The Northern Territory news Sat 26 Oct 2013
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20 NT NEWS. Saturday, October 26, 2013. www.ntnews.com.au SATURDAY EXTRA l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l l ntnews.com.au Slamming the PrimeMinister Tony Abbott has made it clear he intends to be theman to set the slow and steady pace, LAURIE OAKES reports British PM David Cameron has tried taming the news cycle A victorious Tony Abbott flanked by two of his daughters and wife Margie on election night in September AS TONY Abbott followed the count on television in a room on the 34th floor of Sydneys Four Seasons Hotel, there was no one point at which he realised he had won the election. Polling is so polished these days that Abbott knew what to expect. The figures provided confirmation, not cause for celebration. Those with Abbott included his wife, Margie, and their three daughters; his chief of staff, Peta Credlin, and her husband, Liberal federal director Brian Loughnane; pollster Mark Textor; press secretary Andrew Hirst; and John and Janette Howard. The talk was mostly campaign chatter, until shadow treasurer Joe Hockey walked in. He and Abbott looked at each other for a long moment, before shaking hands. That was when the atmosphere changed. Abbott gave a short speech: It looks like were going to form a government. But there was still no backslapping. Hockey sat down and, in the words of one of those in the room, looked as though he suddenly had the weight of the world on his shoulders. Abbotts approach to government was virtually set out for him in the document that served as his campaign plan in opposition. Titled Strategy and Messaging Framework, it condensed thousands of pages of Textors research on what voters were thinking into a series of simple points. The kind of government Australians wanted, the document said, would take a careful and methodical approach and behave in a way that was clear, consistent and coherent. Abbott indicated well before the election that this was how he intended to conduct himself. Fortunately it was the approach he favoured anyway. As a minister in the Howard government he was at times a loose cannon, and before assuming the leadership he earned a weathervane reputation for changing position on some issues; the most important of them climate change policy. But the mature Abbott seems to like to keep things simple. He had promised a no surprises government during the campaign. That attitude was reflected in the businesslike speech he gave as he claimed victory, and in the deliberate and unhurried way he took over power. It was 11 days after the federal election before Abbott presented himself at Government House to be formally sworn in. Plenty happened in that period. The preparations for an orderly takeover of the levers of power were intense. The bulging briefcase Abbott carried into Parliament House each morning (so chocker with documents it would not close) was evidence of that. He was exhaustively briefed by officials, and briefed them in turn on his priorities. Several key shadow ministers had similar arrangements with the departments they were about to take over. Scott Morrison was given early access to Immigration because Abbott wanted action on boats as soon as the government was sworn in. Greg Hunt got together with bureaucrats in the Environment Department because demolishing Labors climate change architecture was one of the incoming administrations top priorities. Julie Bishop was brought up to speed in Foreign Affairs before the official changeover. Hockey bunkered down in Treasury for economic briefings and looked gloomier than ever when he emerged. But as far as the public and the media were concerned, it was 11 days of unaccustomed quiet after the Labor years of crisis, chaos and politicking. No one complained. The nation welcomed a respite. Here was a prime ministerelect obviously serious about not feeding the hungry media beast. Even after taking office, he remained largely out of the media spotlight, and made it clear this was not intended as a temporary thing. I am not going to commit to talking unless Ive got something to say, he told the Canberra press gallery. This was Abbott declaring that, unlike Rudd and Julia Gillard, he would not be ruled by the 24-hour news cycle. He would slow the frantic pace of politics that had served him well in opposition but, uncontrolled, would cause him problems in government. David Cameron had the same ambition when he came to power in the UK in 2010. As he told the Leveson Inquiry two years later, he believed politicians, and particularly prime ministers and cabinet ministers, have to get out of the 24-hour news cycle, not try and fight every hourly battle, and focus on long-term issues and be prepared sometimes to take a hit on a story they dont respond to so quickly. But then came an admission. I did try, on getting into Number 10 Downing Street, to do that. Im not sure its always been successful. It will be interesting to see how often Abbott is prepared to take a hit on a story rather than respond quickly. Interesting, also, to see how Liberals react if Labor proves capable of using the non-stop media opportunities as aggressively as the Coalition did in opposition. Gillard, too, started out determined not to be ruled by the news cycle, but soon found she could not afford to leave the field to her opponents. Like Gillard, Abbott will also face the problem of the news cycles short attention span and the sad fact the media, increasingly, is more interested in the sizzle than the steak. Explaining and selling complex policies will be no easier for the Coalition than it was for Labor. Abbott does have one considerable advantage, however. The superior communications skills that made him such an effective opposition leader, particularly the ability to reduce a political message to the simplest and catchiest form, will be just as useful in Government. Abbotts decision to make minimal changes to his front bench wearing the political Time to up-skill? Looking for credits towards university? Heading back to the workforce? DQGJHWDQDWLRQDOO\UHFRJQLVHGTXDOLFDWLRQRYHUWKHZHWVHDVRQ Enrol in our Semester Zero - starts late November Diploma of Management BSB51107 Cert. IV in Training & Assessment TAE40110 Cert. 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