Newspoll 13 Sept 2016 & Turnbull’s Achievements

The widespread media coverage of Turnbull’s attendance at three international conferences has not resulted in any improvement in Coalition polling, which the latest Newspoll shows as still at 50/50 on a TPP basis (see below). Nor has it helped Turnbull’s net satisfaction ratio which continues slightly to trail Shorten’s despite the latter’s poor handling of the Dastyari affair (T minus 19 cf S minus 17). One might conclude that with both leaders on large minus net satisfaction ratios we Australians face a gloomy political outlook and have good reason to be dissatisfied with the way our existing political system is operating. Surprisingly, rather than concentrating on getting the domestic situation into better shape Turnbull is reported as off overseas yet again next week for a memorial of 9/11 in the US.

This poll is published the day after a number of journalists have expressed reservations to one degree or another about Turnbull’s performance over the year he has been in office. I have seen one or two who suggest Turnbull can recover but most now paint a gloomy picture unless major reforms can be legislated (which seems highly unlikely) or they can be “sold” in such a way that  the electorate is convinced and shifts the polling back in favour of a Coalition led by Turnbull. Former PM Howard, for example, says that Turnbull has to “sell” budget and workplace relations changes. One recalls, however, that it was Howard who encouraged Turnbull to stay after his defeat as Opposition leader and despite his (Turnbull’s) decision not to vote against Gillard’s outlandish changes to the regulation of workplace relations. It is difficult also to see that he could now get any major budget changes passed by Parliament. In fact, the Treasurer has already been forced to compromise on the supposedly agreed miniscule budget savings of about $6.3bn. The claim that this is a win by Turnbull is stretching things a bit!

More importantly, there are few signs that Turnbull has started to acknowledge either that he has achieved very little in his first twelve months or that he is now moving in the right direction. His listing of achievements reflects his failure to recognise what counts. As Andrew Bolt has pointed out, the list is “so embarrassingly tiny that his staff have padded it with things they’ve stolen from Abbott’s” and includes “stuff he’s merely promised, planned or got some people to inquire into” (see Bolt on Turnbull Achievements).  Dennis Shanahan adds that it’s best to stick to what you have actually done rather than compile lists (see Shanahan on Turnbull). And as Bolt also points out, Turnbull’s decision on his attendance at the Micronesia forum to base the increased grants as needed to deal with extreme weather threats took no account of even the IPCC’s recognition of the diminution of such happenings let alone research showing that a significant proportion of the islands has grown in size or remained stable and has not experienced threat from rising sea levels. The “right” direction would have been to announce any additional grants as being simply to help economic development generally.

On one important policy issue there does appear to have been a major improvement in Turnbull’s attitude.  In a Press Statement on Sunday (see Turnbull Press Release/Conference) on the latest attempt in Sydney to kill an elderly man by knifing him, Turnbull referred to 9/11 and said that there was a connection between  that and the attempted killing, adding  “but connecting them both is a violent Islamist ideology which perverts the religion of Islam and seeks to destroy and threaten our way of life.”Making the connection between the religion of Islam and terrorism is an important advance.

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