This is the time of falling leaves, the subject of a popular song which has relevance to the present situation in Canberra faced by leaders of the two major parties, viz
The falling leaves drift by the window
The autumn leaves of red and gold
I see your lips, the summer kisses
The sun-burned hands I used to hold
Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall
With a Newspoll due tomorrow, one of the leaders now faces possible “long days and winter’s song”. On the surface it appears that Shorten will be the principal singer as he has experienced a setback from his repeated advice that none of the Labor parliamentarians are subject to the dual citizenship test only to find that four are now subject to the five in by-elections to be held on 28 July. He also has to accept responsibility for the extensive alterations made to a transcript of an interview on Labor policy on how long asylum-seekers could be retained in detention. The altered transcript, which was “cleared” by Shorten’s office, showed that left-wing Labor’s human services spokeswoman Burney opposed indefinite detention but refused to say for how long detention could be under Labor policy on immigration.
Shorten has also been subjected to an important change of strategy by Turnbull. As pointed out by political editor Dennis Shanahan
“Malcolm Turnbull and the Coalition have gone full circle in their attitude to Bill Shorten: no matter how heinous an action the Labor leader committed previously, he was left untouched; now the most tenuous link to misdemeanour is pursued ruthlessly. Any suggestion of fabrication, dishonesty, shiftiness, lack of credibility or “un-believaBill” is repeated and amplified in the media and parliament. The time of “un-touchaBill” when the Prime Minister didn’t want to soil his hands or appear negative and reined in ministers wanting to tear at the Opposition Leader have gone. An entire royal commission’s worth of dirt and allegations over Shorten’s time as a union leader were neglected during the 2016 election campaign. His personal weakness in the polls compared with Turnbull was not exploited” (see Turnbull’s Changed Strategy)
This change was apparent at a small dinner I attended in Parliament House last Wednesday at the invitation of Ben Morton MP (from WA) and at which Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, spoke and others participated for an hour and a half. Tony Abbott, who participated in the pre-dinner drinks, made clear his unsurprising view that the Coalition needs more aggressive leadership on a range of issues.
But whether this attacking strategy works, “as it should have been for months” according to Shanahan, will be tested in the lead up to the by-elections as will the wide differences on tax cuts. Shanahan argues that “The Coalition claims Shorten can’t be trusted and Labor says Turnbull will be humiliated if he changes tack on tax. A defeat, even a serious setback or retreat, could be disastrous for either leader. The contest also will determine the shape of the next election and is a test of which side can best sell its respective tax packages — a test the Coalition has failed so far” (see Shanahan on Turnbull/Shorten Battle).
The last Newspoll taken after the budget did not show any improvement in the Coalition’s TPP (49/51) but Turnbull improved his Better PM rate from 38/35 to 46/32. By contrast, while the Fairfax /Ipsos poll showed an increase in Turnbull’s rating from 47/38 to 51/39, it also showed an increase in Labor’s TPP to 54/46, albeit subject to questions as to the allocation of preferences. The promise by the Coalition of tax cuts of $144 bn spread over 7 years, but only $22bn over this and next year, has received only limited support (particularly as it is likely to require major changes to get through the Senate) and may not itself lift Coalition polling. Further, as I pointed out in my Commentary of 10 May (see web), a careful examination of the Budget estimates shows that total taxes are estimated to increase as a proportion of GDP and reach the supposed maximum (set by Treasurer Morrison) of 23.9% in 2021-22. In short, the tax cuts would not be sufficient to prevent the burden of taxation increasing under a Coalition which supposedly supports small government.
Assessing The Royal Wedding
The wedding of Harry (the sixth in line) and Megan has received enormous support on most fronts (where are the Republicans!). But with his usual analytical skills, Andrew Bolt has drawn attention to an important reservation about the invitation to Bishop Curry to participate. Bolt, who normally likes Episcopal preaching, suggests that Curry, who had not been met by either Harry or Megan, engaged in
“hot-gospelling (which) tipped the scales from a mere acknowledgment of culture into a kind of hectoring on race. And is this elbowing aside of Englishness at the marriage of a member of the English royal family in an English queen’s castle really to be so cheered? After all, the TV cameras were there not despite English traditions, but because of them. Among those traditions is a “stiff upper lip” restraint in all things — particularly religious enthusiasm. That’s the custom Curry so loudly challenged. How sad if that were to go”.
No doubt the decision to invite Curry reflects the tendency for English royalty to be all embracing regardless of potential adverse policy implications. The Queen herself recently had a TV review of her gardens with David Attenborough and indicated during the walk that she is concerned about climate change. Charles is of course well known “green”.
Lisa in Canberra
My daughter, Lisa, recently performed on piano in a two-some in Canberra and had an excellent review (see Lisa in Canberra). She will be performing in Melbourne at the Recitel Hall on Tuesday 19 June at 6.30 (for further details and obtaining tickets see Hear Two Pianos).