Abbott also in Northern Rivers
THE media alerts didn’t say Tony Abbott would join Julia Gillard on her visit to the Northern Rivers yesterday – but there he was.
Like an invisible ghost, the Opposition leader followed the Deputy Prime Minister around, quietly re-introducing the controversial Work Choices industrial laws, ripping billions of dollars out of health and education and fighting to block every one of the Labor Government’s outstanding policies.
Through the course of her visit to the region, Ms Gillard mentioned Prime Minister Kevin Rudd only a few times, but raised Mr Abbott in response to nearly every question put to her. She mentioned Environment Minister Peter Garrett, under fire over his department’s housing insulation and Green Loans schemes, only when directly asked.
Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott, one-time sparring partners on Channel 9’s Today show, have a famously fractious relationship, even outside the bearpit of Parliament.
In the lead-up to the 2007 Federal election they clashed heavily when Mr Abbott criticised Ms Gillard for being ‘obsessed’ with politics and lacking a ‘broader life-time experience’.
Those comments, coming only months after Liberal attack-dog Senator Bill Heffernan accused the then Labor Industrial Relations spokeswoman of being ‘deliberately barren’ prompted a swift response from Ms Gillard, who said Mr Abbott would never have become a senior Minister had he been the mother of his three children. Mr Abbott quickly retracted his jibe.
However, when he won the leadership of the Liberal Party late last year, Mr Abbott again pointed to the unusual battle between himself and Ms Gillard, by saying his appointment meant he would have to ‘stop flirting’ with the Deputy PM and Education Minister.
If the attention Ms Gillard gave to the Opposition leader yesterday is anything to go by, the ‘flirting’ continues apace, but there’s nothing affectionate about it.