Abbott blames PM for personal slurs
Federal opposition leader Tony Abbott with his wife Margie Abbott, right, and daughters Frances Abbott, 18, Bridget Abbott, 16, and Louise Abbott, 20. Photo: Kate Geraghty
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is now directly blaming Prime Minister Julia Gillard for the personal attacks on him but Labor has declared he remains ''fair game'', as tension escalates ahead of tomorrow's resumption of Parliament.
Labor will step up its claim Mr Abbott created the culture for Alan Jones to denigrate the Prime Minister, after the unprecedented decision by radio 2GB that the broadcaster will go on air today with no advertisements.
The Gillard government will also renew its attacks on Mr Abbott for comparing the Australian economy to Europe's plight, and attempt to embarrass him by bringing on debate about the controversial deregulation of the wheat industry which has split the Coalition.
Liberal MPs say privately they are furious that shadow cabinet's anti-deregulation stance has sparked a revolt and ''so much grief'', and has gone against the Liberals' free enterprise philosophy. Attorney-General Nicola Roxon suggested Labor's ''handbag hit squad'' would not go soft on Mr Abbott despite the rare public plea by his wife Margie to stop accusing her husband of being anti-women.
''Mr Abbott is not running in some election to be husband of the year or father of the year,'' Ms Roxon said.
''It is fair game for me or any other minister … to hold him to account for his public behaviour and his public comments.''
Labor has tried to shift blame onto Mr Abbott for Jones claiming Ms Gillard's father ''died of shame'' because of his daughter's political ''lies''.
Macquarie Radio Network chairman Russell Tate acknowledged the ''inexcusable'' nature of Jones's comments, which were made to a Liberal Party function, not on-air.
Mr Tate said the suspension of advertising was a temporary response to an ''unprecedented focus'' on Jones and the ''cyber bullying'' of sponsors. Jones has reportedly lost the use of a $250,000 car as more than 70 companies pull advertising from his show.
Mr Abbott and his wife went on a charm offensive late last week when Mrs Abbott strongly defended her husband.
Yesterday Mr Abbott denied his wife's public appearances indicated he was worried the Labor Party's campaign was working.
He said the ALP ran a ''nasty, personal'' smear campaign against Campbell Newman, who led the Liberal National Party to a landslide victory over Labor in Queensland's state election in March.
''This is typical of the contemporary Labor Party,'' Mr Abbott said.
Asked who was behind the campaign against him, Mr Abbott put the blame on the Prime Minister.
''In the end I suppose the person who has got to take responsibility for what happens with any political party is the leader,'' he said.
Justice Minister Jason Clare suggested Mr Abbott should ''get real'' rather than complain about personal attacks.
''Politicians are going to be judged on what they say and do and Mr Abbott needs to expect to be judged on some of the extreme things that he said in the past,'' he said.
The Wheat Export Marketing Amendment Bill is widely supported by West Australian grain growers, who export most of their crop.
Former Liberal backbencher Wilson Tuckey predicted several West Australian Liberals would cross the floor and support Labor or abstain from voting on government legislation to fully deregulate wheat exports.
He described the current accreditation scheme as an anachronism that was costing WA farmers about $6 million a year in levies and compliance costs, of which farmers were paying half.
WA Nationals MP Tony Crook says he will vote with the government while NSW Liberal Alby Schultz plans to abstain.
Some West Australian Liberal MPs are threatening to revolt against Mr Abbott, and support the government's plan to fully deregulate the wheat industry.
They reject assurances that a future Coalition government would take action, citing the failure of the Howard government.
However, a WA Liberal said last night that while he was against his party's official position, he would not ''die in a ditch'' if the legislation appeared doomed.
Shadow cabinet will meet today to discuss strategy for tomorrow's meeting of Coalition MPs where the issue will be debated.
Labor believes the game of bluff over the issue will result in an opposition filibuster of the bill while party leadership puts pressure on Coalition MPs to quell the revolt.