Today’s Fairfax Poll confirms that, despite a big fall in Shorten’s performance measure (from 42 to 36) and a big rise in his disapproval rate (from 47 to 52), Labor maintains a TPP lead of 53/47. This is the same as the Newspoll published on 4 September. More importantly, the Fairfax poll shows that “Mr Turnbull’s approval rating has fallen 3 percentage points since May to 42 per cent, and his disapproval has risen 3 percentage points to 47 per cent – placing the Prime Minister into net negative territory, according to voters’ assessments” (see Fairfax Poll 11 Sept). In other words, Turnbull is not the man to persuade voters to “save” the Coalition.
As I have now argued for many months, to give the Coalition a fighting chance it must replace Turnbull. In today’s Quadrant Online I suggest it must be done before Christmas and that, as none of the younger Liberal MPs seem to want the job, that former PM Tony Abbott must be given a second try. My Quadrant piece is here, with the Editor’s heading “Turnbull’s Head, the Best Christmas Gift”.
In addition to my Quadrant piece, the AFR published my letter pointing out that Turnbull acknowledged at last Friday’s Country Liberal Party conference in Darwin that there is an energy crisis but wrongly accusing Bill Shorten as responsible for it. I suggest that Turnbull could move in the right direction by “announcing a reduction in Australia’s voluntary emissions target of 26-28 per cent by 2030 set in Paris in 2015. Better would be a rate more consistent with that of our new defence ally, South Korea, or Russia’s. Both these target a decrease of about 10 per cent, which should be achievable through increased efficiency rather than the economically damaging emissions reductions we now target”. But that the “electorate needs a detailed explanation of this new policy and any costs to taxpayers”.
Despite the acknowledged crisis, I have failed in attempts to have differently phased letters published in other newspapers. Strangely, The Australian appears to have “rationed” the publication of letters which draw attention to the problems emanating from statements by Turnbull and to have reduced coverage. Doubtless the proposal to redefine marriage has taken much of media’s attention.
In his Herald Sun article today, Andrew Bolt points out that some important policies suggested by Abbott have in fact been largely adopted by Turnbull (see Bolt on Abbott & Turnbull). Bolt argued recently that “Abbott is Liberal’s Only Hope” and he now argues that “Once again, Abbott has the plan that takes the fight up to Labor. Scrap the targets and stop the blackouts: Instead of talking about renewable energy targets, we must talk about reliable energy targets set at 100 per cent reliability.”
In fact, according to Joe Kelly in today’s The Australian, the National Party Conference (the first in three years, voted in Canberra yesterday to “repudiate the central finding of the Finkel review for a clean energy target and eliminate subsidies for renewables to maximise the difference with Labor over surging power bills”, and hence to reject the Finkel proposed clean energy target of 42 per cent of renewable energy by 2030. Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, who is presumably not bound by Conference decisions, apparently said the motions put at the conference “reflected the deep angst in regional communities about the affordability of electricity and took aim at the ‘heroic sort of fantasia’ position of the Labor Party on renewable energy”. In Parliament he will surely find it difficult to justify the government’s renewable energy target – and will there ever be a decision on Finkel?
More generally, Turnbull is now trying to run with a policy of targets for emissions and renewable which are less than Labor’s but have fundamentally the same rationale and which are opposed by his National Party “partners”. To create a wider difference with Labor it appears that he will try to add a coal fired generator (presumably at some cost to taxpayers but benefit to shareholders of AGL) and argue that coal should be kept going until we are not quite sure when but perhaps 2027. C’Est possible to sell to the electorate or simply laughable? Bring on Monsieur Abbott to sing The Last Chance!