Today’s first Newspoll for 2019 shows a helpful improvement for the Coalition in its TPP gap from 45/55 in early December to 47/53 but Morrison’s “Satisfactory” rate as PM went down from 42 to 40 and his “Dissatisfaction” rate went up from 45 to 47. By contrast, the “Satisfactory” and “Dissatisfaction” rates for Shorten each improved by a point and left him only 3 rates behind Morrison. In the “Better PM” rate Morrison also dropped a point while Shorten’s rate was unchanged, albeit at 7 points behind Morrison. This Newspoll was taken during the period when three ministers announced they would not stand at the next election
In yesterday’s Commentary I said that, while an early election as suggested by Terry McCrann would risk the Morrison government being portrayed as a “cut and run” attempt at winning and avoiding outstanding issues, it would have the potential to bring the Liberal party closer together and take advantage of various issues on which Morrison seems actually or potentially head of Shorten, including the now near absence of Turnbull as a policy maker. In particular, an election in March would “lock in” the likely favourable budgetary and economic forecasts in the MYEFO publication (next Monday) and prevent any significant change in the Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Outlook (PEFO) which is made by Treasury before an election.
In Thursday’s Commentary I referred to the view of The Australian’s political editor (Dennis Shanahan) that Morrison still has a “last chance” of winning the election. In Weekend Australian Shanahan acknowledges that “the Liberal Party is in a mess” but also points out that “Labor finished the last week of parliament for the year on the back foot over national security and border protection, giving Morrison a reprieve from the dismal Liberal outlook. The Prime Minister was able to declare there would be a budget surplus next year, he changed Liberal leadership rules, intervened to stop a preselection brawl, asserted his authority over Turnbull and avoided an embarrassing defeat on the floor of parliament”
If you are going to “do a deal”, and start from a weak position, you will doubtless have to compromise. But not so that you undermine the essentials of your position. But that is what Morrison is in fact doing with his energy policy: he says that his prime aim is to reduce power prices but at the same time he sticks to the emissions reduction policies and does nothing to reduce subsidies for renewable. This is a contradiction and lower power prices will not be achieved in any degree if the joint energy policy statement by Taylor, Morrison and Frydenberg is realised.
My Commentary on 27/8 was headed “Better Than Turnbull, but …”. This qualification reflected my concern about Morrison’s decisions on the composition of Cabinet but also about the fall in the Coalition’s 44/56 TPP in the Newspoll. This suggested that he would be unlikely to be given a honeymoon and would need to get going if the Coalition is to “sell” policies which would be accepted at the next year’s election
Commenting on this morning’s media speculation that he might challenge Turnbull for PM, Peter Dutton said “In relation to media stories today, just to make very clear, the Prime Minister has my support and I support the policies of the Government. My position hasn’t changed from my comments last Thursday.” (see Dutton Says Supports Turnbull). That of course is a short time ago and he has also said that, while in Cabinet, he is bound to support government policy.
The Australian reports that the “final” version of NEG has now been sent to the states from where they will soon be leaked (see NEG “Finalised”). This version is to be considered at COAG next month and it appears that it does not include the mechanism for setting the emission reduction target, which are (amazingly) to be set each year under federal legislation. The responsibility for meeting the so-called “reliability obligation” is unclear as to what variation in supply, and from what fuel source, would be “unreliable”. No mention is made in this report of what is expected to happen to electricity prices.
Recipients of my Commentary (who include Environment Minister Frydenberg and PM Turnbull) know that recent Newspolls show only 24% support for reducing carbon emissions by 26% (cf 2005) by 2030 and 48% favour pulling out of the Paris accord (14% Uncommitted). They are also aware that the CEO of the Australian Energy Market Operator has advocated continuing to use existing coal-fired generators for the next 20 years because electricity prices will be lower than using other fuel sources. And that Turnbull has acknowledged this view as correct.
Last night my wife and I attended an AIIA function to hear Rowan Callick speak about China under Xi. His analysis was truly alarming (see Callick on China). It seems that China is now run by the Communist Party even more than it was under Mao. I asked C what influence the military has on policy. He said that the previous military heads had been sacked and were replaced by those who were educated in the Communist line and this applies more or less across the board, including in the media. Just about every important organisation has been “communised”. At universities there are watchers who report on any dissidents and, at a recent discussion attended by students, seven cameras had been installed.
In last Thursday’s Commentary I argued that there are serious problems with the outline of the National Energy Guarantee scheme given by Energy Minister Frydenberg in an article published in The Australian (see Frydenberg on NEG). These included the incorrect claim that the Energy Security Board is independent; the claim that NEG would restore faith in the electricity market when in fact it’s main operative conditions would be stipulated by the government; and the consequent false claim that it would be based on engineering and economics.