As a new Parliamentary week starts, the political editor of The Australian interprets the latest Newspoll as putting Turnbull “back in the game” (see below). But while the Coalition’s TPP has improved to 48/52 (from 45/55), it remains a long way short of a recovery let alone a Coalition leadership position. Importantly also, the polling still continues to confirm dissatisfaction with Turnbull. In terms of net satisfaction with leaders (only available on the web), Turnbull and Shorten are both about the same in negative terms (about -28) and, although Turnbull is slightly better than Abbott was when he lost the leadership (-33), he has lost the very favourable position he had when he took over in September 2015 (+19). He is also still below what he was even six months ago (-22). In reality, voters are very unhappy with both leaders and there is an opportunity for a new leader for either party.
Today’s Newspoll shows that, despite Turnbull’s very recent decision to start attacking Shorten more aggressively, the Coalition’s polling has dropped a further percentage point (to 45/55 on a TPP) and Turnbull’s personal polling has dropped sharply to 29/59 satisfied compared with 33/54 last time. This has occurred after Shorten was not only unable to state the estimated cost of Labor’s 50% target for renewable energy but also announced that he would try to reverse the decision by Fair Work Australia to slightly reduce penalty rates even though he had previously supported a review when he was minister under Labor! With Labor on the back foot, the Coalition’s polling ought to have improved.
Trump’s Executive Orders and Twitter announcements continue day by day and it is pertinent to consider their effectiveness and possible implications so far: Job Approval ratings in US polling show a slightly higher net rate of disapproval of Trump, on average - 48.3 to 46, with more disapprovals than approvals (see attached on Polling on Trump Job Approval). But the protests shown on our TV, and the imbalance in the news, clearly exaggerate the opposition to Trump. It is probably little different to the election, albeit more aggressive. Even “our ABC” felt it had to mention support for Trump in last night’s TV news. Despite Trump’s critical remarks about NATO, the meeting of European leaders in Malta on Feb 3 seems to have produced mixed views about Trump (see EU on Trump). The British PM (the only one to have met Trump as President) told them that the US under Trump would still cooperate on defence. The French PM, whose approval polling in France was in single figures the last time I looked, attacked Trump’s support of Brexit (but in front of May). It appears that the meeting was mainly concerned with helping Libya stop emigrants to Europe across the Meditarranean and improving controls on entry of refugees. However, the current President of the EU (actually of the Council), Tusk, thought the US is a threat to the EU!
Turnbull’s address to the National Press Club was supposed to set out his policy agenda for 2017. Perhaps the first thing to note is that his text made no mention at all of the election of Trump as the new President of the US and the possible need for Australia to change some of its policies as the result of the major changes being implemented by Trump. This was surprising if only because of the importance of the US as a world power and our alliance with this country. But also because Trump appears to be reversing many of the major policies pursued by Obama, some of which have implications for Australia’s.
My previous Commentary on 18 Jan drew attention to the quite wide differences in the increase in global land temperature since 1979 between official government agencies and the satellite operated by the University of Alabama. I indicated that there should be no significant difference between the official agencies and the satellite increases and suggested that the higher increase published by the official agencies reflected significant errors by them. The comparative figures indicated that these errors could amount to 0.4C of the total increase of about 0.8C accepted by the IPCC et al since 1900. I noted also that the “natural” increase during the Pacific Decadal Oscillation from the late 1970s to around 2000 was about 0.4C and that, taking account also of errors, this means there could well have been little or no increase in global land temperature since 1900 due to human activity.
Victorian Police Commissioner Ashton stated that the charging of five men with the threat of implementing terrorist acts in the centre of Melbourne was based on evidence that they intended to undertake an explosive event and use other weapons indiscriminately. It appears the police had been aware for some time that they had been planning terrorist action and had concluded that, when some of them were recently seen visiting possible targets (including St Paul’s Cathedral), it was time to arrest them. Ashton claimed publicly that they were “self-radicalised, we believe, but inspired by ISIS and ISIS propaganda." He also said four of the five were Australian-born with a Lebanese background and"there is another suspect in this matter who will be charged that was an Egyptian-born Australian citizen. All the others were Australian-born".
The black out in South Australia (which still exists in parts of the state) has produced disputes about whether this is simply “the weather” or something more substantial. The Premier of South Australia is reported as attributing it to extreme weather causing towers to collapse but neither he nor his Energy Minister have made any justifying news releases so far. By contrast, the Herald Sun’s business editor, Terry McCrann, has made it clear that the weather was not extreme and that the blame lies with the structure of the electricity net work including the extensive reliance on renewable energy to meet demand (40%) (see attached McCrann on SA Blackout).
The Weekend Australian ran as the lead report an interview by Paul Kelly with former Treasury Secretary, Ken Henry, who is now Chairman of the National Bank. Henry said that more needs to be done to reduce the budget deficit instead of talking about it (see Ken Henry on Budget Deficit). This provided an opportunity to point out that the “times have changed” since Henry was the TS and advised Rudd to go for broke: indeed the advice to Rudd was, at best, highly questionable if not wrong (see my letter below). The Australian is to be congratulated for continuing its helpful advocacy today partly through publishing a swag of supporting letters and partly by having its Canberra Bureau Chief, Phillip Hudson, pen a separate article (see Everyone to blame for our budget spiral of hopelessness). Hudson points out that one of the problems is that “ Neither Labor or the Coalition, on their current trajectory, promise a surplus before the next election. Morrison hopes for one in 2020-21. Labor went to the last election with a plan that would leave the budget $16bn worse off over the next four years before making everything tickety-boo within a decade. These scenarios are based on Australia continuing on its growth path of the past 25 years. What happens if something goes wrong?”
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?
The questioning of Turnbull’s performance continues apace with the Financial Review editorialising under the heading “PM must break free of populists” and Andrew Bolt arguing that “It takes Turnbull a year to do nothing” (relevant articles attached). Such critiques have not yet reached a crisis point but they (and others) are increasing and no substantive response emerges. The editorial provides an indication of the concerns being expressed - “his decisiveness proved rushed”, “he was plainly wrong” and “Turnbull needs to more vigorously set out the undeniable case for the legislative trigger for the double dissolution election”. Not surprisingly, Bolt goes even further with “is it also because Turnbull really is a Labor cuckoo in a Liberal nest”, “has done absolutely nothing of real value” and for how long can Liberal MP’s “afford to cling to Turnbull. How long can Australia”.