Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tony Abbott and the Swivel Chair

Tony Abbott sits by the despatch box, head bowed and shoulders hunched. I am seated in the public gallery where I observe the conniptions of Question Time in the Australian House of Representatives. It is a spectacle of some gravity. I have come for theatre, and I am not disappointed, except where Abbott is concerned.

From my vantage point Tony Abbott appears small. Insecure even. Not once, in the space of two hours, do I see Tony Abbott, Leader of the Opposition, turn to face the members of the house. Not once does he elicit the support of oppostion ranks or the public gallery as he speaks, either by gesture or glance. Not once do I see this man acknowledge his back bench. It is true that he engages with his immediate colleagues in private consultation on a few occasions, and yet he seems out-of-the-loop. Disconnected somehow. Diminished.

In contrast Joe Hockey looms large. He sits on the edge of his seat, grasping every opportunity to object. He paces, he glowers, he talks animatedly with his allies, he jokes. He is the one our eyes are drawn to. He makes the play.

There is a good reason why the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have swivel chairs. They are, after all, for swivelling. 360 degrees. Tony Abbott could trade his in for A-Great-Big-New-Swivel-Chair-with-a-90-Degree-Capacity. If his body language is any guide, he is more focussed on the press gallery than his colleagues or public visitors. But Abbott would do well to swivel around once in awhile, not least to cover his own back.

And perhaps he is right to focus on the press. For on the television news that evening, Abbott is afforded far greater influence over proceedings that I observed that afternoon. His few minutes speaking over the despatch box, have rendered him more coverage than any other protaganist.

I expected Tony Abbott to be a street fighter. Aggressive, involved and out-there. But he wasn't. Not on the day I was there. I saw a man who said his piece and sat down, who received generous coverage, and then flailed about in his own wake.

You may also be interested in Julia Gillard: What's in a name?

No comments:

Post a Comment