While in August Dutton challenged Turnbull for the leadership, he did not really spell out the reasons for doing so and, when Morrison succeeded in his challenge for leadership, Dutton did not continue as minister for immigration but stayed as Minister for Home Affairs alone. But in today’s Herald Sun (and other News Ltd papers) he has now publicly exposed more of the reasons for his challenge
Comments now emanating from the PM and Treasurer are alarming. They imply that the Coalition is following a line that is not dissimilar to that adopted by Turnbull and most of the ministers he appointed (some of which have in fact been re-appointed by Morrison). It would not be surprising if Turnbull himself has been consulted on some issues which have emerged since he lost his PM position (Morrison indicated last week that he had been speaking to Turnbull “pretty frequently”). True, some have responded well to Morrison’s more acceptable mannerisms than those attributed to Turnbull, but what counts is the substance of decision-making.
The (normally) two weekly Newspoll on 25 September showed the Coalition’s TPP had fallen by 1 percentage point to 46/54. Today’s Newspoll is a quarterly one that shows the TPP at 47/53 but this is the same as the previous two quarterly ones and, while Turnbull’s performance improved from 33 to 35 “satisfied”, Shorten’s “satisfied” also improved (from 32 to 34). Turnbull’s rating as PM fell fractionally to 43 (from 44) while Shorten’s stayed at 32.
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 Weekend Australian ran as the lead report an interview by Paul Kelly with former Treasury Secretary, Ken Henry, who is now Chairman of the National Bank. Henry said that more needs to be done to reduce the budget deficit instead of talking about it (see Ken Henry on Budget Deficit). This provided an opportunity to point out that the “times have changed” since Henry was the TS and advised Rudd to go for broke: indeed the advice to Rudd was, at best, highly questionable if not wrong (see my letter below). The Australian is to be congratulated for continuing its helpful advocacy today partly through publishing a swag of supporting letters and partly by having its Canberra Bureau Chief, Phillip Hudson, pen a separate article (see Everyone to blame for our budget spiral of hopelessness). Hudson points out that one of the problems is that “ Neither Labor or the Coalition, on their current trajectory, promise a surplus before the next election. Morrison hopes for one in 2020-21. Labor went to the last election with a plan that would leave the budget $16bn worse off over the next four years before making everything tickety-boo within a decade. These scenarios are based on Australia continuing on its growth path of the past 25 years. What happens if something goes wrong?”
Since the election on July 2, Turnbull has continued his record of mistaken decisions as to both substance and process, plus a failure to indicate what substantive policies will be pursued other than the legislation already foreshadowed to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission and to make unions more accountable under the registered organisation arrangements. But unless the (recounted) loss of Herbet by 37 votes is successfully challenged and another election held there (which seems too risky a venture), he has a majority of only one in the Reps and a deficit of 16 in the Senate.This means that if the two houses sit together he would need 9 votes from cross benchers (who include no less than 4 from One Nation and 3 from Xenophon) to obtain a majority to pass that legislation, which is a possibility but clearly uncertain. It is of some importance to climate change and extremist terrorist policy that One Nation ended up with 4 Senate seats, including one held by a sceptic (Malcolm Roberts) on global warming who is well versed in the data.
In the election now under way the Turnbull government has so far been selling its re-election on the theme of “jobs and growth”. In my last two Commentaries I have given reasons why this poses problems, based as it is on a budget presented as an economic plan which has very limited substance in terms of either its aggregates or its components. As The Australian’s Economic Editor Uren put it, “taken together, the initiatives in the budget will not shift the dial on national growth one way or another to a measurable extent”. This is already reflected in dissatisfaction amongst Coalition members, with no lift in polling following the budget (in Newspoll the Coalition’s TPP remained fractionally below Labor’s), a majority of voters judging that the budget left them worse off but with Turnbull still well ahead as the better PM. There has also been questioning of the components by media and other commentators. Further, in the first public debate in front of a supposedly undecided audience, Shorten easily won the head count. On the ABC’s Insiders today there was agreement from the four participants (all with the left inclinations that the ABC normally gives preference to) that Turnbull has so far shown less ability than Shorten to get his message across.
Most of those involved in assessing the public commentaries by Prime Minister Turnbull have spent the week-end trying to work out what might happen now and what Turnbull might say next. His latest “slogan” that “we must live within our means” is of course meaningless unless accompanied by appropriate policies.
I circulated yesterday copies of articles by Andrew Bolt and Niki Savva discussing the Prime Ministership of Tony Abbott and the role played by Abbott’s chief of staff, Peta Credlin. I made strong criticism of the Savva comments, particularly that Abbott had performed worse than Rudd and the implication she left (without any supporting evidence) that he had slept with Credlin. I did not mention that I had previously written to The Australian criticising its handling of Savva comments, particularly by giving unwarranted attention to considerable amounts of what seemed to largely be gossip.
It remains difficult to reach any firm conclusion about the implications of Turnbull’s acquisition of the Prime Ministership. As expected, the first opinion poll shows Turnbull as a Better PM than Shorten (62/38 %) - compared with the 42/58% under Abbott - and a lift in the TPP to 50/50 from 46/54 in the last Newspoll. But one might have expected an initial more favourable outcome for Turnbull.