For the second day in a row Turnbull has “savaged” Shorten in Parliament – and outside it. The savaging included an accusation about the benefit to Shorten arising from “managing” one of the deals done by the union he led before he became an MP and Labor’s leader, as outlined in the Heydon Royal Commission. The opportunity for the government to use those investigations has so far been largely neglected and the attack on Shorten presumably reflects a number of recent unfavourable developments, such as the drop in Coalition polling to 46/54 on a TPP, the resignation from the Liberal Party of Senator Bernardi, and the apparent success of Trump in effecting major changes in policy in the US (one of which was even quite favourably regarded in a poll here).
While the initial response of Coalition MPs and some media has been favourable to Turnbull’s attack initiative, the question is whether this will be followed by major policy announcements and initiatives. That is much more difficult to achieve under Australia’s political “system” than it is under America’s, which seems to allow the President himself greater power to implement executive decisions. But there is ample scope to attack the Opposition here on the basis of it’s reliance on support from unions which, in most cases, are exploiting their power via the Fair Work Commission and its union-based interpretations of the legislation implemented under Gillard. Equally, there is scope to mount a major attack on the failure of the Opposition to support budget measures sufficient to reduce the deficit.
Turnbull might also indicate support for many of Trump’s initiatives and for Brexit. As indicated in Sheridan’s article, the resignation by Bernardi is “symptomatic of the broader crisis in Western politics”. He also points out that “this is still a government which doesn’t show enough fight”. The problem is whether a Turnbull led government is capable of identifying issues which it could use to attack the Opposition and, at the same time, persuade sufficient of the electorate to reverse the recent polling. The adoption of major changes in environmental policy is a very obvious track to follow given the almost certain major changes in the US and the increased evidence that the so-called experts have made major analytical errors, even using deliberate manipulation of data to obtain non-existent warming. Imagine for a moment that Turnbull announced a major agreement with Trump on correcting the mistakes made by past respective governments. The trouble is that it is virtually impossible for a Turnbull to take such an initiative.
Not surprisingly, therefore, Andrew Bolt published an article on 8 Feb (before Turnbull’s first savaging) arguing that Turnbull must be dumped. While Bolt does not make it clear who he favours to succeed him, it certainly appears that the Coalition cannot win the next election through a legislative reform initiative given the difficulty of securing passage through the Senate. Arguably, it would be better to give one of the possible candidates a chance now (Bolt mentions a number) rather than wait until the months close to the election (which is uncertain anyhow). But there is no sign that such possible candidates are ready to engage in a battle for the leadership.
I am also attaching a summary version of the speech made by Peter Costello at last night’s AGM dinner by the HR Nicholls Society, which I attended. I continue on the board of that Society but mainly in hope rather than expectation that the Government will push for a major reduction in the regulatory arrangements presently in place and their obvious anti-productivity effects. As Costello points out, the Turnbull government has made no comment about the resignation of Vice President Watson (who also attended the dinner along with about 80 others) and his very serious criticism of the workings of these arrangements. Again, this could be an opportunity to attack the Opposition for installing the present arrangements and resisting sensible changes.