As I experienced a bout of flu, I have had a “enforced” quiet period for a week (my last Commentary was on Monday 17 July). During that past week, however, it was impossible not to notice Turnbull being unusually active on a number of political fronts attempting to improve the Coalition’s -- and his own-- polling. My conclusion is that any improvement is unlikely: rather the opposite.
Yesterday’s Commentary suggested that “the Coalition is in dire straits and will almost certainly experience a further drop in the next Newspoll”. Today’s media appears to confirm that.
Turnbull’s further shift to the left (where is the middle now?) didn’t get any substantive support from the latest Newspoll, with the TPP percentages (47/53) unchanged. Some say that there was no budget “bounce” but the fact that it didn’t rise one bit sends a bad message on both the budget and Turnbull’s leadership even though his satisfaction ratio rose very slightly (so did Shorten’s). One commentator said that “the trend is set and it favours Shorten”.
Miracles do happen! Even so I was surprised to open today’s Age and find they had published my letter arguing for action to expose and attack extremist Islam. It was also the lead letter. The Australian also published a letter by me in similar vein, along with other “strong action” type letters (see both my letters below) and an excellent editorial which identifies in no uncertain way “that Islamist terror cannot be bought off; it wants nothing less than a totalitarian caliphate for the planet. Jihad denialism, which wilfully obscures the wellsprings of Islamist violence, has limited appeal in Australia although its supporters include progressive elites with their media megaphones” ( see attached Editorial on Terrorist Risk).
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 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”.
The Menzies Research Centre says it supports “principles of individual liberty, free speech, competitive enterprise, limited government, democracy, and the family as the foundation of a stable society” and, although it does not endorse the Liberal Party per se, it claims that its publications “go to the heart of Liberal Party policy-making”. Today, its Executive Director, Nick Cater, has had published a critique in The Australian of Lewis’s attempt to set “appropriate” limits on public debate on the influence of Islamic religion on terrorism (see article below). However, while Cater naturally does not mention that the current leader of the Liberal Party, Malcolm Turnbull, has made similar statements to those by Lewis, he is very much on the right track.
As indicated by its failure to have the Senate re-instate the powers of the Australian Building & Construction Commission, and by anti-coal groups’s revealed use of legislation to stop coal projects and purporting thereby to protect “the environment”, the Abbott government is facing increased difficulties in implementing existing policies, let alone maintain policies which have hitherto been widely accepted as important to on-going development and employment. As Greg Sheridan points out (see “Shutting the door to growth” below), “Australia has created a public–political culture in which the avenues to block something from happening are endless”. More strictly, it is that certain groups, not Australia itself, which have created this culture and are now actively moving to apply it.
In my 27 July Commentary I drew attention to the “discovery” that Islamic extremists have been preaching in religious programs at NSW government schools and to the announcement by Premier Baird of an audit and a suite of measures across 2,200 schools. I suggested that such preaching might well be occurring in other states too.