I am disappointed to read that Tony Abbott will not stand for the leadership of the Liberal Party. He claims to have insufficient support. I think Abbott was an excellent Minister for Health and that he displayed considerable loyalty to John Howard whom he disagreed with on hospital policy. Indeed, that one of his problems - he is closely associated with Howard and the Howard defeat.
Abbott has indicated that he might make a bid in the future if his support improves. This will come to pass if, as I expect, the Labor Party performs badly and the John Howard era becomes viewed nostalgically as one of the most prosperous and best-governed periods in Australian history.
I favour Malcolm Turnbull over Brendon Nelson and think Julie Bishop should get the Deputy Leadership - indeed she is much more experienced for the top job than Turnbull and has done a good job raising money for the Party. I would have a hard job not supporting her for the Leadership itself had she stood. I think she would have made a great team with Abbott.
Sadly, I cannot help thinking that prejudiced views on Tony Abbott's Catholicism have hindered his prospects. We live in a secular society where people like Abbott who seek to live by a decent moral code are regarded suspiciously.
I hope I am wrong but, if I am not, I think such prejudiced criticisms are entirely unjust and that Abbott, while arguing his moral positions - something as a non-religious person that even I respect -he has always respected the need for consensus.
I am sure too that if Abbott had been in the Labor Party (a near impossible hypothetical) he would have been treated very differently. Bigotry in Australia can be so one-eyed.
Update 1: Minutes after commenting below that I did not favour Brendon Nelson I got an email from the Liberal Party saying he got the job. I'll stick to my prediction that he will not lead the Liberals to the 2010 election. An interesting post supporting my view is given by Jason Soon. Pleased Julie Bishop got the Deputy job - well-deserved.
Update 2: I must qualify my claims about Abbott facing discrimination because he is Catholic. That certainly was not the basis for judgement in the Liberal Party since both Brendon Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull are Catholic. That is a good sign. In the broader community I still however think Abbott's views are more decisively recognised to have a religious basis. This will still affect things inside the Party.