Libs get cocky, Labor not so much
TONY Abbott is on track for victory in September, the Liberal Party’s most senior official has declared, as disillusioned Labor MPs head for the doors and begin looking for post-election jobs.
In an upbeat message to around 350 party faithful on Wednesday night, Liberal federal director Brian Loughnane said the Coalition should win office after six years in opposition.
Several people attending the function – which also heard from the Opposition leader – claim Mr Loughnane’s message was that victory was all but assured. “He told us ‘we will win’,” one Liberal figure said.
Other participants, however, claim Mr Loughnane was more cautious – although some Coalition MPs now privately believe the Opposition will win 100 of 150 lower house seats on September 14.
But in another sign that Canberra insiders are preparing for a change of government, Alexander Downer is being touted to become our next Ambassador to the United States.
While the Opposition says no formal talks have taken place, Mr Downer – a former foreign affairs minister and diplomat – has privately made it known that he would be willing to serve in a future Abbott Government.
Julie Bishop, the Deputy Opposition Leader and foreign affairs spokeswoman, said that “I have not held any discussions with Alexander Downer in relation to a potential diplomatic appointment.
“Diplomatic posts will only be considered after the election, if we are elected to government.”
The upbeat mood from the Liberal Party came as former prime minister Kevin Rudd continued to play down suggestions he was prepared to be drafted back into the leadership.
But he laid out a “strategy for victory” ahead of a trip to Geelong to campaign in two must-win seats for the Labor Party.
“I’ve seen too much in the Daily Telegraph in recent days from various people effectively talking about their alibis for defeat,” Mr Rudd said.
“What I am concerned about is having a strategy for victory. This strategy for the re-election of this government under the PM is based on three simple paths.
“Number one, own with absolute pride our achievements in keeping the economy strong.
“Point two, expose Abbott’s strategy as a house of cards based on three lies, that we have a debt and deficit crisis, the lie that Mr Abbott says on turning back the boats to Indonesia because he can’t and won’t.
“And the lie that suddenly, in the 20th year of his parliamentary career, he’s turned from being the most radical right wing extremist in the Liberal Party to a soft moderate.”
“And thirdly, articulate our credible plan for the country’s future. The PM is doing this, all of us have to get out and do the same … to help do that I will get out and help wherever I am needed in the country, starting in Geelong today.”
Such is the level of despair within Labor ranks that at least two Government MPs – Alan Griffin and Daryl Melham – have begun packing up their Canberra offices.
Mr Griffin, who holds the seat of Bruce in outer Melbourne with a margin of nearly 8 per cent, said: “I’m still confident that I can win my seat and I am working to do that.”
Mr Melham, the long-serving MP for Banks, has a much harder task to reclaim his Sydney seat that he’s held for 23 years.
One senior Labor MP said of the mood within the Government that “if I was selling Prozac, I would make a fortune”.
With Labor having one of its worst weeks since 2010, despairing Government staffers are considering life after the September poll. Even the Prime Minister’s own communications director, John McTernan, has reportedly been offering his services to Sydney radio host Ben Fordham.
Mr McTernan and Mr Fordham crossed paths at the chairman’s box at the State of Origin match in Sydney on Wednesday night. According to the broadcaster, Mr McTernan said: “You might even want me to do a regular spot on your show next year if we lose the election.”
Labor MPs were stunned by Mr McTernan’s comments, the issue dominating chat within parliamentary offices yesterday.
Meanwhile, Mr Abbott yesterday cited the 100-day mark to the election to again line-up the choice facing voters – “between a government that is incompetent and untrustworthy and an opposition which is offering new hope”.
It was the same message he told the Liberal faithful on Wednesday night, at a function attended by former Coalition staffers – many of whom are expected to return to Canberra as policy and political advisers.
“We are in a strong position but have to work hard,” Mr Abbott was reported as telling the dinner, attended by former staffers – many of whom are expected to return to work for an incoming Coalition government.