Who is Tony Abbot

Tony Abbott: Prime Minister on call


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In terms of simplicity, the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has often been unsurpassed in his political career. Burning coal is "good for mankind," he said at the opening of new coal mines, leaving no doubt that the pollution of the environment interests him little. Although studies show that Down Under suffers particularly from global warming, climate change is "nonsense" for Abbott.

After a vote of no confidence among MPs from Abbott's Liberal Party, the prime minister spoke of a "humiliating experience". At the same time, however, he declared the discussion about his management style "done". But he could be mistaken on this question.

The trigger for the vote was the dissatisfaction of the population with Abbott's policies, which is increasingly making his own party friends nervous. According to a Newspoll poll, the liberal-conservative government coalition currently only has 35 percent of the vote, the social democratic Australian Labor Party 41 percent, and the Greens twelve percent. Abbott's "Coalition" was last voted out of office in two of the three most populous states, Victoria and Queensland. Another setback threatens a defeat in New South Wales at the end of March.

In the end, 61 of 102 Liberal MPs voted for Abbott in the vote of no confidence. With 39 votes against, the Australian prime minister also felt how great the rejection is among his party friends.

His authority in his own ranks is now considered badly damaged. Political observers are therefore expecting a second attempted coup in a few days. The mistrust of his party friends will gnaw on him so much that a resignation can no longer be ruled out.

But even if he stays for the time being: Any further misstep could easily cost Abbott the office. In addition, only a minority of Australians believe that he will be the top candidate of the Liberals again in the next election campaign.

Brakes on climate protection

The Australian Abbott has acted as a brake on international climate protection agreements under Western heads of government. In the run-up to the G20 summit in Brisbane, for example, he persistently tried to get the topic off the agenda. The fact that US President Barack Obama publicly reprimanded him for this has seriously damaged Abbott's reputation in his own country. His announcement that he would confront Vladimir Putin in Brisbane after the MH17 passenger plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine was followed by an appearance that many compatriots found tearful. This severely damaged his popularity.

Abbott is known for an uncompromising approach to domestic affairs. With the slogans "Stop the CO2 tax" and "Stop the refugee boats" he was able to score points at the beginning of his reign. But just three months after the 2013 election, the social democratic Australian Labor Party (ALP), which had ruled the country before, overtook Abbott's liberal-conservative party in the polls.

Blame it, my observer like Barrie Cassidy from the state television broadcaster ABC, is Abbott's management style. Even as head of government, Abbott could never shed the trait of a ruthless negativist. To this day he acts like an angry resigned man. The role of the reconciling father of the country is not Abbott, says Cassidy.

This becomes clear in two policy areas: Australia covers around 70 percent of its energy needs with coal. After many years of intense debates, the Social Democrats introduced an ambitious climate protection program and taxation of the extractive industry through parliament in 2012. Abbott's only goal was to overthrow both laws. He rigorously cut the budgets of climate researchers, and subsidies for renewable energies ran out soon after he took office. He still owes a constructive counter-draft to this day.

Hardship against refugees

Abbott's handling of the up to 20,000 boat refugees who try to get to Australia via the Indian Ocean is also controversial. Abbott openly fueled xenophobia during the election campaign by calling the refugees a "national catastrophe". No refugee should end up on Australian soil during his reign. He equipped the coast guard with high tech to effectively force incoming boats to turn back on the high seas. Wherever this did not succeed, both refugees and criminals were put in prison-like reception camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. The United Nations criticize some of these measures as violating human rights.

Such conditions, which are scandalous in the eyes of many Australians, only partly explain the poor poll results for Abbott. It hurt him even more that he stylized himself in the election campaign as a guarantor of a successful financial and economic policy, but today he is mainly responsible for failures. Abbott's first draft budget in 2014 saw drastic savings for small and middle incomes. Abbott wanted to raise the fees that Australian students pay, which are already high by international standards, as well as the long-standing deductibles and co-payments for doctor's visits.