Just days after Tony Abbott became leader of Australia's centre right opposition in controversial circumstances, his party has won two federal by-elections, caused by the retirement of two senior members of his own party. The Sydney Morning Herald described the twin victories as "comfortable":
"Just days after Mr Abbott won the Liberal leadership from Malcolm Turnbull, the party coasted to victory in the Melbourne seat of Higgins, vacated by former treasurer Peter Costello, and the north Sydney electorate of Bradfield, formerly held by Brendan Nelson. The solid performance surprised many who thought the Liberals might suffer a backlash due to Mr Abbott's decision to overhaul the party's climate changing policy, withdrawing support for the introduction of an emissions trading scheme (ETS), which is favoured by Labor."
The Age (another left-leaning newspaper) concluded that Tony Abbott's "opposition to Labor's emissions trading scheme has support in the conservative heartland."
The Australian's Editor-at-Large Paul Kelly profiles the unpredictable 'Abbot effect' here:
"This week Tony Abbott smashed the mould of Australian politics. With the opposition divided and behind, he is forcing Kevin Rudd to an election on climate change, the issue that is supposedly owned by the Labor Party. This is either brilliance or sheer folly. Abbott does not accept the orthodoxies that have governed politics during the Rudd ascendancy, and this makes him dangerous for both Labor and Liberal. Abbott is an unpredictable and elemental force who defies the modern political rule book. No adviser can tell Abbott what to say or how to say it. After being elected Liberal leader by surprise, Abbott spent the rest of week throwing political grenades -- supporting individual workplace contracts, backing a nuclear power debate and killing the emissions trading scheme -- while his colleagues held their breath wondering how the public would react."