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TONY'S CHOICE

Published:
19/09/2016
Author:
Think Local

   Like him or loathe him, the former Prime Minister is polarising the electorate with his decision to re-contest the seat he has held for 22 years and stay in Federal Parliament. But throwing his hat in the ring again for Warringah has ignited a flurry of speculation about his long-term intentions and willingness to toe the line on Liberal policy with new Prime Minister Malcolm TurnbulL.

    Observers are questioning Mr Abbott's motivations for staying, while other long-standing MPs like veteran Liberal MP Philip Ruddock are vacating for new blood and a “regeneration” within the Liberal Party.

   For a man who has aspired to, and held the highest political office in Australia, many wonder how he could be happy with life out of the political limelight. His staunchest supporters are angry at his political demise at the hands of Mr Turnbull but others want him to move on and make room for new blood and more progressive ideas.

    However, Mr Abbott tells Peninsula Living he has plenty of "fire in the belly" and is perfectly placed for the job, stating. “It definitely helps an electorate to have someone well known -and as a former Prime Minister, I am definitely well known. I can say things in the party-room and in the media and generally get attention."

    Mr Abbott was ousted In September after a dramatic leadership ballot and claims the “upside of the downside” has been having more family time and volunteer work with the Davidson Rural Fire Brigade and the Queenscliff Surf Lifesaving Club.

Recent party resignations and Cabinet reshuffles by Mr Turnbull have given Mr Abbott no promise of any high profile responsibilities in the foreseeable future. In the past few months there has been a flurry of books published and many commentaries given on how and why the Abbott Prime Ministership came crashing down, most notably Niki Sawa's Road to Ruin: How Tony Abbott and Pets Credlin Destroyed Their Own Government and Credlin and Co by Aaron Patrick.

    Peninsula Living interviewed Mr Abbott the day after he slammed political insider and The Australian columnist Ms Sawa's allegations of an affair with his chief of staff, Pete Credlin, saying he isn't "in the business of responding to scurrilous gossip and smear."

    In our interview he refused to be drawn on the subject instead focusing on the job in hand. Mr Abbott claims general economic issues are of great importance to the people of Warringah, insisting, "We need a prosperous economy, better growth, and a better environment. The Sydney Harbour Federation Trust would not have happened without my help. Brookvale Oval is also on the table for a $10 million upgrade. As a former Prime Minister I'm well place to speak up for all these issues." He also says the proposed forced council amalgamations are very much a state issue, but he can see that Premier Baird wants to establish "more efficient local services".

    "I think the processes are in place," he adds, "and there is no reason to believe that Mike Baird will not do it properly. It is a vexed issue and there is always strong local patriotism. It needs to be handled with care."

    Mr Abbott also says he has unfinished business in the Warringah community, like making the Northern Beaches Hospital a reality. “I've been pushing this for the past 20 years,” he adds, ''and I'm also looking forward to working with Mike Baird on more infrastructure projects. He has promised a second Harbour Crossing, and road tunnels to the Northern Peninsula and tackling the traffic problems is well overdue. My presence can ensure this becomes a reality. It's a big problem and it must be addressed as quickly as possible. It's going to happen, and it will be unstoppable, I need to make sure things don't slip."

    However, it's a view not held by Marie Rowland, a psychotherapist, councillor and mother- of-two girls, who is standing against Abbott in the Warringah seat, representing the party set up by South Australian senator Nick Xenophon. "Mr Abbott is not the right fit for Warringah after being here for 22 years" she says, “He's talking about transport but has done nothing to solve the problems, and he's out of touch with the values and aspirations of his electorate.”

    Ms Rowland says many people are "incredibly disillusioned" with the two-party system and want new representation in the area, adding, “My passion is also tackling mental health and it's one of the major problems in Warringah, with cuts to services and funding. I think we are representing a centrist position and we are in touch with the community. Mr Abbott represents the right wing of the Liberal Party and although he's a 'nice guy' he does not represent the values of people, he's a 1950s man and not open-minded."

    Author, journalist and chair of the Australian Republican Movement, Peter Fitzsimons, agrees, saying the former Prime Minister was an "idea whose time came - and now has gone", explaining, "Tony Abbott is a Friend of mine and I wish him well. I have known him for 35 years and although we have never agreed on anything politically, he is a good man and was a fine rugby coach. I actually think his considerable energies would be better harnessed by our country in another field entirely from politics."

   One of Mr Abbott's long-term allies in the community has been Manly Mayor Jean Hay, who tells Peninsula Living she "absolutely supports Mr Abbott's democratic right to stand again. I can't see what all the fuss is about. He has represented us exceptionally well for 22 years and If it's what he enjoys doing then I'm pleased he is going to stay on.

               "Mr Abbott is one of the most community minded people I have ever met."

 "He goes on beach patrol, fights fires and raises money through Pollie Pedal and is also involved with supporting Bear Cottage in his electorate. Many local charities in the area have benefited. He's a decent, honest person and all these rude comments about him hating women are laughable.”

NATHAN AND RADHA WITH SEVEN- MONTH-OLD DAUGHTER EESHA,

  "We are not supporters of Mr Abbott and we would like to see someone fresh in the electorate now. New ideas and new blood are always a good thing. As a whole, the way he views issues and the country is very dated. We would support someone younger with more progressive ideas -especially on women's rights and marriage equality. He's not strong in those areas and doesn't seem to support women going back to work after they have children."

JANE

 "I'm actually a Liberal voter but I won't be voting for Mr Abbott next time - I'm not sure what I will do. I think  he has lost the plot. He means well but he says the wrong things and it's time for him to move on. I really don't understand his attitudes - especially on things like gay marriage as. He won't be happy as a backbencher."

PETER

 "I'm a supporter of Tony and I'm glad he is standing. He's done very well on border protection and I think he's a very fair person. He's actually a fine gentleman indeed."

PETER

 "It's a great decision for him to stay - he's a mighty bloke and I don't support Malcolm Turnbull for kicking him out."

MIKE

 "No I don't support Tony - I think he would be better off working in another area and it's time to move on. I think he will be a destabilizing influence in Parliament and there are other avenues he should pursue now."

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