David Penberthy of The Punch doesn’t think Tony Abbott’s conservatism is the electoral poison many assume it is:

The first thing Labor must remember is that social conservatism, and politically incorrect beliefs, are not of themselves a black mark against your name in Australian politics.

People may remember a bloke by the name of John Howard who for almost all of his 11 years as PM was a spectacularly successful and overwhelmingly popular PM.

That’s how one side of politics remembers him, sure. Others remember his success being due largely to his rat cunning – his ability to wedge a cowardly ALP, his shameless targeted bribes before each election, schemes to keep potential labor voters from voting, his shameless scaremongering and outright lies. Of course, those were much easier to get away with from government – once he rode into power on a wave of anti-Keating sentiment by being a small target. Rudd is not even close to being as unpopular as Keating in 1996.

Penberthy suggests that Abbott will probably not seek to impose his more extreme views (on abortion, for example) on party policy – time will tell.

He dismisses concerns that Abbott’s hotheadedness is necessarily a problem – “We’ve had hotheads running the country before – voters in Australia do not judge their pollies on their manners.”

I’m not sure that’s an accurate assessment of the 2004 election.

Finally, on the subject of climate change:

Labor is taking a huge gamble if its writes off every critic of the ETS as a mad climate change denier. There are plenty among their number – but there are plenty of others who are simply confused by the detail, or angry that our nation is taking the moral high ground while many bigger and higher-polluting actions do nothing.

Polls suggest there aren’t enough of the latter on which a mainstream political party could realistically gamble its fortunes. I guess we’ll see.

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