How to Save 20-30 Coalition Seats

Latest Survey Shows Coalition Could Lose 20-30 Seats In an Election

As 2018 starts it is pertinent to ask whether we might expect an improved performance by the Turnbull government if it continues during the year. Turnbull himself had an article in Sunday’s Herald Sun and the heading to the article implies he is telling us just that, viz TIME TO FOCUS ON FUTURE  (see attached, which I could only obtain digitally by first making a phone call to a technician at Herald Sun HQ as, rather surprisingly, they it did not have it on its web). Turnbull also sent me a message personally yesterday – and others too, presumably! (see My Message From Turnbull & use the right clicks).

The most striking element in Turnbull’s messages is, however, their emphasis on policy decisions already taken and their claimed beneficial influence on future developments. There is very little that constitutes new policy or  changes to existing policy and, hence, little focus on the future. There are also considerable over-statements/errors about the effects of policies already announced.

Note that the article/statement by Turnbull follow almost immediately after a Newspoll quarterly survey of opinions in capital cities on 26 Dec. Political editor of The Australian, Simon Benson, reported that “ the Coalition has suffered a two-point fall in its two-party-preferred vote in the five mainland state capital cities since September to trail Labor 55-45. On a two-party-preferred basis, Labor leads 55-45 in Queensland, 54-46 in NSW and Victoria and 53-47 in both South Australia and Western Australia. This represents a 4 per cent swing nationally to Labor, which, if ­repeated at the next election, could result in the loss of between 20 and 30 seats for the Liberal and Nationals parties” (see attached Coalition’s Polling Falls Further 26 Dec). Benson describes this polling asClose to point of no return”.

Points made in Turnbull’s article/statement do not appear to have inspired any policy changes in major areas of controversy:

  • Middle income tax relief already made is described as “tax cuts”. But, to benefit from the very modest change in individual tax rates from 1 July 2016, one’s taxable income must be more than $80,000. The article does say that there will be “more tax relief for middle-income Australians” but adds only that “more money will be put into the hands of Australian families … without compromising our commitment to return the Budget to surplus”. However, as indicated in my Commentary  of 24 Dec, the Mid-Year Budget report suggests the achievement of a surplus would not allow any significant tax reduction without major spending cuts.
  • No policy is offered to either ameliorate cost of living pressures or overcome the limited growth in real wages by increased productivity and deregulation of workplace relations.
  • References are made to the recent vehicle attack in Melbourne and to the importance of the national security policy. But no reference is made to the handling of the on-going threat from extremist Islam groups/individuals both in Australia and overseas (see further below).
  • Extensive attention is given to the increase in energy prices. But there is no acknowledgement that policy changes made to increase the use of renewables at both Federal and State levels have been the major contributors or that (at least) a reduction in emissions/renewable targets would be an important help in reducing energy prices. In fact, the only reference to possible price falls is that there will be “downward pressure on energy prices” after the completion of the highly questionable economics of Snowy Hydro 2.0 project – but  the project will not be completed until 2024 anyway!

Separately, the head of the ACCC, Rod Sims (who attended Christmas drinks for “old” Treasury officers sponsored by Treasury Head John Fraser), is undertaking two major reviews for the federal government aimed at tackling Australia’s energy crisis. But his comments reported in The Australian on the day before Turnbull’s article gave no indication that he had changes in mind which would reduce energy prices (see Sims on Energy Policy). As head of a body responsible for competition in Australia, Sims seems to have downplayed  the adverse effects which can occur from government regulations.

The question for the immediate future is what can be done by the Turnbull government to limit the loss of seats in an election. The New Year messages from Turnbull himself suggest that what he has in mind falls well short of what is needed and those in marginal seats should be publicly advocating changes and making the point that the  aim is not simply to stay in office until the last possible date for an election. Apart from possible changes to the policies discussed above, it is relevant is that One Nation is aiming to target all federal seats in Queensland, where the Coalition holds 21 out of 30 federal seats. Even if it won none of those seats (as happened with LNP seats in the recent State election), One Nation could cause a significant loss of of Coalition seats unless the Coalition has a preference deal with it. But Turnbull has so far refused to countenance a preference deal (see examples of the effect on State seats given in attached One Nation Targets). A willingness to now do so could signal an important initiative in the New Year and might start with an agreement  to modify the existing absurd energy policy so as to allow reductions energy prices in a more competitive environment.

Islamic Threat

I mention above the question of how to handle the threat from extremist Islamism. An important largely neglected achievement was the ending of the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria. While both Iraqi and Syrian forces played the major role, they were significantly assisted by the US under President Trump, who (by contrast with Obama) delegated authorities to Secretary Tillerson and to commanders in the field and indicated that the defeat of ISIS was a priority. The  US envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS told a special press briefing on 22 December that there had been a dire situation a year ago. Trump has drawn attention to both the external and internal threats. But there has been no mention in our media of the important role now being played by the US under Trump.

The on-the-ground defeat of ISIS allows the withdrawal of Australian strike aircraft but a contingent of Australian training assistance and Special Forces will remain as ISIS groups continue to operate. Much remains to be done in the area to establish meaningful democratic societies but our role has helped sent a signal that extremist interpretations of Islam are not acceptable in our modern world.

In my Commentary of 24 December I referred to an article in The Australian by Chris Kenny which argued for a more open public recognition of the extent of the threat. In the Weekend Australian for 30-31 Dec he takes this further and, as a conclusion, asks the question “do we need to accept that the Islamist aim of disrupting our society by targeting infidels and innocents cannot be truly defeated until the ideology itself is exposed, confronted and eradicated?” (see Kenny on Islamic Extremist Threat). The report that there were recent widespread protests in Iran provides an opportunity for political leaders in the West (including Australia) to call for a more democratic society and protection of human rights in that country.

Happy New Year to all

PS The web site of the Sunday Herald Sun now contains an article by Malcolm Turnbull which is quite different to the one in yesterday’s published version and is headed “Australia, hold your head high as we are well placed to face challenges”. There is no “TIME TO FOCUS ON THE FUTURE” on the latest version.

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