Could Turnbull’s Polling Improve?

Changes Justified on Energy Policy Under Turnbull

In my Commentary on Tuesday I drew attention to new reasons for implementing major changes in the Turnbull government’s policies directed at reducing C02 emissions and increasing the usage of renewable. These included

  • The admission by three prominent warmists that there is no acceptable explanation for the “pause” in temperatures since around 2000 and, hence, a much reduced basis for any such policies ;
  • Recent research showing that, while a (new) high-efficiency, low emissions coal-fired power plant costs $2.2bn, the subsidies on a power project using renewable costs $3bn;
  • A survey, reported in an article published by the NY Times, showing that 1,600 coal plants are planned in 62 countries and this makes it “virtually impossible to meet the goals set in the Paris climate accord”.
  • The Australian’s publication of my letter pointing out that adoption of the recommendation by Finkel for greatly expanded usage of renewable would mean higher electricity prices and much less usage of coal.

Further developments relevant to energy policy since Tuesday include

  • A decision by a Canadian court that one of the three prominent warmists (Mann) is in contempt of court for refusing to show documents in support of his claim that his method of measuring temperatures shows a significant increase in the late 20th century whereas a prominent sceptic (Ball) used widely accepted public data which show much lower temperature levels in this period (see Mann Loses Court Case). The legal case arose because Ball made disparaging comments about Mann’s published work and Mann decide to sue him (legally) for defamation. The case has been widely regarded as a test for one of the most prominent warmists and, while the refusal to show documents cannot be taken as proof that his views are wrong, it will be seen as yet another reason for scepticism;
  • An article in Quadrant by Tony Thomas indicating that the Trump administration has taken extensive measures to unwind the restrictions/regulations imposed on sources of power reliant on fossil fuels. These measures include the dumping of Obama’s “Clean Power Plan” designed to bump up household electricity rates by 14%, approval of  the Keystone pipeline from Alberta to Illinois/Texas, revocation of  Obama’s ban on new coal leasing on federal lands (which involve 40% of US coal production), the dumping the US’s Paris Climate commitments by Obama, and the abolition of  “hundreds of thousands of hours of red-tape energy regulations – including on fracking”. Thomas also refers to a recent public speech by Trump in Washington indicating support for using nuclear energy and approval of exports of natural gas (see Trump Doctrine on Energy). Although such changes have been little mentioned in Australian media, they draw attention to the limited extent even absence of such polices under the Turnbull government and the increasing competitiveness that will result for US industry;
  • An article by Paul Kelly suggesting that “Turnbull has reached the decisive stage on devising a long-run energy policy”. However, Kelly appeared to favour a policy based on the Finkel report rather than the freezing of renewable usage at 15 per cent as proposed by Tony Abbott and he judged that Turnbull “will carry the party room”. Kelly did not seem to recognise that an implementation of Finkel would mean further increases in electricity prices and further reductions in the usage of economic coal-fired plants. My letter to The Australian pointing this out was not published.

Developments in Concerns About Turnbull’s Continuance

The failure of any coherent response by the Turnbull government to the Finkel report has added to the increased recognition that the policies being pursued by Turnbull are often not consistent with Liberal Party objectives and this is reflected in seemingly mounting opposition to the continuance of Turnbull as PM. The next Newspoll on Monday may provide an indication of the extent of it. Indications of concern about policies include

  • Increasing expressions of policy concern by Tony Abbott and his indication of support for an alternative conservative “manifesto”, with visits to electorates held by the Liberal Party  including to Assistant Treasurer Sukkart’s Deakin electorate where a not inconsiderable crowd attended. He took the opportunity of the G20 meeting in Germany (which is being attended by Turnbull) to argue that European countries seem incapable of exercising effective border controls although mentioning that Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Norway have re-introduced some controls.
    There have been complaints from some Government ministers, and from some media commentators who have locked themselves into a “No Abbot” view, that Abbott’s intervention is undermining the Coalition’s election chances. But his intervention only started a couple of weeks ago and Turnbull’s poor polling has been running for many months ;
  • A report that Liberals holding rural seats are concerned that they do not have any seats in Cabinet whereas Nationals have five;
  • A decision by the Roseville Liberal Party to invite Cory Bernardi to a fund raiser and to give an address on “Is the Party Over?”;
  • The decision by The Australian to publish an article by John Stone entitled “Newspoll Figures Clearly Say Malcolm’s Time Is Up”. Previously Stone’s articles on Newspolls have been published in Spectator and have mainly drawn attention to the continuing TPP gap being experienced by the Coalition On this occasion he drew particular attention to how long the Coalition has been substantially behind on a sustained basis and to how it has performed on primary votes (ie not simply on a TPP basis).

Stone points out that “on both these metrics, Turnbull’s performance in terms of bad polling while PM has already far exceeded the worst that Abbott recorded”. He has “now been consistently behind in Newspoll by four or more percentage points (that is, 48 Coalition, 52 Labor, or worse) for 14 polls in a row” and the Coalition’s primary vote has “now been at a catastrophic 37 per cent or less for eight successive Newspolls (and below 40 per cent for 14 consecutive polls)” (see Stone on Turnbull).

Those supporting the continuance of Turnbull have so far largely ignored his “bad polling” as Stone describes it and have argued that Abbott cannot now be an alternative, that there is nobody else to replace Turnbull, or that the election is not until next year and that electors will then realise that Shorten could not sensibly be elected. Whether they will change their minds on the basis of Stone’s analysis or perhaps with a further deterioration in polling remains to be seen. But it is difficult to envisage that Turnbull could make a come-back for the Coalition before the election whereas appointing a replacement in the near future would give it a reasonable  chance.

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