In Friday’s Commentary I said that it was ‘almost certain’ that the Wentworth seat would be lost – but not by as much as actually happened, with the swing against the Liberal Party being around 20 percent. It is not appropriate here to repeat all the problems now faced by the Coalition with a hung Parliament (see Friday’s Commentary on Wentworth Almost Certainly Lost now on my website www.ipe.net.au). Nor to repeat what many recommended some time ago, viz that Turnbull should have then been dumped. But it is not only Wentworth that poses serious problems: the next Newspoll, presumably tomorrow, will send bad news too.
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.
Today’s Australian reports that the views of three groups in the Senate appear to depend on whether and/or by how much the supposed final version of NEG will reduce costs. Pauline Hanson says she is “strongly against” the NEG and wants to pull out of the Paris accord requiring reduced carbon emissions as coal-fired power stations would deliver cheaper power. Senator Leyonhjelm, the Liberal Democrat, said he wanted to see evidence the NEG would dramatically lower power prices before he would back the deal: “they need to fall by at least 50 per cent to restore competitiveness and take pressure off households”. The Centre Alliance’s Rex Patrick said he and Senate colleague Stirling Griff backed the NEG’s goals but their vote would depend on how much the policy brought down power bills: “we would expect on the pricing side for there to be a clear indication of what the savings will be, and that the modelling that generates those savings is released publicly, including all assumptions that were made,” Senator Patrick said (see Some Senate Opposition to NEG).
Today we have been “flooded” by opinion polls which, while not showing any overall deterioration in the Turnbull Coalition’s polling, confirm its continued inability to effect any significant improvement in that polling. The state by state Newspoll for the February-March quarter also suggests there is a continued problem in Queensland, where the One Nation vote is much higher than in other states and has increased significantly since the 2016 election result (from 5.5 to 13 percent in the February- March quarter).
With a Newspoll due tomorrow, one of the leaders now faces possible “long days and winter’s song”. On the surface it appears that Shorten will be the principal singer as he has experienced a setback from his repeated advice that none of the Labor parliamentarians are subject to the dual citizenship test only to find that four are now subject to the five in by-elections to be held on 28 July. He also has to accept responsibility for the extensive alterations made to a transcript of an interview on Labor policy on how long asylum-seekers could be retained in detention. The altered transcript, which was “cleared” by Shorten’s office, showed that left-wing Labor’s human services spokeswoman Burney opposed indefinite detention but refused to say for how long detention could be under Labor policy on immigration.
Today’s Newspoll shows the Coalition still behind Labor on third party preference votes by 49/51 and indicates that only 41per cent think the tax-cutting budget was “good”. But the improvement in Turnbull’s Better PM rate to 46/35, compared with the 38/35 at the previous Newspoll, has led The Australian to present the poll as a major victory to Turnbull, to argue that the budget was “one of the most well-received …in a decade”, and to claim “the result maintains an electoral position for the Coalition that it has not enjoyed since September 2016”. It also says the result “builds momentum” for the five by-elections expected in early July (see attached Newspoll Shows No TPP Change on Budget).
Although the Newspoll published on 5 March showed no change between the Coalition and Labor on a TPP basis (47/53), Turnbull’s Dissatisfaction rate fell from 54 to 57 and is now worse than Shorten’s (56). As to who is a Better Prime Minister, Turnbull’s rate fell from 40 t0 37 while Shorten’s rose from 33 to 35.
Parliament’s first week back after the summer break witnessed quite a bit of excitement, with Deputy PM Joyce leading the way or should I say presenting a new partner and, at the same time, making sure that 7.30 (and those watching) know that it’ a “private matter”. The following extract from today’s Cut and Paste certainly shows Joyce at full throttle
As we enter the New Year many ask what happened last year and what is likely to happen this year. Not surprisingly, the climate is a point of focus as is whether Australian governments’ policies to reduce carbon emissions are working. Also not surprising is that there are fundamental differences in opinion about the merits of those policies, not the least being Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement and his recent failure to mention in a major security statement.
Following my Commentary of 10 December my computer became unusable for over a week and I missed the opportunity of commenting on the final Newspoll for 2017 on 18 December. Despite inclinations in some media that the Coalition might improve, its TPP remained at 47/53 and, although the “Better PM” indicator lifted Turnbull’s to a poor 41 (from 39), Shorten’s also rose to 34 (from 33). Both leaders’ performances were left at a miserable 32 “Satisfied”. Various events/decisions by the Leaders seem to have cancelled each other out and the swing of 5% against the Liberals in the 16 December Bennelong election can be regarded as “normal” for a by-election . But the deficiencies in Coalition policy stances remained extant and the Coalition needed a much better than normal outcome.