How Much Longer Can Turnbull Last?

Assessing the Last Parliamentary Session

The end of the Parliamentary session (it resumes in 6 weeks) has produced various comments about its performance, including Turnbull’s claim that it showed that the Coalition is governing. He referred in particular the $6bn bank tax, gas export restrictions, the avoidance of Aboriginal Title restrictions on the $21bn Adani coal mine in Queensland, and the much publicised  new arrangements for schools. The Weekend Australian observes critically that “the Prime Minister has won this victory only by adopting what even he argues is a purer version of Labor’s Gonski plan and by promising tens of billions of dollars that are yet to be raised and which, on the available evidence, will not necessarily boost education outcomes”.

I note also that, apart from significant additions to budget spending,  the new schools funding involves the Commonwealth government rather than the States virtually financially controlling the schools administered by the States. As the OZ says, “the lines between federal and state responsibilities are increasingly blurred. Canberra’s funding deals give it a direct hand in the operation of all schools and hospitals, once state responsibilities” (see The Aus on Turnbull Policy Wins). This may not be a matter of concern to Turnbull, who  believes in government intervention – and particularly when he is running the intervening government.

The question is whether those who regard Turnbull as having been successful in the last session have upset more of those who believe in good government. Veteran Journalist Laurie Oakes thinks that , while Turnbull faces headwinds and  “can’t get rid of Abbott, he is cleaning up Abbott’s mess. Getting the Gonski measures through parliament on Thursday night was a key part of that. It is obvious now that Turnbull faces a long, hard slog. He should forget about the next Newspoll — and the five, 10, even 15 after that — and concentrate on the next election in two years” (see Oakes on Turnbull).

By contrast, John Stone points out in Spectator that, when the first motion to overthrow Abbott was moved in the Liberal party room on February 7, 2015 (the second successful one was in September), ‘the Newspoll count’ had then only registered 16 successive adverse results. As there are now only two more Newspolls before reaching 16,  a spill motion might again occur then, but this time it would  be to overthrow Turnbull. Stone argues that the policies adopted by Turnbull, and the 14 negative polling results to date, indicate that Turnbull is no longer being listened to and that some journalists who even dislike Abbott are starting to take that view (see Emailing-NOTES Stone).

Former Chief Adviser to Abbott, Peta Credlin, also has an article in today’s Herald Sun headed “No Hope Left For Malcolm” and pointing out what increasing numbers are realising viz “it’s easy enough to see what Turnbull has been trying to engineer because he comes at problems from the Left” and that his strategy is to “out-Labor Labor”.

Andrew Bolt is also foreshadowing a report tomorrow which may further question Turnbull’s position.

Particularly relevant to the Turnbull position is his handling of the report by his appointee as Chief Scientist, Finkel, on the electricity market (but really on Climate Policy). That report was presented on 9 June and was accompanied by a comment by Turnbull that it had merit ie he had advance warning of what it proposed.  But as I have previously reported, the Finkel proposals have produced considerable controversy, centred around the proposal to have renewable used to produce 42% of power by 2030 (and higher after that). This would mean the end in due course of usage of coal unless it is subsidised. Finkel  also completely failed to indicate that there is considerable uncertainty about the dangerous warming thesis.

The latest indication from Environment Minister Freydenberg, made last Friday (Turnbull seems to have gone quiet for the moment), is that “This is too big an issue to rush or to get wrong. I am not going to put a time frame on it,” Mr Frydenberg told the Energy Week 2017 conference in Melbourne.  He said the Finkel review recommendations and other measures would be discussed by energy ministers at their meeting in July.  “But I know the Prime Minister and other ministers within the cabinet and indeed the whole party room is focussed primarily at the moment on how do we drive down the cost of power. “So that is our overwhelming preoccupation,” Mr Frydenberg said.  “But I can’t give you and I am not going to give you a specific timeframe because I want get this policy right, I want to take all my colleagues with us, and at the end of the day the country  needs a comprehensive energy policy that will stand the test of time” (see AFR on Frydenberg).

In short, this confirms that there is no agreement within the Coalition on the report which (in effect) Turnbull commissioned from Finkel and there could now be drawn out discussions with the States. One wonders whether Turnbull realised that the report would cause such disagreement.

Meantime, The Australian’s Environment Editor, Graham Lloyd, wrote a piece in Weekend Australian which, while discussing the complexities and differences in views, also failed to discuss the highly uncertain dangerous warming thesis. In commenting on Lloyd’s article, climate expert William Kininmonth has conveyed to me that the power industry itself has an equally unquestioning view on dangerous warming and is apparently prepared to accept the view that renewable would partner with conventional generation – but without assessing either the costs or the technological workability. He also casts doubts on the feasibility of using pumped hydro and batteries. Kininmonth’s perceptive conclusion is that “ For a self-styled business man Turnbull is demonstrating a distinct lack of economic common sense in protecting tax payers; he has no hesitation in spending other people’s money on grand schemes, whether it be on education, health or green mirages. The rent seekers are waiting for him at every turn!”

Petition for Withdrawal from Paris Accord

John McClean, a climate scientist who has provided advice to the IPCC, has compiled a Petition to Federal Parliament seeking a decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord. If you click on this link, you will be a signatory to the Petition. However, do not use Internet Explorer to find the Petition and the place to sign. I used Google Chrome.

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