Today’s Australian has published considerable material on the failure of Labor to clearly enunciate its policies. I have previously drawn particular attention to Labor’s failure to publish aggregates alternative to those in the Coalition’s budget and to costings for the economy of its global warming policy. This defect remains. But the recent emergence of many questions about Labor’s policies on specific policy issues has opened the way for much wider challenges to be made. The opening up of this area should also allow Morrison to reduce his announcements of funding small projects, which appear too much as vote buying, and focus more on attacking Shorten. It has also led The Australian to inter alia run the main letters column today with the heading Uncertainty Surrounds Labor’s Announced Policies. I was fortunate in having my epistle included as “lead letter”
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.
In today’s Herald Sun, Andrew Bolt points out that on Tuesday Malcolm Turnbull “gave a ludicrously generous endorsement to Liberal turncoat Julia Banks, the MP now running as an independent against Liberal Health Minister Greg Hunt” and rightly describes this and other actions by Turnbull as “treachery” which however many journalists have failed to so characterize
Today’s first Newspoll for 2019 shows a helpful improvement for the Coalition in its TPP gap from 45/55 in early December to 47/53 but Morrison’s “Satisfactory” rate as PM went down from 42 to 40 and his “Dissatisfaction” rate went up from 45 to 47. By contrast, the “Satisfactory” and “Dissatisfaction” rates for Shorten each improved by a point and left him only 3 rates behind Morrison. In the “Better PM” rate Morrison also dropped a point while Shorten’s rate was unchanged, albeit at 7 points behind Morrison. This Newspoll was taken during the period when three ministers announced they would not stand at the next election
Much of yesterday’s political/media exchanges were about the role Malcolm Turnbull has been playing recently in trying to undermine the Liberal Party and, now, its new leader Scott Morrison. Today’s Australian reports numerous commentaries all of which are unfavourable to Turnbull and include the view of political editor, Dennis Shanahan, that he should have been sacked after the 2016 election which reduced the Coalition’s majority to one – “To borrow Turnbull’s own words, the Liberals simply left “his arse” for too long on the seat of C1 — the prime ministerial commonwealth car “
In my Commentary published on 18 November I suggested the handling of the Bourke St incident indicated serious deficiencies. This has been confirmed by developments since then. Most important has been the statement by Victorian Attorney General Pakula that Victorian police had not received information from federal sources which would warrant them acting to at least monitor the now dead Muslim terrorist, Shire Ali. But Victorian police chief Ashton subsequently announced that they had in fact received the necessary federal information. This prompted me to send a letter to the press arguing that Pakula should resign but, as he has stuck to his guns and has been supported by Victorian Premier Andrews, that won’t happen a couple of days before the election (see OZ on Bourke St Terrorist Revelations and Pakula Claims Not Informed of Terrorists Passport Withdrawal).
Yesterday’s Commentary referred to a number of policy decisions and comments on policy positions made by PM Morrison which raised concern about the directions being taken by him and, in particular, whether his government is differentiating itself from the leftish Turnbull government to a substantive degree. The publication of an article in Spectator of 6 October by John Stone (see Stone on Morrison), and other developments, suggest the Morrison government does not seem at present to have the capacity to handle issues in a way conducive to attracting the electorate to the Coalition.
We ended last week’s session of Federal Parliament with Morrison still in a precarious position and with another week in parliament to come. He has received some favourable publicity from his energetic en tour of some electorates and from his aggressive handling of parliament. However, his request for support from parliamentary colleagues on Thursday night by the raising of hands to a song left a good deal to be desired and he subsequently acknowledged that “the full lyrics … were just not OK” (see report published in today’s Sunday Fairfax and reproduced above in Morrison’s Performance in Parliament) . And the message he (and others) received from Turnbull from New York , which suggested that Dutton’s position as an MP should be checked by the High Court, did not help, all the more so as reports also suggest Turnbull has been leaking about his (Morrison’s) behaviour.
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).
The 30th Newspoll since Turnbull challenged Abbott and won has confirmed that Labor remains well ahead on a TPP basis (52/48), although this is one percentage point lower for Labor than in March. However, Turnbull’s Better PM test also fell by a fraction (39/38) while Shorten’s was steady on 36, and he also fell on the Best Liberal leader test 30/28. At that level he is only one percentage point ahead of Bishop (28/27). The Coalition underTurnbull has now trailed Labor on two-party-preferred support for 564 days. Julia Gillard’s government trailed the Coalition for 521 consecutive days, Abbott’s government trailed Labor for 493 days while Howard’s longest period trailing Labor was 364 days (see PM has 30 Poll Losses).