Due to a major technical problem which put my computer out of action for two days (possibly caused by a hacker I was advised) I am now in a catch-up position in regard to circumstances where numerous pre-election statements have been floated around by both major sides of politics. It has almost seemed like a new policy per day, which seems unlikely to have attracted votes because of the limited attention by the Coalition to explaining benefits. One commentator even described Morrison as a Muppet and, despite his increased media appearance, it is difficult to see a closing of the polling gap next time.
On Tuesday I referred to Andrew Bolt’s suggestion on Sky News that the decision by Labor to push legislation through the lower House allowing asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island to “doctor” themselves to Australia for treatment without ministerial approval and, by obtaining court approval, to then “recuperate” here for a indefinite period. With the support of the Greens et al, this legislation has now passed the Senate too but, despite his strong attack on Shorten and accusation that he has broken what had seemed a bipartisan agreement on border control, Morrison has said that he will not call an early election. Even so, Bolt tonight again repeated on Sky News his advocacy of an early election by taking advantage of the policy windfall provided by Labor.
The improvement in the Coalition’s Newspoll on 29 January (still down at 47/53 TPP) has almost been forgotten and questions continue as to whether Morrison is able to address the “two big things” (quit Paris accord and slash immigration) needed to give the Coalition a chance. The need for quitting the Paris accord has been enhanced by what has happened under heat waves in Victoria, South Australia and now NSW.
It would be premature to claim a breakthrough in the Morrison government’s climate change policy. But a potential starting point may have been made with its decision to count carried-over emissions credits from under the first and second Kyoto agreements to help meet the 2030 target of a 26% reduction in carbon emissions set by Turnbull in Paris. What this seems to mean is that energy section emissions will now have to fall by only 17 per cent, while transport and agriculture emissions are actually forecast to continue rising until at least 2030.
Today’s article by The Australian’s political editor Dennis Shanahan argues that Morrison still has a last chance and points out that “in late 1992 and early 1993, the Keating government hopelessly trailed John Hewson’s opposition. In February 1993, the Coalition led Labor 53.5 to 46.5 on a two-party-preferred basis in Newspoll.On election day, March 13, Labor pipped the Coalition 51.4 per cent to 48.6 per cent and Keating remained prime minister. The key to this dramatic turnaround was that voters became wary of Hewson and his radical tax plans”
My last Commentary (4 November) was headed “How Much Longer Can Morrison Last” and suggested that he must quickly address major policy issues and stop announcing handouts mainly designed to demonstrate that he is an “active” PM. But his decision to establish a electoral promotion bus to travel around parts of Queensland has so far not produced major policy statements. Of some interest is that senior Queensland Liberal Steve Ciobo (who voted for Dutton in the leadership spill) “refused to say yesterday whether the leadership switch to Mr Morrison would help improve the government’s stocks in the state”: ‘I don’t think it serves anyone’s purpose and I also don’t think, frankly, that Queenslanders or indeed Australians more generally, care about what’s happened,’ Mr Ciobo told Sky News (see Morrison Qld Bus Tour).
In yesterday’s editorial The Australian concluded by saying that “at some stage we need a serious debate about what we are doing and why” on energy policy (see OZ Editorial on Energy Policy, 12/9). Also yesterday Morrison answered Shorten’s question in the House about why Turnbull has been sacked by telling him to “get over it”. But he is the one who needs to “get over it” – the “it” being Turnbull, who is reportedly still busy from New York telling colleagues to have Dutton’s eligibility to be a minister tested in the High Court. Morrison had no real option but to reject this proposal.
The editorial in today’s Australian is critical of the policy approach adopted by the Turnbull government –“under Mr Turnbull the Coalition seems to think all it needs to do is announce elegant policy and await the plaudits” – but (disappointedly) does not advocate considering any change of leadership. By contrast, while agreeing about the need for policy changes, Andrew Bolt rightly argues that any policy changes needs to be preceded by a change in leadership (see OZ Prescribes Tighter Econ Strategy and Bolt says Change Leader Then Policies).