Indeed, one often gets the impression that Abbott is picking a fight not so much with Labor as with the libertarian and individualist tendencies within his own Party. Abbott’s determination to restore charity, belief and courage to their rightful place as the greatest of political virtues — which I’ve elsewhere described as ‘a leader’s willingness to wage war against the people’s baser instincts, to expand the public’s moral imagination rather than simply pander to avarice, to stare electoral oblivion in the face by defying popular opinion, to be willing to sacrifice oneself for the sake of a larger cause’ — distinguishes him as the antitype of both Rudd and Turnbull.
Stephens argues that what politics needs is the reintroduction of virtues as drivers for policy, a capacity he says is missing in Rudd and Turnbull. Virtue in the face of popularity; this is precisely what Turnbull cannot claim. In the past week we've heard him say that voting against the ETS is a move that will be seen as taking no action on pollution and will lose the next election. I'm left wondering whether Turnbull supported the ETS because he thought it was right, or because he thought it was a vote-winner.
So now that Abbott's in, can we expect a return of virtues and belief as drivers for Liberal Party policy? Not having read Abbott's book, I don't know for sure, but I hope so. I honestly hope that Abbott can provide a genuine alternative to the two different flavours of vanilla we currently have. I've written before that Australian politics would benefit from a Senate of minor parties, with no clear balance of power. The situation of a single party - or worse, a single senator - holding the balance of power should be avoided. What we need is a variety of starkly different opinions on the matter, and I suspect that a virtue-laden Tony Abbott would move things in that direction.
It remains to be seen what kind of leader Abbott will make. Congratulations to him.