Assessing the Polling & Turnbull’s Leadership

Assessing the Surveys

My Commentary of 5 August included a section on Coalition Leadership and suggested the basic question that Coalition MPs have to face is whether to continue with Turnbull as leader in the event that Newspoll shows no significant change as Parliament resumes. That in fact is what happened, with the Coalition’s TPP remaining at 47/53 (compared with 50.4 at the July 2016 election) and its Primary Vote remaining at 36 (42.1 at July 2016 election). A glimmer of hope was that Labor’s Primary Vote fell by one percentage point to 36 but this is still equal to the Coalition’s and is higher than its 34.7 at the July 2016 election.

Relevant is a Fairfax survey reported front page in today’s AGE and headed “Voters savage ‘gutless’ PM”. This survey has no numerical comparisons but it reports that, “when asked to name anything that Mr Turnbull had accomplished in nearly two years as Prime Minister, people in the groups were unable to name anything that affected their lives.  They were able to nominate only a single decision – a rearrangement of government agencies for the pending creation of the Home Affairs department” (see Fairfax Survey). Interestingly, some of those interviewed thought Abbott had made decisions.

Astonishingly, The Australian’s Political Correspondent, David Crowe, has interpreted the Newspoll as “giving Malcolm Turnbull the benefit of the doubt. No matter how grim the result for the government as a whole, the Prime Minister keeps his lead over Bill Shorten”. Crowe argues that, as the “Better Prime Minister” result now shows Turnbull ahead at 46/31 compared with  43/32 at the last survey, “the message from this Newspoll is that the Coalition has an asset worth protecting”. He also refers to the improvement in Turnbull’s “Net Satisfaction Rate” from minus 20 to minus 12 as being better than Shorten’s improvement from minus 20 to minus 15. Crowe does acknowledge that “today’s poll is another calamity for the government, showing it would be wiped out by Labor at an election held now”.

But his analysis (sic) is absurd. It implies that, if Turnbull stays leader, somehow the Coalition’s polling will improve. But this ignores the fact that the present polling reflects the policies adopted by Turnbull since he became leader and it provides no basis for expecting any improvement in the period ahead. I drew attention in my last Commentary to the article by Chris Kenny in Weekend Australian outlining the “wrong” policies adopted by Turnbull and the resultant re-emergence of One Nation and the breakaway of Cory Bernardi. Kenny’s assessment is much more realistic.

If Turnbull continues as leader, the Coalition likely faces a further deterioration in its polling and a further improvement in the polling of third parties. We would see that even a leader who is an asset can lose an election!

Bolt On Immigration Agreement with Trump

In my Commentary of 5 August I referred to the warning given by Andrew Bolt that Turnbull’s real objective is to destroy the Liberal Party, viz

But I’ve warned for more than a year that this always seemed Turnbull’s plan, or at least a happy fallback. He will deliver same-sex marriage and secure his legacy. He can then quit, job done, and let someone else try to save a Liberal Party he’s destroyed”.

Bolt’s analysis today of the now leaked text of the exchange between Turnbull and Trump on migrant swaps (see Bolt on Turnbull) suggests that, far from being a favourable outcome for Turnbull (as has been the general media conclusion),  it actually exposes an absurd offer made by Turnbull. Thus he told Trump to send to Australia anybody who Trump wants to send (which could include even terrorists from Guatanamo Bay) and that Trump really doesn’t need to take anyone from Australia. No doubt Turnbull would “explain” that he didn’t really mean such an offer. But it further exposes his poor leadership –and the credibility of the Coalition under that leadership.

Energy Policy

Meantime, The Australian reports that, “by early next month” (which confirms the difficulty of reaching party agreement), the Turnbull government proposes to put to Cabinet a plan to “make a significant investment in coal” (see Energy Policy to Incl Coal). But any such expenditure by the government would be a desperate measure resulting from its refusal to at least modify its climate change policy by reducing its CO2 emissions and renewable targets. It should also require the current reviewers of that policy to make a realistic assessment of the likely actual levels of emissions and usage of renewable by major countries in 2030. Such actual levels are likely to be much less than the targets set under the Paris Accord and would provide a basis for reducing Australia’s

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