The combination of today’s Newspoll (another 49/51 TPP result for the Coalition) and the utter failure of the Turnbull government to come forward with a meaningful energy policy demands that tomorrow’s party room meeting vote for a change of leader. Turnbull has had his (second) chance 38 times and must go now even if that forces an election before Christmas.
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).
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).
As 2018 starts it is pertinent to ask whether we might expect an improved performance by the Turnbull government if it continues during the year. Turnbull himself had an article in Sunday’s Herald Sun and the heading to the article implies he is telling us just that, viz TIME TO FOCUS ON FUTURE (see attached, which I could only obtain digitally by first making a phone call to a technician at Herald Sun HQ as, rather surprisingly, they it did not have it on its web). Turnbull also sent me a message personally yesterday - and others too, presumably! (see My Message From Turnbull & use the right clicks).
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”.
Although as this is written more than 30% of votes still need to be counted, it now looks almost certain that Labor will be returned and may even have a majority of seats. As the ABC election expert Green says,even if Premier Palaszczuk “falls a seat short, she doesn't have to do any deals. She can leave it to the Parliament to vote her out, because it would be unlikely that all the crossbench would vote against them at once. "It is a fixed-term Parliament — the Government can't just resign and walk out of office and leave someone else to form government — they can't do that, so somebody will form government. "So it is very hard to see how anyone other than Annastacia Palaszczuk can form government in the new Parliament. "They have a certain 46, and they only need one more vote and at the moment we are giving them another two seats on a prediction." (see Labor to Win in Qld Election). Note the failure of One Nation while the Kapper party may get two seats.
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?
The week-end’s Media assessment of Turnbull’s New Energy Guarantee (NEG) is generally favourable, but withTerry McCrann predicting an extremely unfavourable outcome for the Coalition viz “Malcolm Turnbull and Josh Frydenberg have made a deliberate decision to lose the next election and to lose it badly. The rest of the joint party room voted to endorse the decision, an indeterminate number of Liberal and National members voting for an early retirement. This is the irresistible and even more the irredeemable political consequence of the Turnbull-Frydenberg decision to opt for a policy of (only trying) “to keep the lights on” over a policy of significantly and quickly cutting both electricity and gas prices. Far less, the third, but first-best, option — the option, begging to be embraced by a half-rational government that had the most minimalist understanding of political dynamics — of aggressively aiming to deliver both more and more reliable power and cheaper and sustainably cheaper power”.
Some will remember Alice’s experience in Wonderland when, after falling through a rabbit hole, she found herself in a world full of strange creatures making decisions and expressing views about life which, while amusing, were more of a take-off of the real world. Failing to make friends with the Cheshire-Cat, for example, the King demanded that the Queen remove him but she simply decreed “off with his head”. This was a command the cat simply ignored. But that the rulers of Wonderland were unable to exercise control over their subjects now strikes a bell here.
As a new Parliamentary week starts, the political editor of The Australian interprets the latest Newspoll as putting Turnbull “back in the game” (see below). But while the Coalition’s TPP has improved to 48/52 (from 45/55), it remains a long way short of a recovery let alone a Coalition leadership position. Importantly also, the polling still continues to confirm dissatisfaction with Turnbull. In terms of net satisfaction with leaders (only available on the web), Turnbull and Shorten are both about the same in negative terms (about -28) and, although Turnbull is slightly better than Abbott was when he lost the leadership (-33), he has lost the very favourable position he had when he took over in September 2015 (+19). He is also still below what he was even six months ago (-22). In reality, voters are very unhappy with both leaders and there is an opportunity for a new leader for either party.