Morrison’s Leadership Still Astray

How Much Longer Can Morrison Last

In my Commentary on 29 October I suggested that last Monday’s Newspoll of a 46/54 TPP, and the negative personal “Satisfaction” rate for Morrison himself, required him to quickly change his current strategy or face the question as to whether he should continue to be leader. I noted that, while Abbott was not currently presenting himself as an alternative PM, he is participating actively in the general political debate and previous PM candidate Dutton is also active as Home Affairs Minister. But on last Monday’s Newspoll Dutton and other Coalition MPs would likely lose their seats and he and other Coalition members ought to be pressing Morrison to address major policy issues and stop announcing fewer handouts designed to demonstrate that he is an “active” PM.

Morrison has at  least made a start in rejecting Turnbull’s announcement (sic) that Australia would, in effect, follow Indonesian President’s view against moving Australia’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem (see Morrison Rejects Turnbull on Moving Embassy to Jerusalem). As an Ex-PM Turnbull had no right to make such a statement as he was (wrongly) employed by Morrison only to represent Australia at a conference on oceans. The fact that he made this statement suggests that, contrary to his own promise to keep out of politics once he ceased to be PM, he will involve himself in the political debate. He has already accepted an ABC invitation to be the sole guest at next Thursday’s Jones’s Q&A program, which is well known to support left wing views.

Morrison should now follow up by confirming that Australia will move its embassy because it is in our interests to support Israel as the lone democracy in the Middle East (interestingly, it looks as though the new President of Brazil, Bolsonaro, will also do so). There are other policy matters which  could be changed and which would help distance himself from Turnbull (see attached for a brief summary of Turnbull’s history on Henderson on Turnbull). That is not only to move the Liberal Party closer to its supposed objectives: it would also distinguish it much more clearly from a Labor party which might also seek to use Turnbull as an informal adviser. His first attempt to be a politician was of course to join the ALP.

Two issues of importance which Morrison should be able to take quick decisions.

First, is the policy on immigration. In an excellent analysis published in Weekend Australian, Judith Sloan refers to a number of reasons why the level of immigration should be reduced (see Reduced Immigration a Possible Morrison Winner), viz

  • “there has however been something of a structural break in attitudes to immigration over the past two or three years. According to a recent Newspoll, three-quarters of respondents favoured reducing the permanent migrant intake”;
  • ”in this year’s Lowy Poll“41 per cent agree that “if Australia is too open to people from all over the world, we risk losing our identity as a nation”.
  • in a poll conducted by Essential Research in April, “64 per cent expressed the view that the level of immigration has been too high over the past 10 years. Thirty-seven per cent thought the level of immigration was “much too high”.
  • Katharine Betts of Swinburne University and The Australian Population Research Institute conducted a survey last year which found that three-quarters of respondents thought that Australia did not need any more people. Just over half wanted a reduction in ­immigration.

Please note that this is very much a summary of Sloan’s article. The full text attached is required reading.

Related to immigration policy is Australia’s policy on asylum seekers. The revelation by Home Affairs minister Dutton that  “more than 70 asylum seekers in detention centres on Nauru have knocked back an offer to resettle in the United States when they heard they would have to work and would not receive welfare… the refusal by a sizeable number of people on Nauru to resettle in the US indicated they were not genuine refugees… and that resettling refugees from Nauru in New Zealand would risk restarting the smuggling trade to Australia — where they would end up in Nauru, regardless of whether they have children” (see Asylum Seekers Reject US Offer). Clearly, given the policy announced by Morrison that all children on Nauru will be moved from there by Christmas, there has to be a very careful additional review of the parents.

Another major policy which should be changed is to recognise that the environment “atmosphere” has changed markedly and, at the very least, to support the moderation of our climate change policy. In an article in Weekend Australian by Environment Editor, Graham Lloyd, he points to the “conflicting signals including the demise of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the rise of authoritarian president-elect Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. Together with Donald Trump’s withdrawal of climate change funding and threats to leave the Paris Agreement altogether, the global sentiment going into Poland is vastly different from that coming out of Paris in December”. Analysis by the pro-action Climate Home News is that ‘the ­alliance of rich, emerging and poor economies that sealed the Paris climate deal is falling apart’. In many countries, it says, ‘climate scepticism and economic nationalism are usurping the international green enthusiasm of 2015’ (see Paris Agreement Falling Apart).

Lloyd’s article shows there are many points which support a moderation in our policy. In particular he points out that the federal opposition climate change and energy spokesman Mark Butler wrongly states that: “We’ve also seen the biannual survey of company directors for the first time place climate change, or action on climate change, at the top of the list of challenges that company directors think the federal government should be acting on.” In fact, as Lloyd points out that “A full reading of the Australian Institute of Company Directors report shows otherwise. The leading economic challenges cited are rising global economic protectionism, global economic uncertainty, energy policy, taxation system, high energy prices, red tape, low productivity growth, the China economic outlook and then climate change. Climate change is considered a major long-term issue for government to solve. But what business wants the government to concentrate on now is energy policy, tax reform and infrastructure” (underlining added).

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