Abortion agenda-setting

Hmmm, the morality of the abortion debate is one question worth considering, but what is to gain politically?

A few days back Health Minister Tony Abbott, as well as Parly Sec for Shitstirring and Pissing Off The Left, Christopher Pyne entered the debate with gusto, condemning abortion as an "epidemic" (Abbott) and that abortions after 21 weeks should be banned (Pyne). Then Governor General Michael Jeffery rather foolishly got himself entangled in the debate, and it was on for young, old and foetal.

The initial suspicion was that it was simply another example of Abbott's ill-disciplined wandering mind, throwing up a distraction that the government didn't need. Abbott has made a habit in the past of intellectual meandering, bringing up all sorts of topics that the Government would rather not on the agenda. The entry of Pyne into the debate, though, changes the dynamic.

Christopher Pyning for the Fjords.

No longer is it simply the thoughts of one minister. Instead it is an orchestrated campaign, a deliberate attempt to set the agenda with an issue that government wishes to confront and to create headlines with. This is a neat, cosy fit with the acquisition of the Balance of Power in the Senate from July of next year. By putting the issue on the agenda and establishing the guidelines for the debate, the government is flagging it as something to return to when it obtains the political power to have its own way.

The abortion issues doesn't quite fit as a 'wedge' issue which the government has so famously used to divide its opponents in the past - it is as divisive for the Coalition (note the pro-choice sentiments of Sharman Stone and Julie Bishop) as it is for the ALP (with the conservative working class base on one side and the progressive middle-class on the other). It is, though, yet another way that Howard can leave his thumbprint on the social landscape. The debate will go quiet for now, but watch for this one to be firmly back on the agenda once those pesky Democrats are out of the way.

Is this the first substantial contribution of Family First to public debate 8 months before they enter the Senate?


Anonymous said…
Spin doctors call this 'expectation management'.
Compared to banning abortion - because it is not really a wedge issue - almost everything looks reasonable.

That's why when the LNP will ease media ownership laws, and crack down on the unions (and who knows what else) the public will not see it as brutal use of force.

People will be led to think that the coalition is responsible and refrains from doing anything extreme.


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