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22
Sep
2015

Coalition TPP Up under Turnbull. Turnbill on 7.30. Environment Threats as Paris Nears. A Greek Victory?

Polling Lift under Turnbull

The Coalition’s Newspoll increase from a TPP of 46/54 to 51/49 is encouraging, particularly for Turnbull supporters, although it suggests a “wait and see” picture rather than the establishment of a conclusive electoral position. More encouraging is Turnbull’s improvement in the Better PM verdict from a minus 4% net under Abbott to a plus 34% net. Even here however there is a wait and see element in the 24% who remain “uncommitted”.  Roy Morgan’s index of consumer confidence also jumped but only to fractionally above the long term average.

More generally, numerous lobby groups have urged Turnbull to support their cause. When (almost all of) such support does not appear,  confidence will be adversely affected. Reports that estimated budget revenue is still deteriorating, with consequent increases in the estimated deficits, suggest the need for Turnbull to do what the Abbott government did not do – present an early mini-budget which cuts spending. This need is reinforced by reports that international economic agencies are making further reductions in forecasts of world economic growth. But Turnbull’s signal is to convey confidence and optimism (see below) and there is no sign that an early mini-budget may be under consideration. The greater the gap between the optimism conveyed by T the greater will be the eventual fall in confidence.

Turnbull 7.30 Interview

Although it is early days for assessing PM Turnbull’s views, it is of some interest to see what he had to say (and didn’t say) in his first lengthy interview. Statements made in such interviews are of course also difficult to interpret. Unfortunately, that difficulty was increased with the rather over friendly ABC interviewer, who seemed to almost fall out of her chair because she was talking to “that man” Turnbull. The full text of that interview with 7.30 reporter Leigh Sales is available here. I note the following (my comments in bold):

  • T claimed the Liberal National (not the Coalition) government is “free market” but it wants to remain “a high wage, First World, generous social welfare net economy with strong growth”. This can be maintained by being competitive, productive and innovative in “the big, expanding world economy”. (OK, but no emphasis on domestic changes and no recognition that real wages are falling or that social welfare needs to be further reduced).
  • T has not considered a possible mini-budget but “its not just the measures”. He has talked to the Reserve Bank Governor about the economy (but no mention of Treasury Secretary) and T claims that “automatic” stabilisers such as the exchange rate are working. There is a lack of confidence but the economy is “not in bad shape” and “everything I can say to inspire confidence will help”. You do that “not just by talking in an airy-fairy way” but by actually laying out the facts. (Exaggeration of the possible influence on confidence of what any PM says rather than the reform measures he takes. Appropriate exchange rate adjustments are far from being “automatic”).
  • Tax reform will be a big part of our agenda but “I’m not going to rule things in or out” (Dodged, but the idea of a GST increase is running hard. Commentaries seem to ignore the agreement that GST revenue goes to the States).
  • Industrial relations reform has been “a very vexed one”. The important thing is to explore  ways to “achieve more flexibility”… in a way not threatening to workers conditions. “The  challenge for us is not to wage war with unions or the workers that they seek to represent”. “Specific policies will be resolved  by the Cabinet” (Slightly more encouraging about reforms than might have been expected. But no reference to Heydon RC suggests a more “moderate” approach to unions than will be available from the report).
  • China would be better advised in its own interests not to push the envelope with the islands in the South China sea (OK, but dodged the part of the question on terrorism and no mention of the importance of the US alliance).
  • The real objective of climate change policy is to cut your emissions and Direct Action has been very successively so far. We’re taking that to the Paris Conference (No sign here of any query on CC and, contrary to other policies, it seems this doesn’t have to go to Cabinet).
  • Since I was Opposition Leader I’m wiser about people and I’m committed to be “extremely consultative” (Wait and See).

Environment Policies

As predicted, the closer we get to the Paris conference the more aggressive have become the advocates of additional action to reduce emissions of CO2, this notwithstanding the absence of any significant recent change in data in support.

In the US a group of supposed climate scientists is urging Obama to prosecute sceptics under legislation which allows prosecution of racketeers and “corrupt” organisations! The idea would be to charge sceptics who disagree with the views of climate scientists, presumably as being “corrupt. Here in Australia former Australian Defence Force Chief Barrie has claimed in a report by the Climate Council that defence planning needs to take account of conflicts likely to arise because of adverse effects from climate change, such as more frequent and intense natural disasters (which even the last IPCC report dismissed). And  a new Report Card on the Barrier Reef claims progress to improve water quality on the reef has “slowed dramatically” and according to the Queensland Environment Minister there is “more bad news than good news”.

Greece

The “victory” (36% of a vote of the 60% of the Greek electorate which voted) of the left-wing Syriza party in the election can only be described as remarkable –but also worrying. We now have a situation in which the leader of the party who started by opposing “austerity” measures (Tsipras) is now saying that such measures must now be adopted. It is said he was forced to do so in order to stay in the EU. But in a country with 25% unemployment such forcing has not stopped an  ongoing dispute over the exact measures to be taken. Sophocles  (496 – 406 BC) is said to have written:

Nought from the Greeks towards me hath sped well.
So now I find that ancient proverb true,
Foes’ gifts are no gifts: profit bring they none.

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