Last Friday’s Commentary suggested that the latest Coalition’s Newspoll of 47/53 for the third successive time indicated that the Morrison government was still in serious trouble. I suggested that the additional policy decisions announced by Morrison on climate policy would be unlikely to help close the gap. These measures included acceptance of the Paris agreement and an expanded use of renewable through the establishment of the very uneconomic Snowy2.0 and the usage of “big batteries”. Energy Minister Taylor also claimed the new measures would cut energy bills while lowering emissions but this failed to take account of the additional costs from using the Snowy or from back-ups needed when other renewable are not available. I noted that it seemed unlikely that the Energy Minister would be able to reduce electricity prices except through the adoption of a regulatory system which legally limited the maximum price able to be charged by retailers.
While Morrison says he will not attempt an early election, the New Year is seeing the re- emergence of debate on issues such as border controls. It is pointed out that, while “Labor softened its asylum-seeker policy at its national conference last month by formally endorsing doctor-ordered medical evacuations off Manus Island and Nauru, it remains committed to boat turnbacks when safe to do so, offshore processing and regional resettlement.” But Morrison claims “they will abolish temporary protections visas and last year voted to end offshore processing as we know it in the parliament. And they had no clue what they had done’’
It is now a month since the overthrow of Turnbull as Coalition leader and PM on August 24. Yet the latest Newspoll shows the Coalition now led by Scott Morrison (thanks to the initial challenge by Dutton) has lifted its two party preferred vote by only two percentage points, which still leaves it well behind Labor on 46/54 and behind its rating of 49/51 in mid-August prior to the spill. And less than on its July 2016 election win by one seat.
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.
My Commentary on 27/8 was headed “Better Than Turnbull, but …”. This qualification reflected my concern about Morrison’s decisions on the composition of Cabinet but also about the fall in the Coalition’s 44/56 TPP in the Newspoll. This suggested that he would be unlikely to be given a honeymoon and would need to get going if the Coalition is to “sell” policies which would be accepted at the next year’s election
The belated but successful challenge to Malcolm Turnbull after three years as Liberal leader is very important for the Coalition and for Australia -potentially. Readers of my Commentary will be aware of the adverse views which I hold on his socialistic objectives and the apparent ego which focussed him mainly on trying to make his mark through politics regardless of which side. In fact, after 3 years as leader he will be remembered as having achieved very little other than drawing attention to himself and departing from Liberal beliefs.
The public address on 3 July by Tony Abbott advocating withdrawal from the Paris agreement has produced favourable reactions from several quarters but a response from Turnbull and some of his ministers which is largely dismissive and an attempt by much of the media to suggest Abbott’s analysis is outdated and should be ignored. That is what might be expected from people who have locked themselves into a fixed position that we face dangerous warming unless carbon emissions are reduced. My commentary below concentrates on those who have challenged that position.
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).
In my Commentary of 1 January I drew attention to the absence of any substantive references in our media to the successful defeat of the ISIS caliphate by Iraqi and Syrian forces, with support provided by US and Australian forces. I drew particular attention to Trump’s delegation of decision-making to Secretary Tillerson and commanders in the field and to his indication that the defeat of ISIS was a priority. This contrasted with the dire situation a year ago described in a special press briefing given on 22 December by the US envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS (this was not reported in our media). His description of “a dire situation” may have reflected Obama’s policy of first requiring his clearance to take military action and his refusal to have US troops on the ground in Iraq (except for Special Forces).
The announcement of Alexander’s resignation as an MP for Bennelong (and a by-election on December 16), and indications that at least three Labor MPs may be dual citizens as defined under Section 44 of the Constitution, raises a question as to whether Parliament will be functioning for a period as an effective political entity. Of course, after a series of by-elections next year Parliament can again become a body containing all “genuine” Australians. But should it make decisions on policies in the meantime or hold a general election that would bring the dual citizenship issue to a head?