I only, even, with some reluctance, bring up the subject of our New Alternative Prime Minister because of an unexpected reaction.

Coming across my father-in-law watching the news – it was wall-to-wall Tony Abbott and his ascension to the Liberal leadership – I said, you must be happy, he’s in your church.

The old man took the bait, waving his hand, and snapped, “don’t … [toy with me]”. Having watched Mr Turnbull’s exit interviews, he was strongly of the opinion that the Bull is preferable to the Monk. “I think I like Mr Turnbull,’ he said, raising his eyebrows.

The thing is my father-in-law’s profile: he’s 87, Catholic, a longtime Liberal voter, a reader of The Australian and a man-made climate change sceptic. Liberal apparatchiks beware: the canary in the coalmine has started singing.


The painting hacked for the image above is Francisco de Zurbaran’s St Francis kneeling.


PS: To be upfront I’m looking forward to the Abbott era – even as he will take all sorts of hardline postions that this voter will find impossible, not least the truth, meaning and implications of man-made climate change.

But Abbott is real, in the way that the ferocious writer Alan Ramsey described Keating and Latham. Real people in politics are rare, real people who become leaders rarer still. Turnbull looked wonderfully real in the last week.

Has our current PM ever seemed real? Think of Rudd’s splits and difficulties within his linguistic self: on the one hand, for public consumption – the prissy, prudish bureaucrat of the “iced Vovo” election victory speech and outrage during the Henson affair; on the other hand, the notoriously foulmouthed pollie behind closed doors; on his third hand, the clumsy attempts to be just-folks matey in the vernacular, like swearing in beige. Rudd is pure pollie, everything seems like calculus; he reminds me of no one more than J W Howard.

But with Abbott, as computer folk would say, Abbott is wysiwyg – what you see is what you get.

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