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Abbott relishes new role -

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ELEANOR HALL: To Canberra now and the Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says his party will
have to win back those voters known as the Howard battlers if it's to have any chance of winning
the next election.

Mr Abbott said that there are now some very effective political street fighters on his new
frontbench and that the public will like the spectacle of the Opposition taking the fight up to the
Government.

In Canberra, Sabra Lane reports.

SABRA LANE: Tony Abbott's promised to give the Government the fright of its life with his new
frontbench line-up.

And with his u-turn on the emissions trading scheme, he's also brought a change in language, with
views and policy pronouncements spelt out in clear, colourful terms.

TONY ABBOTT: If we win the election I'll be regarded as a genius. If we don't win I'll probably be
political road kill at some point in time.

SABRA LANE: Based on current polling, that admission on Lateline could mean Mr Abbott has only 12
months or less in the job.

Liberal Senator Gary Humphries, who was considering crossing the floor against his party on the
emissions trading scheme just last week, was also speaking bluntly about his surprise elevation to
the shadow ministry on ABC radio in Canberra.

GARY HUMPHRIES: The last thing I expected on Monday night was a phone call from Tony Abbott to
invite me to serve on his frontbench.

SABRA LANE: The Senator says his new job as the shadow parliamentary secretary for families wasn't
a trade off for reneging on his threat to cross the floor.

But he says the Coalition will be toast if it doesn't have a credible policy on climate change.

GARY HUMPHRIES: If we don't have a policy and a credible policy on that area well before the next
election, I would suggest by early next year, we simply won't be contenders in the 2010 election.

SABRA LANE: Government ministers have taken to the airwaves to rubbish the new line up.

The Parliamentary Secretary Mike Kelly and Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

MIKE KELLY: Tony Abbott's style, which is oppose everything for opposition's sake. He's had more
positions on climate change than the Kama Sutra. The man is not to be believed or trusted.

JULIA GILLARD: Mr Abbott's frontbench obviously is an embrace of the extreme right wing side of the
Liberal Party. That's why we're seeing some old Howard government figures back on his frontbench.

SABRA LANE: But Tony Abbott doesn't see it that way at all.

TONY ABBOTT: Some of the people who have been latched onto by the commentariat are very effective
political street fighters and I think that's what the public expect an opposition to be.

Barnaby Joyce obviously is a controversial figure but, you know, he's an extremely good retail
politician.

Bronwyn Bishop, sure she's 67 years old but I mean 67 is the new 57 and if we are going to let the
seniors of this country know that we don't think people are past it just because they're over 60,
what better way to do it than to give the most energetic 67 year old in the country a big new job.

SABRA LANE: He told Fairfax radio that the party needs to win back the so-called Howard battlers if
it's to win the next election but he says he'd give them a new name.

TONY ABBOTT: Maybe this could become Abbott's army or something like that.

INTERVIEWER: Abbott's army hey?

TONY ABBOTT: Obviously if you're going to win the election you've got to secure the people who
regard themselves as rusted on Coalition voters and then you've got to reach out to the middle
ground and Howard's battlers, to use that phrase, were basically, they were working people who
respected John Howard because he thought that in his own way he was one of them.

I've got to try to make sure that, adjusted for a new era, that we can reach out and claim those
same people.

SABRA LANE: It was a wide-ranging discussion, including how he wanted to mould his leadership and
perhaps the response was also a backhander to the man he deposed, Malcolm Turnbull.

TONY ABBOTT: I would like to be a leader who makes a difference but you can only make a difference
if you take people with you. If you just say this is what I want and to hell with the rest of you,
your leadership will inevitably end in tears.

SABRA LANE: And he's under no illusions about the job he's accepted.

TONY ABBOTT: Years and years ago I accepted the job of opposition leader's press secretary back in
1990.

INTERVIEWER: John Hewson, yeah?

TONY ABBOTT: Yeah, yeah I was his press secretary for a couple of years and John Howard, who
brokered that job, he said to me, he said, you know the hardest job in the country is opposition
leader and the second hardest job is being the opposition leader's press secretary.

So I guess that was a bit of a preparation if you like for the current job.

SABRA LANE: And while he says he's not briefed well enough on Australia's commitment in
Afghanistan, Mr Abbott says maybe the Federal Government's decision to rule out more troops last
week wasn't the right call.

TONY ABBOTT: I don't think we should rule out an increase in commitment provided we are confident
that the strategy is clear and that the tactic is likely to work.

SABRA LANE: But he believes he's on a winner with the decision to block the emissions trading
scheme and doesn't believe the Government will call a double-dissolution election.

TONY ABBOTT: I think that there's been a lot of bluster about an early election but I doubt it very
much because the Labor hardheads are all very concerned that Mr Rudd's evangelism on the subject of
an emissions trading scheme is going to come back to bite them.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the leader of the Federal Liberal Party Tony Abbott, ending that report by
Sabra Lane.