Newspoll; Chief Scientist Finkel

Newspoll Show No Improvement But Identifies Turnbull Problem

In yesterday’s Commentary I said that, while an early election as suggested by Terry McCrann would risk the Morrison government being portrayed as a “cut and run” attempt at winning and avoiding outstanding issues, it would have the potential to bring the Liberal party closer together and take advantage of various issues on which Morrison seems actually or potentially head of Shorten, including the now near absence of Turnbull as a policy maker. In particular, an election in March would “lock in” the likely favourable budgetary and economic forecasts in the MYEFO publication (next Monday) and prevent any significant change in the Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Outlook (PEFO) which is made by Treasury before an election.

Today’s Newspoll shows no change in the Coalition’s Two-Party Preferred vote of 45/55 (the third time) but a slight decline in the assessment of Morrison’s own performance (higher are Less Satisfied and lower as Better PM). But the most important part of the poll is that dealing with the role of Turnbull, viz

  • 40% of all voters assess him as DISLOYAL, with 56% of the Coalition doing so;
  • 29% of all voters say he should be EXPELLED from the Liberal Party, with 36% of the Coalition. Interestingly, the highest proportion of those against expulsion was in Labor voters (64%). This might be taken as indicating that Labor wants to  have Turnbull around as a Liberal party member.  

The Australian’s political editor, Simon Benson, rightly describes Morrison as having a “titanic task” to turn the Coalition’s position around and says that Newspoll has “all but written it off” despite Morrison having delivered a “significant blow” against Shorten last week on border protection and national security. Benson does acknowledge however that the poor standing of the Coalition importantly reflects the disloyalty shown by Turnbull   (see Benson on Turnbull. Note that the detail of Newspoll can be seen by clicking the sentence “mobile users click here to see PDF”which occurs after the Newspoll heading).

In previous Commentary I have argued that, since becoming PM in a party room vote, Morrison has been too slow in distancing himself from Turnbull. Now, with the Newspoll showing a majority of the Coalition assessing Turnbull as disloyal, it would be timely to make a statement which, in effect, says that the policies stated by Morrison are what the Coalition is now pursuing and, at the same time, provide a list of them.

This list would need to include as part of energy policy that it will aim to produce a major reduction in electricity prices: an emphasis on such a reduction could be an election winner if properly explained. It would also need to indicate that the idea of legislating to provide authority for directing electricity producers to set prices will be abandoned (if an early election was to be held there would of course be no opportunity to legislate). In addition, part of energy policy would be to indicate that the emissions reduction target set by Turnbull in Paris would be lowered to bring it more into line with what other countries are doing, viz lower than promised in Paris.

Bolt v Finkel  

In an unusual step Chief Scientist Finkel, who was appointed by Turnbull, has accused leading journalist Andrew Bolt of wrongly interpreting his view on climate change. This was done by sending letters to various newspapers referring to opinion pieces by Andrew Bolt which they published and which “included a reference to me ‘admitting’ that we “could stop all Australia’s emissions – junk every car, shut every power station, put a cork in every cow – and the effect on the climate would still be ‘virtually nothing’”. Finkel wrote that “those are Andrew Bolt’s words, not mine, and they are a complete misrepresentation of my position. They suggest that we should do nothing to reduce our carbon emissions, a stance I reject, and I wish to correct the record” (see Finkel on Andrew Bolt).

Finkel’s letter includes an acknowledgement he had previously made at a Senate hearing, and which sceptics have frequently used, that the elimination of Australia’s  1.3% of total carbon emissions would have virtually no effect on climate. But in his letter he now adds that he “immediately continued by explaining that doing nothing is not a position that we can responsibly take because emissions reductions is a little bit like voting, in that if everyone took the attitude that their vote does not count and no-one voted, we would not have a democracy. Similarly, if all countries that have comparable carbon emissions took the position that they shouldn’t take action because their contribution to this global problem is insignificant, then nobody would act and the problem would continue to grow in scale”.

Bolt has now responded in an article in today’s Herald Sun and again on Sky News. In regard to Finkel’s statement that he “rejects the notion that we should do nothing to reduce emissions” Bolt says “actually, nowhere have I said or suggested that this was Finkel’s stance, even though it clearly should be. It is my stance. So there is nothing in my article to “correct”.

In regard to Finkel’s addition in the paragraph above, Bolt rightly says “Tosh”. I note that Finkel was not a climatologist: his CV says he is a neurologist, engineer, entrepreneur, philanthropist.

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