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”.
Turnbull is Finished, But… Today’s media is replite with analyses which, although not actually saying that Turnbull is finished as PM, leave the reader with little else but to conclude that this is the case. Below is a summary of conclusions by several commentators
It will take time to assess the detail of the forthcoming new Energy Policy of the Turnbull government, but the forward hints in the media leave much to be desired.
Since my last Commentary I have attended the Samuel Griffith Conference held in Perth from 25-27 August, where a record attendance of about 250 heardpapers on policies pursued by Federal and State governments and the respective responsibilities assumed by them (and the interpretations of the legal system) on various issues. I also took the opportunity to have a subsequent too-brief holiday with my wife, Felicity, at the highly commended Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort at Shark Bay on the west coast of WA (it operates in a protected area).
In my Commentary on Tuesday I drew attention to new reasons for implementing major changes in the Turnbull government’s policies directed at reducing C02 emissions and increasing the usage of renewable.
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”.
I concluded my Commentary last Sunday with the view that the Blueprint published by Chief Scientist Finkel has so many deficiencies that it is “not acceptable as a basis for Australia’s climate policy”. On Monday, The Australian’s political correspondent Crowe wrote a rather accommodative report on what he described as Finkel’s “first response to critics of the blueprint” but he offered little criticism or questioning of the Blueprint . His report was accompanied on digital by a five page conversation with Finkel which posed only limited questions. Nor (surprisingly) did he refer to any of the criticisms of Blueprint in News Ltd articles published on Saturday by Terry McCrann and Judith Sloan and yesterday on The Australian’s opinion page by expert climate analyst William Kininmonth (see Kininmonth on Finkel).
In recent Commentaries I have referred to a number of deficiencies in the Budget which have either not been referred to in the main media, including even in The Australian, or have only been given limited attention. Despite this even The Australian has not published four letters I submitted on what I believe are serious analytical deficiencies, and the AFR often couldn’t decide whether to have a letters page. The Age almost automatically refuses to publish anyone deemed to be right of centre.
Both main sides continue to debate the second budget of the Turnbull government, with the most interesting development being the view expressed by Albanese that Labor should welcome the Coalition’s budget measures! But there is no indication from most Commentators that initial views have changed and that an improvement in the Coalition’s polling is likely to occur. In fact, doubts about the achievement of estimated budget outcomes have increased following the publication of a much lower growth in wages than assumed in the 2017-18 Budget estimates (1.9% cf 2.5%), a further fall in consumer confidence (the sixth successive occasion when pessimists have outweighed optimists), and a warning from credit agency S&P that while it kept Australia’s credit rating at AAA it also warned that it is at risk of a downside over the next two years. The improvement in the latest employment survey may help if it is sustained. But doubts continue about the survey’s reliability.
Trump’s agreement to meet with Turnbull this coming week (an appointment which appears to have taken longer than expected) provides an opportunity to confirm the importance of the US alliance in the context of celebrating the vital role played by the US in the defeat of the Japanese in the Coral Sea battle 75 years ago in 1942 (see press release on meeting). It also means Turnbull will obtain more photo-ops. He will doubtless also attempt to convey to the Australian electorate that his meeting with Trump reflects another acknowledgment by him of the view of right-wingers.