Abbott's blueprint is still a work in progress

ANALYSIS

IT WAS OK as a performance, delivered informally, US-style, with a hand-held mic, but the opening salvo of Tony Abbott's mini-campaign told us little new.

Indeed the only fresh policy snippet - about superannuation - was buried in his 50-page glossy booklet, as though it had landed there almost as an oversight. It didn't even get a mention in the leader's speech.

Yet the pledge not to spring on people super changes that disadvantage them is significant - politically clever, with all those baby boomers thinking about their retirement, but not such good policy. Once again a party is locking itself in on a revenue area when it would be better to keep options open.

The opposition has ''vagued up'' its line on the surplus (although it is not keen to admit doing so). Essentially it is saying it will produce surpluses when it can. It had originally been reluctant to commit to a timeframe, only to be forced into one by political pressure last year. Now that the government has ditched its undertaking of a 2012-13 surplus, the Coalition is waiting to see how the budget comes out, which is the best thing it can do.

There are plenty of references in the policy document to how good a Coalition government would be to small business but no detail on that policy for which this sector is waiting - the industrial relations changes. Abbott isn't willing yet to face his moment of truth on this most difficult area, subject of jostling in his ranks between the militants and the pragmatists.

The focus on Malcolm Turnbull is significant. Turnbull's picture featuring prominently in the TV advertisement and the booklet suggests that Abbott now feels safe from any Turnbull leadership threat, knows Turnbull is a vote magnet, and wants as co-operative a relationship as possible with the prickly but popular former leader in the election run-up.

One of the weaknesses of the Abbott team is that Turnbull, communications spokesman, is not in a better portfolio. This partly reflected Abbott's earlier feeling of insecurity. But Turnbull should be used to the maximum, and if Abbott wins he should be given a better area, or at least have this one enhanced. Whatever faults he might have, he remains one of the strongest Liberal talents.

The mini-campaign, which does risk the condemnation of ''same of, same old'', is being used to give Abbott a frame for his messages that he wants a more positive image and that he has a plan for government.

He stresses both that the Coalition has ''listened'' to the people and consulted the ''experts'' - in other words, that his plan is responsive but not half-baked.

But so far, he is still revealing only part of the blueprint.

The story Abbott's blueprint is still a work in progress first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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