In an opinion piece in the Australian (1/10) "The other side of Tony Abbott" Paul Kelly assesses the role and influence of the leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott. Tony was the first Executive Director of ACM, and Paul Kelly was probably the most influential campaigner for a republic in the 90s when he was editor of the influential newspaper, The Australian.
In this opinion piece which is more perceptive than most from the commentariat on Tony Abbott, Mr Kelly concedes that the (politicians') republic was just a "government-engineered scheme".
The voters worked that one out; as independent republican Ted Mack told me when we were in Corowa in a 1999 referendum debate against Malcolm Turnbull and Paul Kelly arranged by The Australian :
" Of course they know it ( the referendum model ) will vastly increase the power of the government and the prime minister."
I had naively suggested that the republicans didn't know what they were doing.
Mr. Kelly says:
"Where Labor was convinced Abbott would narrow the Coalition's appeal, the opposite has happened with Abbott widening its appeal, a point verified by applying this test in terms of regions, class and values.
"The Coalition is strong in the resource states of Queensland and Western Australia, much of NSW, manages to hold its own in the southern states.
"Analysis by class shows Abbott is stealing the working-class vote through his persona and ability to re-mobilise the so-called Howard battlers. On values, Abbott embodies the large-scale transfer of the Catholic vote from Labor to Liberal.
"This is symbolised not just by his Democratic Labor Party origins but by the December 2009 Liberal leadership contest involving Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Joe Hockey, each of them Catholic, a situation inconceivable in the Menzian Liberal Party and testimony to the widening of the conservative net.
"Abbott's political character has long been obvious: he is a conservative who shuns government-engineered schemes to remake the existing order, from carbon pricing to the republic."