Another day, another news story about the unpopularity of the Abbott government. One of my American friends asked me to explain why Tony Abbott is an unpopular Prime Minister.
There are plenty of reasons. He is a Catholic conservative and once trained for the priesthood so "progressives" don't like him. He served as Health Minister in the Howard government. He opposed access to the abortion pill RU486.
The pro choice camp campaigned against him with the slogan "get your rosaries off my ovaries." This also harmed his image with women, and for a long time he has been smeared as a misogynist.
Some of his opponents resort to histrionics and claim that he is trying to turn Australia into a Catholic theocracy. I've had face to face conversations with people who make this allegation, and have firmly but politely told them that they are being alarmist. This will never happen.
The last reason is that his government has had to make unpopular decisions to bring government spending under control. This happens every time a Labor government is voted out. Labor governments are very bad at handling taxpayers' money, without any thought given to the consequences. Time and time again it is left to Liberal governments to repair this damage, and cop the political flak for doing this.
It seems that the Australian electorate has a short memory. Right now Labor is more popular than the Liberals. They forget that the former Rudd government was by and large a dysfunctional shambles. Julia Gillard led a more disciplined and cohesive government, but it still lacked fiscal discipline. That is the reason why the Australian government's finances are in such a parlous state now. Unless the Abbott government improves its opinion poll ratings between now and the 2016 election, it faces the very real prospect of being voted out of office after a single term.