TONY ABBOTT has launched the Liberal Party’s campaign as a poor man’s John Howard.
The biggest single applause point among the faithful at the Liberal launch came when Abbott embraced Howard in the front row of the Queensland Performing Arts Centre.
It was the personification of the Abbott pitch – a return to the philosophy and policies of the Howard era.
So when Abbott declared that it was time to “give Australia back a grown-up government”, it was clear which grown-up he had in mind.
But it is Howardism without the cash. Abbott committed a first for a campaign launch, not announcing a single dollar in new spending.
In that way, it was utterly unlike Howard, who believed to the last that the more taxpayers’ money he spent, the more he would be loved.
The Liberals, like Labor, are constrained by the new national consensus that “restraint is the new black”, as Abbott put it last week.
In place of money, Abbott spent freely the currency of anti-Laborism. One quarter of Abbott’s speech was a direct assault on Labor – “let’s bury this era of gutless spin”. And a little more than another quarter was a critique of Labor, starting with his opening line: “Isn’t it great to lead a united political party with a deputy I can trust, a predecessor who’s a friend and a former prime minister who’s a hero.”