21
Mar
2017

Newspoll & Why Policy Changes Must be Made

As a new Parliamentary week starts, the political editor of The Australian interprets the latest Newspoll as putting Turnbull “back in the game” (see below). But while the Coalition’s TPP has improved to 48/52 (from 45/55), it remains a long way short of a recovery let alone a Coalition leadership position. Importantly also, the polling still continues to confirm dissatisfaction with Turnbull. In terms of net satisfaction with leaders (only available on the web), Turnbull and Shorten are both about the same in negative terms (about -28) and, although Turnbull is slightly better than Abbott was when he lost the leadership (-33), he has lost the very favourable position he had when he took over in September 2015 (+19). He is also still below what he was even six months ago (-22). In reality, voters are very unhappy with both leaders and there is an opportunity for a new leader for either party.

Note also that One Nation has retained its improved vote (10% cf 1.3% at the 2016 election) and is now competing directly with the Greens (9% cf 10% at 2016 election). While Hanson has been criticised for her performance at the WA election , her focus on two important issues (climate change and Islamism) attracted only minimal attention in that election. The continued support for One Nation suggests that the Coalition has an opportunity to adopt policies which take a sceptical view on climate change and which strengthen counter-terrorism provisions and attitudes to extremist activities (we need to avoid the French situation, where there is now talk of compulsory military service). Sensible policy improvements would help improve the Coalition’s polling and further reduce that of the Greens, whose leader now wants us to work only 4 days a week!

However, as I argued in last Saturday’s Commentary, such improvements would need to involve a major change in energy and climate policy. For reasons stated in that Commentary, these policies are going in the wrong direction both practically and politically. If Turnbull were to be serious about improving Coalition polling he would abandon his apparent fear of being accused as “Trumplike”. Yet he has now adopted Trump’s use of Twitter to send (daily?) messages on government policy (more power to the PM and less to Cabinet let alone Parliament).

Andrew Bolt’s main article today is in line with my Saturday Commentary (for access see my web). Note in particular that the feasibility study on expanding the Snowy hydro (announced by Turnbull after implying that it is “all OK”) seems a lost cause. Bolt refers us to experts at ANU who suggest that the study will show that “it costs 20 per cent more to pump water uphill than you get from the hydro-electricity produced when it flows back down”. The economics of the Snowy are also likely to be negative if a proper analysis is done. In short, even as an attempt to attract political support let alone deal sensibly with the energy problem, Turnbull’s Snowy project is already a flop.

In his second article below, Bolt does, however, suggest that Turnbull may be moving in the right direction on some issues. Note in particular that Bolt draws attention to Turnbull’s now continued use of “Islamic terrorism”, a reference he could not accept when he first became PM. These developments (sic) in the Turnbull philosophy have been extended since Bolt’s articles were published by his “discovery” today of the Heydon Royal Commission report on Trade Unions, which reported in December 2015. He had his employment Minister introduce legislation today to penalise trade unions and employers for making or accepting “corrupt” payments. If properly and practically framed, such action goes to the heart of the powers exercised by trade unions and hence the role of Labor at present. This is a counter to the decision by Labor to attempt to legislate against any reduction in penalty rates decided by the Fair Work Commission and the statement by Shorten to make this reduction (with which Turnbull eventually said he agreed) an issue right up to the election.

It would be difficult to accept that Turnbull has suddenly become a conservative or even that he has decided to adopt conservative policies. Perhaps these latest developments are designed to give him time. But time to do what?

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