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.
Now that Joyce has made the right decision to resign as Leader of the National Party and hence Deputy PM, it is pertinent to attempt an interpretation of the various events and their potential implications. I don’t often agree with Paul Kelly’s analyses but his observation in an article today seems correct, viz “The entire crisis exposes again the essential problem of the Turnbull government: disastrous political management. The government was a sitting duck in the fallout from the Joyce affair. Turnbull and Joyce were never frank enough with each other even to devise a strategy. The fiasco is extraordinary” (see Kelly on Joyce’s Resignation).For Australia’s leading journalist to express such a view is an indication of the extent of the problem facing Coalition MPs.
In my Commentary last Saturday 20 Jan I referred to my battle to persuade The Australian to publish a letter critical of analysis on climate policy by Energy Minister Frydenberg and to my success in eventually having a shortened version published. This is attached together with two others praising the 19 Jan article by climate expert Bjorn Lomborg arguing that, even if fully implemented, the Paris climate agreement would have a much smaller effect in preventing temperature increases than predicted but would be incredibly expensive and could very well exacerbate hunger.
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.
By suddenly announcing that the resumption of Parliament will be delayed until 4 December, Turnbull has postponed by a week the possibility of a defeat on the floor of the Lower House. At the same time, it was indicated that the finishing date for Parliament could now be Friday 15 December, or even later. The stated reason(s) for seeking the extra time are that it may be needed to debate the legislation on same sex marriage and resolve outstanding citizenship issues. Turnbull told The Australian that “ he was ‘very confident’ parliament would pass same-sex marriage legislation before Christmas”. “Parliament absolutely can and I’m very confident it will, and my priority and the government’s priority is to recognise the will of the people is that we should get this done, and that’s what we’re going to be doing everything we can to achieve it before Christmas,” the Prime Minister said. “I think the Opposition have got a similar commitment, so between us I’m very confident we can make it work. “There’ll obviously be a lot of debate, a lot of amendments discussed. That’s what parliament’s for, but ultimately we know we have got a very clear direction from our masters, the Australian people.”
Available here is an article from the New York Times dated 18 November reporting on the Climate Change Conference held in Bonn over the past fortnight. Such conferences are scheduled to be held every year to assess progress in meeting the 2015 Paris Agreement. The article says that next year “world leaders will meet for a formal dialogue”. Perhaps the most significant “outcome” from the conference is the acknowledgement that “the world’s nations are still failing to prevent drastic global warming in the decades ahead. ‘We need more action, more ambition, and we need it now,’ said Patricia Espinosa, the United Nations climate chief”. The two Open Graphics published in the NYT suggests that the current trajectories of carbon emissions by the EU and the US would need to be drastically lowered in order to have temperatures below 2C degrees by 2030. Graphics for China and India would show a much greater reduction required (of course such graphics are meaningless as there is no co-relationship between changes in emissions and temperatures).
The kerfuffle over the ministerial handling of the Australian Federal Police raids on the Australian Workers Union raises serious questions about why the Turnbull government timed such action now and whether Turnbull himself was more closely involved than appears in the media. It followed Turnbull’s decision to announce a new energy policy with important details absent and a promise that these will be “explained” in due course. These “rush” decisions by Turnbull may well be connected with an attempt to lift his continued disastrous polling in Newspoll and prevent any move to replace him before Christmas. Yet an examination of recent developments suggests the polling is now more likely to fall than even stay put.
As expected, the London address by Abbott has led to many critiques, including some that attempt to present his analysis as ridiculous partly be being selective in quotes. I respond to some of these critiques below. Suffice to say here is that the response so far by Turnbull and Frydenberg is basically limited to saying “well he didn’t say that when he was PM” (see Frydeneberg’s Critique of Abbott). Turnbull has refused to comment on Abbott’s address but has rejected any withdrawal from the Paris agreement (see Turnbull to Stick to Paris) But the responses by some backbenchers indicate that Abbott has stirred the possum –and on more than one tree. He has also reinforced (without actually saying it) the problems with Turnbull. In The Australian, Simon Benson points out that the government led by Turnbull has created a policy vacuum and “when the government does finally dump the CET, Abbott will doubtless be there congratulating them for finally listening to him” (see Benson on Turnbull).
Federal Parliament does not sit again until 16 Oct (and then only for one week) and I assume there will be a Newspoll tomorrow. With Turnbull’s inability to decide an energy policy and the National Party Conference rejecting a clean energy target and voting to eliminate subsidies for renewable, the Coalition’s TPP is unlikely to increase. Indeed, with the No votes increasing on same sex marriage (but still above 50%), and No voter former PM Howard highlighting Turnbull’s failure before the vote to (at least) publish proposed protection for those opposing official legislation endorsing SS on an on-going basis , these last two weeks are more likely to have produced a fall in the TPP. That would be “exciting”.
My Commentary of 5 August included a section on Coalition Leadership and suggested the basic question that Coalition MPs have to face is whether to continue with Turnbull as leader in the event that Newspoll shows no significant change as Parliament resumes. That in fact is what happened, with the Coalition’s TPP remaining at 47/53 (compared with 50.4 at the July 2016 election) and its Primary Vote remaining at 36 (42.1 at July 2016 election). A glimmer of hope was that Labor’s Primary Vote fell by one percentage point to 36 but this is still equal to the Coalition’s and is higher than its 34.7 at the July 2016 election.