PM Tony Abbott says the aftermath of the MH17 disaster looks like 'evidence tampering on an industrial scale'.
Begrudging respect: Australians seem to approve of Prime Minister Tony Abbott's response to MH17. Source: News Corp Australia
FOR the first time since Tony Abbott was elected, many Australians are catching a glimpse of another side of the Prime Minister and a begrudging respect is emerging.
Mr Abbott has been praised for his handling of the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, with even his detractors impressed by his strong response.
He was the first world leader to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin and to express his "dissatisfaction" of the superpower's handling of the incident.
Australians seem to have noticed with many tweeting their approval.
Leaders' popularity traditionally rises after natural disasters, wars and terrorist attacks. Former US President George W. Bush managed to secure an unlikely second term after September 11.
John Howard's approval rating peaked after the Port Arthur massacre, according to chairman of Newspoll, Sol Lebovic, as well as after "the Tampa affair and the terrorist attacks of September 11, the Bali bombing, and the war in Iraq".
Former Queensland Premier Anna Bligh's handling of the 2010-11 floods turned her fortunes around, putting her ahead of the Liberal party after months of poor polling.
Associate Professor Haydon Manning of Flinders University said he couldn't think of a leader who hadn't benefited from a crisis.
"To put it in crude terms, it offers our Prime Minister every opportunity to show another side of their character," Prof Manning said.
"We have basically seen the toughness of Tony Abbott, standing up to a powerful world leader but we have also seen his softer side, he has been able to show a depth of feeling."
A softer side: Prime Minister Tony Abbott shows both strength and compassion for those impacted by the downing of MH17. Picture: Attila Szilvasi. Source: News Corp Australia
The political scientist said the handling of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and the fact that Australia was leading the United Nations Security Council response presented an image of the country that people approved of.
"They see the Australian Prime Minister immediately in contact with world leaders ... and leading the world to do the right thing," he said.
During a crisis, media coverage was also focused on the government response.
"The Opposition is sidelined, they basically have nothing to contribute."
Outpouring of grief: Flowers placed in remembrance for the victims of the MH17 plane crash at Schiphol Airport, near Amsterdam. AFP PHOTO/JOHN THYS Source: AFP
But while Prof Manning did expect to see Mr Abbott benefit from a slight improvement in the polls, he said it might not impact his election prospects.
"If the election was this year, or six months out, it may have a real impact on how people vote," he said. But at this stage there were too many other critical events ahead of the government including two more Budgets and other possible mini-Budgets.
"At this stage it doesn't have any real relevance," Prof Manning said.
Resolute: Tony Abbott speaks alongside Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, saying Russia could not "wash its hands of responsibility" for the Malaysia Airlines crash. AFP PHOTO / SAEED KHAN Source: AFP
"It puts Abbott in a strong and positive light but would probably not mean a complete recovery of the terrible opinion polls in recent months."
Prior to the downing of MH17, Mr Abbott was struggling in the polls and in the latest Fairfax-Nielsen poll published yesterday, this trend continued.
In the poll taken before the crash, Labor was well ahead of the coalition, 54 per cent to 46 per cent on a two-party preferred basis.
Tony Abbott meeting with ambassadors and representatives from the diplomatic community on the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 at Parliament House in Canberra. Source: News Corp Australia
Opposition leader Bill Shorten continued to be out in front of Mr Abbott as preferred prime minister, 46 per cent to 41 per cent. Mr Abbott's trustworthiness rating also lagged behind Mr Shorten's at a record low of 35 per cent to 45 per cent.
Prof Manning said the crisis would be a welcome circuit-breaker to the negative news cycle around Mr Abbott's unpopular Budget.
But said that suggestions that Mr Abbott was exploiting the MH17 tragedy was "ridiculous garbage".
"In the end you can't lead a political party if you are morally vacuous, you would have been found out along the way," he said.