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 last Sunday reported that, in a speech to the South Australian Liberal Party, Turnbull said that Labor’s approach to energy was a combination of ideology and politics, compared to the Liberal focus on economics and engineering. No doubt with the South Australian Labor Premier in mind, he classified South Australian policy as “it’s actually ideology and idiocy in equal measure”.
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.
After I read on Tuesday evening that ASIO Head Lewis had said there is “absolutely no evidence” to suggest a link between the refugee intake and terrorism, I decided early yesterday morning to send a letter to The Australian expressing concern about this assertion and Lewis’s other reported assertion that he doesn’t “buy the notion the issue of Islamic extremism is in some way fostered or sponsored or supported by the Muslim religion”. That letter has been published as the lead letter in today’s Australian, together with a number of others letters in similar vein
Miracles do happen! Even so I was surprised to open today’s Age and find they had published my letter arguing for action to expose and attack extremist Islam. It was also the lead letter. The Australian also published a letter by me in similar vein, along with other “strong action” type letters (see both my letters below) and an excellent editorial which identifies in no uncertain way “that Islamist terror cannot be bought off; it wants nothing less than a totalitarian caliphate for the planet. Jihad denialism, which wilfully obscures the wellsprings of Islamist violence, has limited appeal in Australia although its supporters include progressive elites with their media megaphones” ( see attached Editorial on Terrorist Risk).
In recent Commentaries I have referred to a number of deficiencies in the Budget which have either not been referred to in the main media, including even in The Australian, or have only been given limited attention. Despite this even The Australian has not published four letters I submitted on what I believe are serious analytical deficiencies, and the AFR often couldn’t decide whether to have a letters page. The Age almost automatically refuses to publish anyone deemed to be right of centre.
Today’s Sunday Age interprets on its front page Turnbull’s address yesterday to the Victorian State Council as a warning to the Liberal Party to avoid moving to the right and to recognise that it should “build from the centre, bringing people together” ( see attached). As I have suggested previously, the problem is that the centre has moved to the right both here and overseas and, although Turnbull has very recently made conservative noises, it is difficult to forget his widely regarded left of centre position. Interestingly, President Michael Kroger told the Council meeting that the “Liberal Party has run too many weak and soft campaigns against the Labor Party”. That should have been Turnbull’s “message”.
In my last Commentary on 8 December I asked “How Long Can Turnbull Stay as PM?” That question has become even more pertinent after Friday’s disastrous meeting with the Premiers and the apparent confirmation in the media that Turnbull was behind the move to have an emissions intensity scheme examined in the 2017 review of climate change policy announced on 5 December. Today’s media is replete with reports of the meeting and the events surrounding the 5 December announcement but an exposition by Laurie Oakes in Herald Sun and Daily Telegraph captures the “thrills”(see attached “Oakes on Turnbull”). Bear in mind though that Oakes has probably embellished the story.
We are used to politicians changing their policy positions but, when they do, a question inevitably arises as to whether to accept the latest version as a genuine change. This is particularly relevant to policy positions announced by Turnbull given his well-known history of critiques of Liberal Party policies. So, how to assess what The Weekend Australian’s Paul Kelly describes as “a repositioning of Turnbull” and a preparedness all of a sudden to assault Shorten on character grounds (see Paul Kelly on Turnbull 26-27 Nov 2016)? In fact, not all the change-rationales are canvassed in Kelly’s piece – for example, Turnbull may have at last realised that “something has to be done” to reverse Labor’s favourable polling and to minimise the risk of a challenge to his leadership by Abbott during the Christmas-New Year period.
On Friday evening I attended the annual dinner of the HR Nicholls Society and gave the vote of thanks to the speaker, Senator Eric Abetz. His address was highlighted by The Weekend Australian giving it the front page lead story (see below) and the SMH also reported it, but not The Age. Abetz, who was dropped by Turnbull from ministerial ranks (he was Minister for Employment under PM Abbott) and from being Coalition leader in the Senate, used the HRN dinner as an opportunity to criticise Turnbull for failing to make reform of workplace relations a major policy issue at the election on 2 July. He pointed out that, with the ammunition provided by two major reports (the Heydon Royal Commission and the Productivity Commission), a policy advocating further reform had been a “gimme” and he noted that “not even the unlegislated elements of the 2013 election policy were taken forward such as changes to right of entry, transfer of business and individual flexibility arrangements”.