The campaign for the election on 18 May started officially on11 April although statements of policy had been made prior to that, as had media assessments. Two prominent conservative commentators had in fact already indicated their view that Labor will win. Terry McCrann wrote on 11 Apr “One thing is absolutely crystal clear about the election. If Labor wins — as to me, seems certain — it will hit the ground running, straight after the election, in June”. He added that “it has a program to dramatically increase taxes on negative gearing, franking credits, capital gains and trusts; it will not cut the company tax on big companies from 30 per cent, which is now very uncompetitive, with the US down to 21 per cent, and will revisit the cut on medium-sized companies; it will also further squeeze especially small and medium-sized businesses with the so-called “living wage”; and then there’s the whole issue of power prices, which will just continue to increase and increase at an accelerating rate under Labor’s so-called climate change policy”
Two new polls tell different stories, one favouring the Coalition but the other not. First, Newspoll shows the Coalition’s TPP as up by two percentage points with Labor’s down the same two points compared with the March 7-10 poll. Hence the Coalition is up from 46 to 48 while Labor’s is down from 54 to 52 now. Also, while the primary votes ( before taking account of preferences from other parties) for the Coalition have improved (from 36 to 38), Labor’s have fallen (from 39 to 37). These send out a hopeful signal to the Coalition.
Shorten’s reply to Morrison’s Budget for 2019-20 does not offer any aggregate estimates for spending and revenue next year or for the four years aggregate to 2022-23. These are normally provided as a budget presentation and Morrison’s/Frydenberg’s figures are in the published Budget papers
In yesterday’s Commentary I argued that, given the latest Newspoll (and for policy reasons too), the Coalition should “change courses” asap. I also sent a letter to OZ (unpublished) advocating the cancellation of Turnbull’s membership of the Liberal Party. My advocacies are based on my perspective that, although risky, the Coalition needs to take risks now if it is to have any chance of winning the election and that an improved set of policies would in any event provide a better starting point in Opposition to a Labor government.
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.