Sydney Tony Abbott's scandal-plagued Coalition hit a fresh crisis Tuesday, just five months out from the election, as the most powerful of his Liberal State premiers, NSW State Premier Barry O'Farrell, defied Mr Abbott's stance on education reform by signing the state up to Prime Minister Julia Gillard's Gonski reforms, which Mr Abbott has been a vocal critic of. It capped off a disastrous week for the LNP, in which their lead in the polls continues to fall, Mr Abbott was forced into an embarrassing backflip after initially denying, then admitting, that his director of policy Dr Mark Roberts threatened to cut the throat of a Foundation director, and Mr Abbott's judgement was called into question following the widely derided billboard in which he falsely claimed asylum seeker boats were reaching Australia illegally.
Speaking today at a press conference with Prime Minister Gillard, Premier O'Farrell said he was pleased to sign NSW up to the Gonski reform. ''What we've done now is to prioritise education by ensuring the $1.7 billion required under this deal can and will be found", Mr O'Farrell stated as he faced the cameras with Ms Gillard.
Canberra insiders, however, say Ms Gillard's victory is a disaster for Mr Abbott. "This shows, yet again, the disunity within the Coalition. Abbott cannot hope to win in September without seeing big swings in NSW. When the Premier of the state, a party ally, public aligns with your opponent to support a major policy initiative which you have opposed, it points to a lack of control as a leader and a lack of stability within the party."
The public rebuke for Mr Abbott comes in the wake of a string of falling polls for the Coalition, as the scandals of Dr Robert's violent threats and the Coalition's defamatory and broadly dismissed asylum seeker billboard continue to sway people' s voting intentions.
"A two-term, incumbent government will always struggle somewhat in the polls in the lead up to an election, but there is a very real sense amongst voters that the more they see of Abbott, the less they want him as PM. The throat-cutting remarks bring to mind the worst accounts of Mr Abbott's thuggish behaviour in his student days at the University of Sydney, whilst the false asylum seeker billboard raised serious questions about Abbott's judgement - how could someone with a Law degree, a Rhodes scholar, be so wrong on a point of law? It forces people to one of two conclusions - Abbott is either stupid, or he's lying. Neither is a quality voters want in a Prime Minister.
"Then of course there is the Ashby affair. What did Abbott know, and when, about Mal Brough's plan to blackmail Peter Slipper in order to secure preselection? Abbott has done himself no favours by refusing to conduct any serious interviews with journalists to answer these questions."
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott did not respond to our requests for comment.