I suggested in yesterday’s Commentary that Turnbull’s activism over the past couple of weeks was a desperate attempt to help him survive as leader.
But while the latest Newspoll has put Turnbull 11 points ahead in the Better PM category (only 8 points ahead last time), there was no change in Newspoll’s TPP (still at 47/53 as it was a fortnight ago). Also, even though the Coalition’s primary vote did improve slightly (from 35 to 36), this is 6 points lower than it was when elected a year ago and still leaves unchanged the problem with the basic policy being pursued by Turnbull. Relevant here too is that Labor’s primary vote also increased to 37 (from 36) (see Newspoll 24 July).
Moreover, Turnbull’s nomination of Peter Dutton a Minister-Designate for his proposed new Home Affairs Ministry seems to have helped lift his (Dutton’s) status and given him support as a possible new leader. This follows a complimentary article by Janet Albrechsten in Weekend Australia headed (“The Liberal Leader we Deserve”), with the following Trump-like lead-in by Janet, viz “‘Super-minister’ Peter Dutton can make Australia great again”.
Today’s Australian has given Dutton support in its Letters Column from a number of sources, including John Stone who suggests Janet Albrechtsen’s “outstanding article” backs the getting rid of Turnbull and that, on his election as leader, Dutton should have Abbott occupy the most senior ministerial position — “that of defence and homeland security, for which nobody could be more eminently qualified.”
Another considerably interesting development is IPA Review for July, of which I received an advance copy and, through ex IPA Chair Charles Goode, a copy of explanation by Executive Director, John Roskam, of both the cover and his interpretation of Turnbull’s address in London (see IPA on Economic Liberalism).
Roskam’s explanation is worth reading in full but he notes that “the cover is a picture of Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten shaking hands that was taken during the last election. The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition are both wearing a dark suit, a white shirt, and a red tie – which means it’s not just their policies that are the same. Between them we’ve inserted the words that ask a key question about Australia – ‘The end of liberalism?’”
Roskam also refers to Turnbull’s comment in London that ‘The sensible centre is the place to be. It remains the place to be’ and he suggests that “being in the ‘centre’ is entirely devoid of any philosophical direction. Being in the ‘centre’ defines you by what you are not – it means merely being neither ‘right’ or ‘left’. But sometimes in life and in policy you need to choose a side – saying you’re in the ‘centre’ just avoids making a choice. Being in the ‘centre’ doesn’t tell you whether taxes should go up or down nor does it tell you whether freedom of speech is more important than avoiding someone being offended”.
Meantime, while visiting today an alumina refinery in Queensland, Abbott has reportedly expressed an even stronger position on energy policy. “We’ve been going in the wrong direction for far too long, for the best part of a decade,” he said of the RET. He said Australia needs “need a jobs first power policy, not a policy that obsesses about reducing emissions”. According to the AFR’s chief political editor Coorey, “Now he believes the RET should be abolished. As well he opposes plans by the government to introduce a Clean Energy Target, or CET, which would mandate that from 2020 onwards, a certain percentage of energy would be generated from clean sources. Mr Abbott has previously derided the policy as a “magic pudding”.
Today’s various developments confirm that Turnbull’s present leadership is on shaky ground. And so is the Coalition.