Wentworth Loss Much Worse Than Expected
In Friday’s Commentary I said that it was ‘almost certain’ that the Wentworth seat would be lost – but not by as much as actually happened, with the swing against the Liberal Party being around 20 percent. It is not appropriate here to repeat all the problems now faced by the Coalition with a hung Parliament (see Friday’s Commentary on Wentworth Almost Certainly Lost now on my website www.ipe.net.au). Nor to repeat what many recommended some time ago, viz that Turnbull should have then been dumped. But it is not only Wentworth that poses serious problems: the next Newspoll, presumably tomorrow, will send bad news too.
One question is whether the strong Turnbull influence on Wentworth voters needs to carry through to the federal election. While it is risky to attempt to implement major changes in key policies, and a reshuffle of ministers, this now seems the only way to reverse the bad polling which developed and persisted under Turnbull. But do the present top two leaders, Morrison and Frydenberg, have the capacity to persuade their colleagues to agree to major changes?
One starting point could be energy policy or what is commonly called climate change. A start has been made there with the abandonment of NEG and the decision not to contribute further funds to the UN’s $100bn pa aid project for developing countries. But it needs to go much further.
Relevant here is the discussion on TV which I watched on last night’s SKY News after the booths in Wentworth had closed. During that period editor David Speers chaired a panel of four and in due course asked what they thought had been the major influence on voters decisions. It quickly became clear that they judged it to be “climate change”, that is, that the Morrison government had made the wrong decision in moderating the policy they inherited from Turnbull. The winner at Wentworth, Phelps, had in fact made “do more on climate change” an important component in her comments that included that the Coalition has gone “too far to the right”.
This implies it would be wrong to effect further moderations in Australia’s climate change policy. But that is the kind of risk that Morrison, with help from others such as Abbott, needs to take if the Coalition is to have a chance of winning the general election and, of course, if it is not forced prematurely to hold such an election by the now five independents who would be able to oppose legislation in the Lower House and support no confidence motions by Labor.