Parliament’s first week back after the summer break witnessed quite a bit of excitement, with Deputy PM Joyce leading the way or should I say presenting a new partner and, at the same time, making sure that 7.30 (and those watching) know that it’ a “private matter”. The following extract from today’s Cut and Paste certainly shows Joyce at full throttle
Yesterday my Commentary drew attention to the 1C fall in average world temperature since the middle of the year and I assumed that would be published in Australian media today. But I have not been able to find any reference to a fall anywhere in the media. In one sense this might be regarded as “just typical”. But I still find it astonishing given the graphical presentation below and the fact that the temperature measurement comes from a NASA satellite. A fair interpretation would be that, once the El Nino peaks are set aside on the ground that they are temporary, there has been little or no change in temperature since 1996.
On Friday evening I attended the annual dinner of the HR Nicholls Society and gave the vote of thanks to the speaker, Senator Eric Abetz. His address was highlighted by The Weekend Australian giving it the front page lead story (see below) and the SMH also reported it, but not The Age. Abetz, who was dropped by Turnbull from ministerial ranks (he was Minister for Employment under PM Abbott) and from being Coalition leader in the Senate, used the HRN dinner as an opportunity to criticise Turnbull for failing to make reform of workplace relations a major policy issue at the election on 2 July. He pointed out that, with the ammunition provided by two major reports (the Heydon Royal Commission and the Productivity Commission), a policy advocating further reform had been a “gimme” and he noted that “not even the unlegislated elements of the 2013 election policy were taken forward such as changes to right of entry, transfer of business and individual flexibility arrangements”.
The first Newspoll since the election on July 2 shows only a slight fall in the Coalition’s TPP from 50.4 per cent to 50 per cent but a large drop in Turnbull’s net satisfaction ratio to the point where it is now less than Shorten’s (minus 18 cf minus 14). Late last year Turnbull was plus 38 while Shorten was minus 38. While Turnbull still has the Better PM rating, the gap has narrowed sharply. Importantly, the poll also shows that “Reducing debt and deficit” are strongly supported by both Coalition and Labor voters, almost as strongly as “Maintain border security”.
With the imminent resumption of Parliament some warming-up is occurring. In The AustralianFinance Minister Cormann is reported as making new claims that the Coalition has already made large budget savings ($221bn over 10 years locked in) and that more could be made with Labor support. It appears Cormann refers to possible savings additional to those proposed by Turnbull to implement a miniscule $6.5 billion in budget savings said to have been agreed by Labor. But why hasn’t the Coalition detailed some possible additional savings?
Since the election on July 2, Turnbull has continued his record of mistaken decisions as to both substance and process, plus a failure to indicate what substantive policies will be pursued other than the legislation already foreshadowed to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission and to make unions more accountable under the registered organisation arrangements. But unless the (recounted) loss of Herbet by 37 votes is successfully challenged and another election held there (which seems too risky a venture), he has a majority of only one in the Reps and a deficit of 16 in the Senate.This means that if the two houses sit together he would need 9 votes from cross benchers (who include no less than 4 from One Nation and 3 from Xenophon) to obtain a majority to pass that legislation, which is a possibility but clearly uncertain. It is of some importance to climate change and extremist terrorist policy that One Nation ended up with 4 Senate seats, including one held by a sceptic (Malcolm Roberts) on global warming who is well versed in the data.
The reactions to Turnbull’s dinner at Kirribilli House with “dozens” of Muslims vary but will likely have only limited electoral influence in a context where the latest Fairfax –Ipsos poll shows for the second time that Labor is ahead at 51/49 on a TPP basis. While the Newspoll of marginal seats suggests this may not be sufficient to win (because the support for Labor is not fully reflected in marginal seats), the Fairfax poll seems to confirm that there has been a slight swing against Turnbull since the election started. In one sense this is surprising given the greater extent of promised additional unjustified expenditures announced by Labor, the fact that it has acknowledged that it would have higher Budget deficits than the Coalition over the next four years, and numerous policy announcements that provided the opportunity for extensive criticism, including the claim that Turnbull would privatise Medicare (Turnbull favours government interventions and the claim just gave him justification to confirm that without upsetting colleagues). But Turnbull has so far failed to exploit Shorten’s poor budget policy partly because the Coalition itself has already budgeted for high deficits and this makes it more difficult to distinguish between the two major parties. In addition, Turnbull has continued to announce expenditures which while claimed as already provided for in the Coalition budget estimates (The Australian’s SPEND-O-METER shows $5bn announced by Turnbull cf $16.2bn for Labor during the election campaign) give the impression that both sides are adding to deficits and that the differences between the two are small.
My Commentary sent out late Sunday (thanks to those who sent compliments) drew particular attention to the article by Judith Sloan on the Federal budget and her conclusion that “Labor is completely out of control fiscally; the Coalition is slightly better but no cigar”. This followed other strong critiques, including by John Stone. Meantime we have Turnbull and Shorten buying votes as they go from electorate to electorate and adding up to $100mn a day to budget spending. What does the odd million matter?
While the Morgan Poll (see attachment on Morgan Poll) is not generally regarded as being the most accurate, its latest result gives Labor a potential winning lead with a TPP of 52.5 to 47.5% and Queensland being the only State where the LNP is leading. This is the largest lead since Turnbull was elected leader of the Coalition and it also has a 30.5% vote for minority parties. While it is too early to be definitive, this suggests that the electorate is not attracted by either major party and that neither will have control over the Senate.
The behaviour of the Turnbull Government continues to raise questions. Immediately following the publication by Justice Heydon of the Royal Commission on Trade Union Governance and Corruption, on 30 December the government issued a press release by the joint team of Turnbull, Brandis and Cash acknowledging the assessment of “a ‘widespread’ and ‘deep seated’ culture of lawlessness among many union officials. It also said it would submit improved legislation on regulating the construction industry and (separately) on the governance of trade unions. It promised to give full and careful consideration to the recommendations in the final report and “announce a detailed response to the public in early 2016”.