So much has been happening since my Commentary last Friday 1 December that it is difficult to sort out what is important and what is not. The surprise improvement in the Coaliton’s polling on 4 December from a negative 45/55 TPP to a negative 47/53 TPP, and in Turnbull’s net satisfaction rating from minus 29 points to minus 25 points, has led some commentators to see this as the start of a recovery for Mr Turnbull (see Crowe on Newspoll). Certainly, by announcing Cabinet approval of the establishment of a Royal Commission into the alleged misconduct of Australia’s banks and other financial services entitiesafter he had previously rejected it on several occasions, Turnbull bought off the threat by a National’s MPto move in Parliament for a public banking inquiry. He also claimed support for the Coalition from the favourable swing of about 12% in Barnaby Joyce’s winning by-election, although he played no part in Joyce’s campaign. And he has been helped by the withdrawal of the threatened resignation by Coalition MP George Christensen (initially kept secret to highlight the “crisis”), who reportedly claimed that Joyce’s win gave the National’s a “reinvigorated leader”.
I referred in Sunday’s Commentary to the opportunity provided by Abbott’s continued advocacy for government policies to be more in line with stated objectives of the Liberal Party. I suggested that his suggestion to freeze the renewable target at its existing level of 15% (the Turnbull government’s target is 23.5% by 2020) provides just such an opportunity given the extent to which renewable usage has been heavily criticised by climate change experts.
The end of the Parliamentary session (it resumes in 6 weeks) has produced various comments about its performance, including Turnbull’s claim that it showed that the Coalition is governing. He referred in particular the $6bn bank tax, gas export restrictions, the avoidance of Aboriginal Title restrictions on the $21bn Adani coal mine in Queensland, and the much publicised new arrangements for schools. The Weekend Australian observes critically that “the Prime Minister has won this victory only by adopting what even he argues is a purer version of Labor’s Gonski plan and by promising tens of billions of dollars that are yet to be raised and which, on the available evidence, will not necessarily boost education outcomes”.