Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has most certainly grown into the role, putting in a series of deft performances since the Battle Of Rooty Hill. As I wrote earlier, his performance on the hostile territory of Q&A yesterday was assured, and many of the press pack at the National Press Club today failed to rattle him, despite the uncivil scorn and editorialising from the Paul Biongiornos. (Michelle Grattan was an honourable exception.) In fact, Abbott’s courteous and even witty response forced even Bongiorno to applaud the answer to his sniping.
Abbott tonight maintained his impressive equanimity at even smart-arse questions that deserved to be shoved back down O’Brien’s throat. Fancy the hypocrisy of O’Brien, berating Abbott for debating over a debate, and then proceeding to do just that himself. Fancy demanding Abbott spend more time debating, and then wasting five minutes of debating time asking him to debate more. And for a third time, O’Brien sought to replay his first gotcha moment, when Abbott confessed that - like everyone - he at times went beyond the strict facts in the heat of debate. Yet again, O’Brien revisited old hunting grounds by question Abbott on positions he’d changed, seeking less to engage than embarrass.
To all this Abbott stayed cool, even turning some arguments smartly back on O’Brien. Only at the last did he make the psychological break and give Liberal supporters some blood to cheer, directly rebuking O’Brien for his sarcastic smile at a straight answer. Excellent. It was an even more pointed counter than the one he gave Q&A host Tony Jones the night before, when he suggested Jones would approve of his parental leave scheme if it were proposed by Labor.
We have had the privilege in this campaign of witnessing a serious and self-doubting man rise to his new responsibilities and find an inner strength.