My Two Cents: Can Tony Abbott improve his image mid-term?

The (Abbott) government’s narrative is that they haven’t been able to do anything… There’s a negative story attached to the government. They must somehow shift the momentum. The mould will be set if they don’t do something soon and they will have a really, really hard time — and most likely will lose the next election.”

Source: ‘Tony Abbott’s knightmare could be fatal if his government fails to change tack

Remove the names from the above quote and the title of the news article, and that criticism could be laid on any Prime Minister. They have all ‘struggled’ over one issue or another.

Now remove references to ‘government’ and ‘election’ and replace with ‘executive’ and ‘contract’/’client’ – and this criticism could be laid on any Manager/Supervisor/Executive; they have all ‘struggled’ over one issue or another. Note the use of the word “narrative” – which evokes imagery of stories > books > chapters > volumes > books are things that can be shelved and forgotten about.

The effect of this language is that whether you are a Manager or even the Prime Minister, you are disposable. Doesn’t matter if you run a local office, or hold one of the highest offices – job security is still a looming issue (As we have seen with Gillard and Rudd).

If Tony Abbott were a CEO of a company, he would be in dangerous territory – his stakeholders and his Board are not happy. Whether his mistakes are terminal enough in the short-term (certainly in the long-term), remains to be seen.
Read: If Tony Abbott was CEO, would he be sacked for his performance?

In order to keep a job, you need a good rapport, reputation, personal brand and image.

My Question is —

Can Prime Minister Tony Abbott successfully improve their image, mid-way through their term?

And my answer is NO.

What is Image?

Image is a social construction, a representation of the external form of a person; the perception or interpretation of someone. For politicians, image is directly linked to popularity – which is the crucial factor in them being re-elected (keeping their job).

Publicity, policy and personality are the three critical aspects which construct a politician’s image. Publicity is a more acute medium, and requires reactivity and proactivity.  Policy on the other hand is less acute, but the impact of which is more long-term.
(NB: Which of the two is the widest reaching and has the greatest impact on image, I will let you decide!)
Personality influences both.

 “Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.”
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

How Politicians want to be seen, is not always the same as how they look to voters. (This quote also hints at their use of Public Relations as a vital tool.)

Politicians can sometimes suffer from a ‘Dorian Gray Syndrome’, where their physical appearance and their ‘image’ are not the same. They can construct themselves to be seen a certain way, but they have no control on how their stakeholders (voters) will perceive them (cue the need for PR!).


When it comes to any form of leadership, how do we judge a ‘good’ manager?

  • Personality/Manner
  • Ability to interact with other employees, engage stakeholders
  • Is a good communicator, can effectively manage information and its dissemination
  • Capable decision maker

Some of the issues affecting Tony Abbott’s image at present:

  • Live media ‘gaffes’ – an awkward ‘on camera’ personality.
  • Short-comings of colleagues and/or Government .
  • perceived lack of popularity.
  • Failure to show strong, original innovation in policy (as opposed to simply repealing and reinstating legislation); coupled with a hostile Senate and unpopular policies (the 13/14 Budget, Higher Education amendments) have stagnated Parliament.
  • Knights and Dames – returning formal titles, and the subsequent Knighting of Prince Phillip.

It has become a national pastime, lampooning the Prime Minister.

Is it deserved?
Yes. I would not normally concede so succinctly, but the Australian public have a right to feel disappointed in Prime Minister Abbott. We are just under 3 months until the 2015/16 Budget, Abbott (and Hockey) are still trying to sell 14/15. That is one of the most important tasks for the PM and he’s failing. Politics is not cushy, and not for the inexperienced – which makes his failings devastatingly apparent, because Tony Abbott is not an inexperienced Politician.

Tony Abbott is the dog who ‘got’ the car:

He’s not incompetent or inexperienced, but he is struggling a bit. He was so effective as an Opposition leader, and perhaps he finds it strange that he has no-one to ‘savage’ now he is in the top job.

Is there a link between the outcome of State Elections and Federal politics?

Big electoral swings do unsettle incumbent governments and while there is still plenty of time for federal Libs to learn, reform and rebuild before they face their election, their responses to date make them look a bit like they are slow learners.”
Source: Queensland poll upset hints at change in voters’ tactics

Not necessarily. Although Australians can be fickle voters, they usually vote State Governments out/in on State issues. Yes, it might look like a shun to Tony Abbott, but Campbell Newman was VERY unpopular before he (shot himself in the foot and) called an early election. So Tony Abbott’s image is relative to Federal issues – Mining and Carbon Taxes, Illegal immigration, National Broadband, Diplomatic relations. He’s also been impacted by a few haphazards: gender, sexism, leadership speculation and his own staff (Peta Credlin).

Also read…

Does Tony Abbott really understand us? By former Liberal Minister, Amanda Vanstone

Can Tony improve his image?

No. His image has slipped out of his (and his PR people’s’) control. The Media just need to find a few chinks in his armour to rip a hole in his defences. He does not appear to be fulfilling his stakeholders (or are his stakeholders the temperamental ones?). Everything is subjective – politicians, media, and even me – we are all accountable for the things we say and do. I do not believe he can improve his image, the negative sentiments have become ‘sediments’ which cannot be dredged from our vision (thankyou, mass media).

As I finish reading “My Story” by Julia Gillard, I cannot help but ponder how her Prime Ministership suffocated similarly; leadership speculation, overwhelming negative press, difficult or untenable policy changes, public gaffes/mishaps, incomptencies of colleagues and a hostile Senate. The difference between the two is that Julia was eventually stifled from the inside-out, Tony is getting stifled from the outside-in.

What am I supposed to take from this?”

1. It’s a grand statement, but I don’t think there will be a Leadership spill. If there was, it would be highly out of character as the Federal Liberals tend to ‘blood-let’ after they lose Government. My instinct is that while Tony is being savaged by the media, this has not manifested to the same degree in the Party Room.

2. Remember: the Media LOVE a Leadership spill story. Crises boost readership.

3. This why Elections are so important. Australia is starting to understand now. Ask questions and involve yourself in the conversations people are having. It is not good enough to not give a toss about politics (as I hear so/too many people say).



If you want better conditions in your industry, more funding, or an institutional change etc. , you need to vote in an informed way. The information is there, and I want to help people understand. Shoot me your questions on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or in the comment section below 🙂

4. Tony Abbott has done serious damage to his image. He had the Prime Ministership handed to him (essentially) due to an unstable ALP and he and his party will be voted out. It is not enough to continually spout “I’m just here to clean up your mess, ALP!” – he has done little to repair the public’s faith in the institution of Parliament.

5. On the other hand, Tony can do very little as he watches the media destroy his image for him. Imagine trying to fight a fire with a lettuce leaf.

6. The ALP need to step up and be competent, not complacent. Otherwise they will be no better than Rudd was (in 2007, after Howard), or Tony (in 2013, after Rudd/Gillard/Rudd) – no lessons will have been learned and Auspol will be in distressing disrepair.

7. It is slowly sinking in on our politicians that we as voters, expect better of them in term of consistency and delivery. We can be constructively critical (but not vitriolic) – because their contracts, their jobs, belong to us, are for us, and are determined by us, the voters.

I cannot help but feel this eerie quote from his recent Press Club address (Feb. 2nd) foreshadows what may come:

We’ve had the faceless men choose the prime minister.
We’ve had the country independents and the Greens choose the prime minister.
Now, it’s time for you, the Australian people, to choose your prime minister – and the team to take Australia forward.
The choice has rarely been clearer or meant more for the future of our country.”


I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing.

Your well-shod author,

A x

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