in his Press Club speech when he said it was up to the people of Australia to throw out an elected prime minister.
    This newspaper believes it is also the wish of the Australian people that those they have elected have a chance to govern.
    Rather than return to the chaos of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years under Labor, the Liberal Party MPs who will gather in the party room in Canberra on Tuesday must show the maturity and the character to resist the culture of political assassination that beset Labor.
    Mr Abbott has made mistakes and he has admitted them. That is very much his way.
    He has promised to consult widely instead of making the anachronistic blunders of the past in reintroducing knighthoods and damehoods and then awarding such an honour to Prince Phillip and on Australia Day of all days.
    It followed a disastrous Budget, for which Treasurer Joe Hockey must take a full measure of responsibility, a tangle of mixed messages and policy backflips on GP co-payments and the Prime Minister’s determination to stick with an overly-generous paid parental leave scheme in spite of universal criticism.
    Mr Abbott is a man of closely-held convictions and in opposition was often compared to a “wartime’’ leader. The role is decidedly different in government. Respect turned to ridicule and no leader can easily survive those wounds. Some of his own backbenchers are now throwing the hand grenades that may help to blast Mr Abbott out of the office he refuses to leave.
    What sort of prime minister would he be if he meekly stood aside and what for, an embarrassing blunder, but one that cost not a life or a dollar?
    In his 16 months and 18 days as Prime Minister, Mr Abbott has achieved more than axing the carbon and mining taxes and stopping the boats.
    He confronted Russian President Vladimir Putin over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, as he hosted the G20 summit of world leaders in Brisbane. He has overseen historic trade agreements with China, Japan and South Korea, built strong relationships with Indonesia and India and led the fight against terror in Iraq and at home.
    There have been divisions with Liberal governments in the past, such as the differences of opinion between prime minister John Howard and treasurer Peter Costello that were kept under control.
    Mr Howard followed his own advice against disunity and was prime minister for nearly 12 years. By comparison, Mr Abbott is half way through a first term with time to repair a crisis of confidence and to reset his policy programs.
    Politicians of all stripes are driven not only to promote their party’s political agenda, but also their own.
    Nothing wrong with ambition, but it must be for the good of the country and the constituents they serve, which places a clear responsibility on Coalition MPs to regroup behind a leader under pressure.
    Mr Abbott might say he is not done yet, nor should he be when he has given a commitment to change with the good of the electorate in mind. He deserves that chance.
    The Prime Minister’s mistakes should not be forgotten, but nor should Mr Abbott be condemned by a party that needs to pull itself together.
    The Government and the nation face difficult times, but that is not an excuse for a meltdown.
    The issues of economic and social restructure remain for any leader.
    A hostile Senate is a problem the Government must resolve by negotiation. It is not the first time a government has been frustrated by a recalcitrant and bloody-minded Senate, grouped this time around a bitter Labor Opposition and the Greens, who are less a political party than a party of political opportunists.
    The Liberal Party must show courage, not cowardice. The Prime Minister has brought his troubles upon himself, but those who would bring him down have only to look at the dismay and derision that followed the demise of Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard and then Mr Rudd again, this time at the hands of the electors.
    Chief among the backstabbers was now Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who wielded the knife against both leaders.
    No one should forget the political blood on his hands.
    Whatever Liberal MPs might think they will achieve by bringing down Mr Abbott will be far outweighed by the nation’s reaction to a Government that cannot govern itself. Former leader Malcolm Turnbull and deputy leader Julie Bishop must also show the maturity and character required of the party room. They must not leap at a chance to promote themselves.
    The Government must quickly get on with restoring the nation’s economy and show it can do so in a just and acceptable way. The Australian people will not easily forgive Liberal MPs for failing to provide the strength and stability to take up the mandate they were given at the last election. If not, any bloodletting may be their own.
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