Today we have been “flooded” by opinion polls which, while not showing any overall deterioration in the Turnbull Coalition’s polling, confirm its continued inability to effect any significant improvement in that polling. The state by state Newspoll for the February-March quarter also suggests there is a continued problem in Queensland, where the One Nation vote is much higher than in other states and has increased significantly since the 2016 election result (from 5.5 to 13 percent in the February- March quarter).
Today’s Newspoll shows the Coalition still behind Labor on third party preference votes by 49/51 and indicates that only 41per cent think the tax-cutting budget was “good”. But the improvement in Turnbull’s Better PM rate to 46/35, compared with the 38/35 at the previous Newspoll, has led The Australian to present the poll as a major victory to Turnbull, to argue that the budget was “one of the most well-received …in a decade”, and to claim “the result maintains an electoral position for the Coalition that it has not enjoyed since September 2016”. It also says the result “builds momentum” for the five by-elections expected in early July (see attached Newspoll Shows No TPP Change on Budget).
On 19 January The Australian published a half page advertisement on The Next Ice Age by Richard Morgan’s Climate Study Group (the ad was also published in the Herald Sun on 12 Jan and is on my web). This contains carefully considered views by people who are aware of the possible influences on climate. The day before I had sent a letter to The Australian complaining that it had published a letter by Energy Minister Frydenberg criticising an analysis published in the paper by Judith Sloan but had not published any letters critical of Frydenberg even though some had been sent, including by me (see attached Energy Policy Letter Sent to The Australian 18/1).
My Commentary yesterday accurately predicted that the scheduled AFR Energy Summit and Abbott’s address in London would spark active discussion on energy policy, which necessarily involves environmental policy too. The address at the AFR Summit by Environment Minister Frydenberg indicates that the Turnbull government seems to have made a start at determining what its policy will be, although even after the many statements that “it’s coming” it seems it will not be finalised until the end of the year.
Today’s Fairfax Poll confirms that, despite a big fall in Shorten’s performance measure (from 42 to 36) and a big rise in his disapproval rate (from 47 to 52), Labor maintains a TPP lead of 53/47. This is the same as the Newspoll published on 4 September. More importantly, the Fairfax poll shows that “Mr Turnbull's approval rating has fallen 3 percentage points since May to 42 per cent, and his disapproval has risen 3 percentage points to 47 per cent – placing the Prime Minister into net negative territory, according to voters' assessments” (see Fairfax Poll 11 Sept). In other words, Turnbull is not the man to persuade voters to “save” the Coalition.
Some will remember Alice’s experience in Wonderland when, after falling through a rabbit hole, she found herself in a world full of strange creatures making decisions and expressing views about life which, while amusing, were more of a take-off of the real world. Failing to make friends with the Cheshire-Cat, for example, the King demanded that the Queen remove him but she simply decreed “off with his head”. This was a command the cat simply ignored. But that the rulers of Wonderland were unable to exercise control over their subjects now strikes a bell here.
My Commentary of 5 August included a section on Coalition Leadership and suggested the basic question that Coalition MPs have to face is whether to continue with Turnbull as leader in the event that Newspoll shows no significant change as Parliament resumes. That in fact is what happened, with the Coalition’s TPP remaining at 47/53 (compared with 50.4 at the July 2016 election) and its Primary Vote remaining at 36 (42.1 at July 2016 election). A glimmer of hope was that Labor’s Primary Vote fell by one percentage point to 36 but this is still equal to the Coalition’s and is higher than its 34.7 at the July 2016 election.
After I read on Tuesday evening that ASIO Head Lewis had said there is “absolutely no evidence” to suggest a link between the refugee intake and terrorism, I decided early yesterday morning to send a letter to The Australian expressing concern about this assertion and Lewis’s other reported assertion that he doesn’t “buy the notion the issue of Islamic extremism is in some way fostered or sponsored or supported by the Muslim religion”. That letter has been published as the lead letter in today’s Australian, together with a number of others letters in similar vein
There are three things which stand out from today’s polling: Both Newspoll and the Fairfax/Ipso poll show Labor the same distance ahead of the Coalition with Labor holding a lead of 6 percentage points on a TPP basis (53/47) in each poll; Neither leader has a favourable net satisfaction ratio in Newspoll, with Turnbull on 33/53 and Shorten on a 32/54 satisfied to dissatisfied ratios; The total who feel worse off after the budget (45%) is less than after the 2014 budget under Abbott (69%) in Newspoll. But more feel worse off than after each of the last three years of Labor’s budgets. Note that only 19% feel better off and 36% are uncommitted after this year’s budget. The age group which feels worst off after this year’s budget is the 35-49ers, with over 50s feeling least worse off ;
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.