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The Second Coming Of Tony Abbott Might Well Be An Easter Miracle

On the verge of sleep I am startled awake by a violent thought: Tony Abbott is Jesus Christ. Politically, at least.

19/04/2017 10:45 AM AEST | Updated 19/04/2017 10:45 AM AEST
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"Will it be the greatest story ever told? Hardly. But it certainly gave me a start over Easter."

He's as good as dead, they said. His political voice silenced, his followers scattered -- rumours of an insider's betrayal. His crucifixion was excruciatingly public, with onlookers baying for vengeful justice.

But, what barely felt like days later, he rose again.

On the verge of sleep in the peaceful, full embrace of Easter with family, I am startled awake by a violent thought: Tony Abbott is Jesus Christ. Politically, at least.

Except, well, he's not quite back yet, is he? And indeed, all has been quiet(ish) on the Tony front for the past several weeks. But this may yet prove to be the Sunday night of the Abbott revival, for I fear that his time has yet to come, and that the currents continue to move in his favour.

Everything that Mr Abbott seems to have done recently has had the air of manifesto-setting. The otherwise forgettable essay collection, Making Australia Right, was memorable at least for the chance it gave Abbott to lay out his ongoing vision for a conservative Australia in a speech made for its launch, and the man seems to be in talks for another book of his own. If the latter is anything like the former, it too will see its basic agenda laughed at by the political gentry.

Everything that Mr Abbott seems to have done recently has had the air of manifesto-setting.

But the Tony I remember was always more dogged than to be put off by that. If he is prepared to hold his course, he may yet see his villain turn hero. There remains a strong isolationist movement in this country who wish Australia would just leave well alone and be left well alone.

Appealing to these voters has been the core of the Abbott manifesto, as it always has been (except, of course, when trying to garner broad support in federal elections). And as ever, it is exactly this that makes many of his political rivals sneer while energising his base.

We are seeing repeatedly that international sentiment similarly sways to the insular. This is proved by the almost paradoxical double-negative of Trump's recent wild west intervention in the Middle East. Support for Trump on the right has waned -- if not revolted -- not necessarily because he has chosen to take action in Syria and Libya, but because he has chosen to not not intervene.

I suspect Mr Abbott is aware of all of this, and has been playing the long game from the start. There is a political sentiment in the air that has yet to receive proper representation in Australia, and that is where Mr Abbott's comeback will lie.

This proves at least that the populist right of America was not prepared to follow Trump on every one of his misadventures. In actuality, for those who have been paying attention, this is not a surprise at all, and also proves that there is no paradox. Their position has been steady.

They are also not unique: merely an Americanised version of that which has blossomed in many countries. In France, each of the four main presidential candidates seems to be standing in the same queue as the United Kingdom to renegotiate their place in Europe. Nominally their political allegiances are a shotgun spray across the entire political spectrum, but they are consistent in leading a refocusing of their country's perspective inwardly. French voters are overburdened with nationalistic candidates who stand as genuine candidates -- and who does Australia have? Pauline Hanson?

Australia has generally taken a lighter taste of political flavours that are a la mode overseas, but there is no reason to think this must always be the case. Certainly a far smaller number of asylum seekers created a far stronger reaction here than in many parts of Europe and elsewhere. Much room remains on our political landscape for someone to entice the sympathies of those who would see the establishment more aggressively pursue an overtly Australia first agenda.

Meanwhile, Australia's own deplorables -- must we call them that? -- continue to bide their time. But one gets the sense that they will become the real antagonists for Bill Shorten as the country lumbers towards another federal election cycle. At the very least, they will jostle, push, cajole and otherwise torment Malcolm 'bend-in-the-breeze' Turnbull into adopting more conservative positions.

I suspect Mr Abbott is aware of all of this, and has been playing the long game from the start. There is a political sentiment in the air that has yet to receive proper representation in Australia, and that is where Mr Abbott's comeback will lie.

And will it be the greatest story ever told? Hardly. But it certainly gave me a start over Easter.

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