Vote 'weakened' Israel relationship says Abbott
SIXTY years of bipartisan support for Israel has been broken by Labor's decision to abstain from a vote on Palestine having UN observer status, Tony Abbott says.
Mr Abbott said on Sunday cabinet's decision undermined Ms Gillard's authority within her party and weakened Australia's relationship with Israel.
Ms Gillard had wanted Australia to vote against Palestine having observer status in the UN but was forced to back down after it became clear last Monday night that caucus would not support her position. The following day, Ms Gillard told her party room Australia would abstain from the vote.
"For me the disappointing thing about this was it seemed to put in jeopardy 60-odd years of settled, bipartisan policy of rock-solid support for Israel," Mr Abbott said.
The Coalition would have voted against the proposal, he said.
"We should continue to vote against any additional recognition for Palestine until such time as the Palestinians are prepared to unambiguously recognise Israel's right to exist behind secure borders."
He said the vote had showed Ms Gillard was "rolled" by her cabinet and caucus, and the events had "gravely weakened and undermined" her leadership.
Ms Gillard shrugged off the comments.
"I announced at our party room meeting we would be abstaining on the vote before the UN, and that vote is to give the Palestinian people the same status at the UN as the Vatican has now. We abstained. The vote was always going to be carried, and it was carried by a substantial majority."
She said all Australians wanted to see a viable peace plan, and an end to the long-running conflict between the two countries.
After a bitter final week of parliament, both leaders appeared on TV on Sunday to talk about positive policies and positive leadership.
Mr Abbott, asked about Ms Gillard's repeated charge that he is sexist, said he would respond to the criticism by promoting his positive leadership.
"I'm just going to talk about my positive plans ... as far as I'm concerned what last week was all about was the Coalition's positive plans for the future."
And he denied that Ms Gillard's charge that he was sexist had altered his approach to politics.
"I was always going to be focusing more and more on being a credible alternative government and a credible alternative prime minister as we got closer to the election."
He said important questions remained to be answered on Ms Gillard's role in the Australian Workers' Union saga.
But Ms Gillard said she refused to "become bogged down in Mr Abbott's campaign of sleaze and smear", and would focus on policy.
"At the end of the week that was, where Mr Abbott didn't ask a question about jobs, didn't ask a question about health, didn't ask a question about education, didn't ask a question about childcare, or power prices, let's get on with the job."