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?
Today Andrew Bolt has made a scathing attack on Turnbull and has extended that to the Liberal Party itself for allowing Turnbull to get away with it. He suggests that, even if Abbott replaced Turnbull, the left that now exists of that party is so strong that he would be unable to repair it. Genuine supporters of liberalism would therefore have to decide where they would vote at the next election. I suspect a goodly number have already decided.
Although the ABC and SBS continue to convey concerns about Trump, the realisation that he seems to be on the right track is spreading, including by Turnbull. Of particular importance are the signs that he may have done a deal with China involving the putting of pressure on NK to change its missile threat policy. The article in today’s Australian by its first rate China correspondent, Rowan Callick, suggests that Trump may have persuaded XI to threaten Kim with a reduction in oil supply and in imports from NK (where about 80% of NK exports go). Callick also quotes a Chinese academic as saying publicly that “the fundamental interests of China and North Korea are now conflicting”. Such a statement would not be made in China unless the hint of a basic change had got around (see attached Chinese Policy on NK).
Today’s Sunday Age interprets on its front page Turnbull’s address yesterday to the Victorian State Council as a warning to the Liberal Party to avoid moving to the right and to recognise that it should “build from the centre, bringing people together” ( see attached). As I have suggested previously, the problem is that the centre has moved to the right both here and overseas and, although Turnbull has very recently made conservative noises, it is difficult to forget his widely regarded left of centre position. Interestingly, President Michael Kroger told the Council meeting that the “Liberal Party has run too many weak and soft campaigns against the Labor Party”. That should have been Turnbull’s “message”.
As Parliament takes a two week break (again!), Turnbull is given a rest from answering questions from Shorten and leading commentators search for important things to write or talk about. As usual, ABC News continues to focus on murders - but not political ones. In Western Australia polling suggests political casualties amongst supporters of Premier Barnett, indeed the likely loss of government there, with Turnbull having made a negative contribution on his sole visit during the election campaign according to The West Australian newspaper (it described his visit as “a damp squib” and claimed he was “hopelessly unprepared, atrociously briefed or both” on what to say about WA’s share of GST grants). Instead, Turnbull has gone to Queensland supposedly to help the Nationals combat the increasing influence of Pauline Hanson there. But Nationals Leader Barnaby Joyce almost fell off his horse when he learned that Turnbull had taken a direct call from Pauline when she was meeting angry sugarcane growers and that Turnbull had apparently then agreed to discuss the issue with growers who had previously been unable to obtain a meeting with Turnbull ie his action effectively showed that One Nation has credibility with him and that the Nationals are being put aside as their vote is (supposedly) assured.
Today’s front page of the Australian Financial Review carries the composite photo below of Malcolm Turnbull seated on a couch with Bill Shorten and Nick Xenophon and Pauline Hanson standing at the back. The accompanying (very) glossy magazine purports to present them as four of those in Power in Australia. In its subsequent pages the magazine includes many others, along with, surprisingly, Muslim Waleed Aly. President Obama is added for good measure, possibly because it is the last chance to do so.
Today’s Australian provided my best laughs for the New Year – but also again highlighted the failure of experts and Ministers to understand how to present the threat from Islam.
Christmas drinks with former colleagues in Canberra after sending last Sunday’s Commentary have been followed by some important developments and questions about government policies both here and overseas.