Libs in Dire Straits, Abbott Rebukes Turnbull Govt

Liberals Continue in Dire Straits

Yesterday’s Commentary suggested that “the Coalition is in dire straits and will almost certainly experience a further drop in the next Newspoll”. Today’s media appears to confirm that:

  • The Australian’s editorial refers to the secret speech by Minister Pyne on implementing marriage equality, made outside a Liberal Party function, and suggests that “the damage …runs much deeper than the problematic issue of gay marriage because he … opened up old wounds when he declared that he and Attorney-General George Brandis — who both served in Mr Abbott’s cabinet — had always been loyal to their faction”. It noted that Pyne boasted that “We voted for Malcolm Turnbull in every ballot he’s ever been in.” (see The Aus on Libs Dire Straits);
  • Chris Kenny points out that “the ‘Black Hand’ dinner at which Pyne spoke dates back more than 30 years when it was organised by the small “L” Liberals who opposed John Howard”. He claims that while “they did not contribute greatly to government” then,  “the gathering last weekend was different because Pyne, who has been a core member of this group for decades, was claiming victory. And he was promising more policy shifts to the left”. Kenny suggests that “Conservative Liberals will hit back — and the backlash has already started with Abbott attacking Pyne’s on radio”(see Kenny Says This time it’s Different);
  • David Crowe says that, with the slump in the opinion polls, an election held now “ would deliver the biggest Coalition defeat in decades”…and… “the Coalition would lose 20 seats — four in NSW, nine in Queensland, two in South Australia and five in Western Australia — if the election matched the state-by-state swings shown in the quarterly News poll survey published this week. Two cabinet ministers — Peter Dutton and Christian Porter — would be among those to lose their seats, along with Michael Keenan and Ken Wyatt”. But Crowe overlooks that as the slump in opinion polls is now likely to be larger than the last one, more seats than 20 would likely to be lost.

Note that Crowe reports that Conservative Bernardi  told Andrew Bolt on his Sky News program that “Pyne was the ‘most untrustworthy person’ he’d ever met in politics” …  “He is the most ­untrustworthy person I’ve ever met in this business” (see Crowe on Lib Brawl).

Separately, Crowe reports that Liberal supporters of marriage equality may seek to initiate private members legislation allowing it, and then arrange for Coalition MPs who support it to defy the Coalition’s official policy of having a plebiscite (confirmed by Turnbull) and cross the floor in the Lower House to have it approved in Parliament. That would certainly be a divisifying measure.

Abbott Poses Different Strategy

In his first attempt since being knifed, Abbott has today presented to an IPA function the outlines of an alternative strategy for the Coalition (see Abbott Rebukes Turnbull Govt). Reports do not indicate that he has accompanied this with an indication that he will make a challenge for the leadership. But he identifies one of the major concerns with the Turnbull strategy by saying that “The next election won’t be won by drawing closer to Labor,” Mr Abbott said. “The next election can only be won by drawing up new battlelines that give our people something to fight for; and the public something to hope for”. His main themes relate to Energy Policy (a freeze on the renewable target at the existing 15% and the construction of a “big” coal-fired power station); a referendum to change the Senate; a slow down in Immigration; a repair of the Budget through getting spending under control; and tougher measures on terrorism, incl the banning of Hizb ut-Tahrir.  These themes certainly provide a real challenge and could well form the basis for a challenge to Turnbull.

Energy Policy    

I have previously made critical comments on the Finkel report and, in particular, the proposal to set a renewable target of 42% by 2030. I had not then read the article by Henry Ergas on Energy Policy and Finkel, which appeared in yesterday’s Australian (see Ergas on Energy Policy). His analysis includes comments that “the report is flawed by cavalier conclusions and unacceptably poor modelling. Moreover, the errors in the reports are hardly random: they systematically overstate the advantages of renewable and understate the continuing importance of coal”. Ergas is highly qualified to make such comments and, with the many other critical comments of Finkel, it is surely time for even the Turnbull government to, at a minimum, put it aside as guide to policy.

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