Has Turnbull found a policy to stop his and the Coalition’s decline in polling? Many commentators have certainly reacted favourably to his latest initiatives on energy policy and his claim that we are confronted by an energy “crisis”. But this is little more than a political ploy designed to retain his leadership. The whole exercise adds to concern over that.
Turnbull’s attempted recovery from declining polls appears to involve two immediate strategies. First, expose and publicise dubious activity by Shorten when he was head of the AWU. Second, attack the energy policy adopted by Shorten now that he is leader of the Opposition. This approach seems to have been welcomed by most members of the Coalition and praised by some in the media, both of whom reacted with comments to the effect “why the hell has he taken this long to point out the defects in Shorten as Labor leader” or words to that effect.
As we get closer to the resumption of Parliament on Tuesday 7 Feb, many have increasingly wondered what issues the Turnbull government will prioritise in the New Year and how it will react to the new Trump government in the US. In today’s Herald Sun (see below), Terry McCrann suggests that Turnbull has offered few indications of the policies he intends to pursue actively and gives the impression that he is ill prepared to handle the new policies which Trump has indicated he intends to pursue in the US. This confirms, McCrann says, what he said back last April when he wrote that “Turnbull was a complete dud”. Perhaps Turnbull will make his position clearer in his promised major address on February 1.
In my last Commentary on 8 December I asked “How Long Can Turnbull Stay as PM?” That question has become even more pertinent after Friday’s disastrous meeting with the Premiers and the apparent confirmation in the media that Turnbull was behind the move to have an emissions intensity scheme examined in the 2017 review of climate change policy announced on 5 December. Today’s media is replete with reports of the meeting and the events surrounding the 5 December announcement but an exposition by Laurie Oakes in Herald Sun and Daily Telegraph captures the “thrills”(see attached “Oakes on Turnbull”). Bear in mind though that Oakes has probably embellished the story.
I have no doubt that Terry McCrann does not want to be labelled a spokesman for Donald T. But after his conclusion yesterday that, in the wake of what he described as “the Trump-quake”, Turnbull now has a last chance to pull his socks up, Terry has again pursued one of Trump’s favourite targets viz international institutions. On this occasion it is the International Monetary Fund and the report by its “mission” to Australia to report on the Australian economy and the economic policy being pursued by the Turnbull government.
The black out in South Australia (which still exists in parts of the state) has produced disputes about whether this is simply “the weather” or something more substantial. The Premier of South Australia is reported as attributing it to extreme weather causing towers to collapse but neither he nor his Energy Minister have made any justifying news releases so far. By contrast, the Herald Sun’s business editor, Terry McCrann, has made it clear that the weather was not extreme and that the blame lies with the structure of the electricity net work including the extensive reliance on renewable energy to meet demand (40%) (see attached McCrann on SA Blackout).
In my Commentary on Tuesday I suggested that Turnbull’s announcement at the WA Liberal Party’s conference held last weekend that each State would now be guaranteed a minimum share of GST revenue was, once again, lacking in any serious analysis or any checking first even with senior ministers, let alone other states. It has subsequently emerged that the new arrangements, the calculation of which has not been stated, are first to be discussed with other states and that it is unclear when they might start (although WA Premier Barnett who has an election next March says he thought it would be this calendar year). The Australian also published an analysis on the assumption that the minimum share would likely be 75% and that WA (now receiving only 30%) might not receive any future benefit from any such arrangement. My letter to the Australian on the issue was published yesterday with four others (see GST Shares).
Whatever the outcome of the election, the 2.8% swing against the Coalition, and thenow very real possibility that it will be unable to form government on its own, is clearly a vote of no confidence in Turnbull and the policies he presented since taking-over from Abbott – or rather the lack of them. Those who were characterised as Del-Cons, which included myself, correctly identified that Turnbull is at heart a big government interventionist who lacks the capacity to adopt policies which would encourage private enterprise and should not be a leader of the Liberal Party. His attempt to persuade the electorate that he had an “economic plan” was unconvincing and wrongly used the word “plan”. Concern remains that a government led by him would aggressively pursue policies supported by him in the past, such as global warming, but not outlined before or during the election campaign.
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.
On page 3 of the Weekend Australian the political party of which I have become a member, Australian Liberty Alliance, ran an advertisement titled “We will stop Islamisation” (see ALA attached). I became a member some time ago because I regard the threat of Islamisation as the most seriousness danger facing Australia and the western world - and ALA as the only party prepared to publicly advocate its elimination as a serious priority. I am not referring here to those Muslims who seek and lead a peaceful life but to those who advocate violence and/or who are prepared to commit violent acts. The latter are jihadists who seek the destruction of both western and peaceful Muslim societies.