It was Labor who was supposed to crack under the pressure of a six week long election campaign. That was John Howard's strategy. And some Labor heavyweights are showing the strain, most notably Peter Garrett in a swirl of confusing messages about climate change. But the public expects newbies, like Garrett, to make mistakes and to occasionally stuff up the message.
But when one federal government minister after another makes a fool of himself in public, you can see that the enormous pressure of six weeks under the microscope is being felt all round.
Earlier in the week it was environment minister Malcolm Turnbull who cracked, when a 'leak' revealed that he all but demanded the Liberals change their concrete stance on refusing to ratify the Kyoto Treaty.
Yesterday it was health minister Tony Abbott who shattered under the strain.
Abbott was late for a televised debate, then lost it and swore on camera. But far worse was the number of disgusting comments about a dying man, and questioned his legitimacy. A man whose chief concern in his last months of life is that those dying from asbestos-related illnesses, like himself, be given access to drugs that will ease their condition and the suffering of their families.
Abbott said Bernie Banton's motivations should be questioned :
"I know Bernie is very sick, but just because a person is sick doesn't necessarily mean that he is pure of heart in all things."
The public reaction was generally one of absolute disgust, and Abbott admitted that he felt no need to apologise until he saw the headlines in the newspapers.
The fact that his disgusting behaviour was the lead news story on most evening news broadcasts would have only convinced further to say he was sorry. But how sorry was Abbott? The fact that he was smirking throughout the apology he gave on camera gives no credence to his claims that he believed he stepped over the line.
Hilariously, Andrew Bolt, yet another of the Murdoch media's team of professional Howard government apologists, strove to remind us that Abbbott was a good man, with a good heart, and wanted us to feel sorry for Abbott because he had, according to Bolt, been unfairly treated in a Lateline interview last night.
We are supposed to believe that Abbott's attack on a dying man was something unusual, and that the health minister bagging out a victim of asbestos is not the sort of behaviour that should see him forced to resign as health minister.
But Abbott has long been a nasty little creature, who will say and do anything, insult and disparage anyone, if he thinks it will help his own career and that of his political masters.
In May, Tony Abbott threatened the Australian public if they dared to vote Labor into office. Sounding like a cross between Darth Vader and a brutal dictator, Abbott said all Australians would face "consequences...dire consequences" if they tossed out his government.
Abbott's threat signaled the start of a tide of raw panic flowing through the Coalition government, reaching up to the highest ranks of the Liberals, which continues today, despite a recent slight improvement in some polls.
In June, Tony Abbott whined about how Australians expected too much from their politicians :
"Nothing but the best is good enough from Australian politicians and, the better it becomes, the more zealously voters reserve their right to raise their expectations."Heartbreaking stuff. If only our expectations of our politicians to deliver on their promises was so much lower, then their jobs would be so much easier.
Only a few weeks ago, Tony Abbott's 'dark' past as a secret unionist and strike maker was exposed, just when the Liberals were pouring another $10 million or so of taxpayers money into advertising claiming the Labor Party was full of unionists who would destroy the nation's economy.
In early October, Abbott claimed that women who had not had a 'broad range of experiences' were qualified to hold positions of power in the Australian government, and bagged out deputy opposition leader Julia Gillard for spending too much of her time working at her task. This from a government who has done more than any other to force women, particularly single mothers, into the workforce. He was forced to apologise for that as well.
But Abbott has long had his Day Of Hell coming. He is a man who has long cherished his well-deserved reputation as Howard's chief attack dog, and political assassin, but you can only get away with being a destroyer of lives and careers for so long before all that bad karma comes back to you, with gusto.
Abbott has long been one of Australia's most unpopular politicians. Questioning the credibility of a dying man, who has devoted what remains of his life to helping others, and smirking his way through an apology, will do nothing for the government's chances come election day.
Tony Abbott Threatens Australians Will Face "Dire Consequences" If They Vote Labor
You Demand Too Much Of Us, Abbott Whines About Australians Wanting Politicians To Keep Their Promises
Tony Abbott's 'Dark' Unionist Past
What A Scumbag : Part One