Pollster and political strategist Mark Textor says the Abbott government’s failure to engage the public with an economic strategy allowed other issues to overwhelm its agenda and led to its downfall.
The managing director of the Crosby Textor Group has helped set the critical political messages for a number of critical Conservative victories, including British PM David Cameron’s election last.
Textor told tonight’s Four Corners on ABC TV that the lack of a clear and easily understood economic message from the government allowed “minor things” such as same-sex marriage, knighthoods and parliamentary expenses to fill the vacuum in the minds of voters.
“So rather than those things being a distraction, I saw them as a symptom of people’s concern about a lack of economically adaptive strategy that would take us forward,” he said.
Four Corners looks at last week’s surprise coup, and also talks to Australia’s longest-serving treasurer Peter Costello, who spent nearly 12 years in the job under the Howard government, says the Liberal MPs look to have made the right decision by replacing Abbott.
Costello said that the “rule” of the Liberal party was that winners always did the right thing.
“If Malcolm had challenged and lost he would have done the wrong thing, but he challenged and won so the Liberal Party regards it as the right thing,” Costello said.
“The Liberal Party doesn’t give you any great rewards for loyalty. That’s not what it rewards, the Liberal Party rewards success.”
The former treasurer said the change had turned around the government’s fortunes from a potential “significant loss” at the next election to a “significant victory”.
He also criticised his successor Joe Hockey’s 2014 budget saying it expended too much political capital on measures that couldn’t success, such as the Medicare co-payment.
“They might be right in principle like a Medicare co-payment, but if it were possible to do a Medicare co-payment, believe me, it would have been done a long time before now,” Costello tells Four Corners.
He described the former PM Tony Abbott’s decision to award a knighthood to Prince Philip as a literal barbecue stopper, adding that in the end, the public polls brought about “a big execution and a tough one”.
He rejects senator Cory Bernardi’s description of the spill as treachery, saying it’s the nature of the game.
“[There’s] no point in complaining about a ballot if you’re in the business of politics. That is the business of politics. If you want to be a surgeon, don’t complain about blood,” Costello said.
Four Corners is on ABC1 at 8.30pm, Monday.