So You’re Ungaggable, Eh Malcolm? Really?

Malcolm Turnbull says he’s “ungaggable.” Tony Abbott says supporting Coalition policy is a condition of Turnbull’s membership of the shadow cabinet.

Tony Abbott’s remarks on Channel Nine yesterday represented the shot across the bows.

Abbott said that Turnbull’s position as a shadow minister was conditional on his support for the Coalition’s direct action policy on climate change. “It’s not his job to talk about a whole range of policies, it’s his job to talk about communications policy and he’s doing a very good job,” he said.

Turnbull’s reply was tantamount to a declaration of war. “Nobody has gagged me. I’m ungaggable, I assure you,” he said. “I’m beyond gagging.”

Although, he added, he supported the Coalition’s policy.

This has gone on long enough and Turnbull can’t have it both ways. Either he supports Coalition policy or he doesn’t, and if he does, he must stop picking at it, implicitly criticising it, and making favourable references to the government’s own policy — the very policy the Liberals and Nationals are committed to oppose.

He also said he wouldn’t be defecting to Labor.

One has to feel some sympathy for Tony Abbott — having carved out a position on this issue which clearly resonates with the voting public, he is by necessity forced to continually defend Turnbull, insist the latter supports the official policy, and praise his efforts in his own portfolio area.

Defend Turnbull? It’s fast approaching the point where his conduct is indefensible.

Turnbull supporting Coalition policy on climate change? If you believe that then here’s a tip for you: tomorrow, the sun will rise in the west.

And Turnbull on communications policy? As this column has previously observed, his utterances on issues such as the NBN have an eerily silent quality about them.

It is clear that Turnbull is angling for a return to the Liberal leadership — the role he lost as a direct consequence of his approach to climate change policy. Nothing has changed; neither his approach in terms of his prescriptive policy preferences nor his support for an agenda which, by every objective and quantifiable measure, is deeply detested by the Australian public.

It is true that certain polls — some scientific, some not — purport to show Turnbull is the overwhelmingly favoured candidate to lead the Liberal Party.

But in late 1988 and early 1989, they also showed Andrew Peacock as the overwhelmingly preferred candidate to resume the Liberal leadership from a then-hapless John Howard whose initial stint in the job was just north of abysmal.

Once reinstalled in the role in May 1989, Peacock’s opinion poll ratings — and those of the Liberal Party — quickly headed south, admittedly after a little help from Peacock’s friends who went on national television to brag about the sheer dishonesty of the coup they had sprung on Howard.

And Howard — only by virtue of being the last man standing in January 1995, after the useless Hewson had been replaced by the hopeless Downer, with disastrous consequences — is the only leader of either major party since Menzies in the 1940s to have lost the leadership of their party, subsequently regained it, and gone on to win an election.

Turnbull would do well to heed this little lesson in Australian political history.

It is a lesson I believe is not lost on his colleagues. Some of them are resentful; Abbott was handed the same poisoned chalice that Turnbull (and before him, Brendan Nelson) had been handed; unlike Turnbull, Abbott has worked the Coalition into an election-winning position and on balance was probably unlucky not to have won last year.

Some are simply angry — and that anger is growing — that Turnbull refuses to play the team game, is determined to speak on matters beyond his gambit, and appears to want to play the wrecker on his pet issue simply because he hasn’t been allowed to have his own way.

But all of them — including those who still support Turnbull and would likely back him in any leadership election — having grown reaccustomed to the slog of Opposition know that they would much rather be again sitting to the right of the speaker in the House.

Abbott may be consistently be polling the sorts of numbers indicative of a landslide, but there is no guarantee those numbers would hold after a change of leadership and again — given Turnbull’s own polling history as leader — there is every reason to expect that they would collapse.

Quickly. Very, very quickly.

I’m sorry I am making some of the same points that have appeared in previous posts. But Turnbull won’t go away; he won’t stop what clearly now is a pattern of destabilising and disloyal behaviour; and it has gone beyond a joke.

Malcolm Turnbull has effectively declared that he is a law unto himself and a loose cannon, attempting to arrogate to himself a right held, by convention, only by leadership members of the Coalition parties — the right to speak across portfolios.

He has declared it is impossible to silence him, bragged that he won’t stop what he’s doing, and seems unconcerned by the political damage his actions could inflict on the Liberal Party he nonetheless professes to love and support.

As I said at the outset, this is tantamount to a declaration of war. The odds are not stacked in Turnbull’s favour. The public is not behind him, neither is a majority of his colleagues, and the patience of his leader must surely sometime soon expire.

That cross-bench seat is looking, more and more, a mighty fine place for you, Malcolm.

Would-Be Assassins: STFU!

There will be no apology for bad language here. If you threaten to kill the Prime Minister, then piss off. We will not tolerate it in Australia.

It doesn’t really matter what you think of Julia Gillard.

It doesn’t really matter what you think of her government or its policies.

It doesn’t matter what you think of Bob Brown, who’s driving most of this crap anyway.

And it really doesn’t matter who you claim to vote for.

Reports coming out of the BRITISH PRESS (the British press, no less) that Julia Gillard is not only receiving death threats but having the prospect of her assassination canvassed in the press are grotesque.

And if it’s true that a Liberal senator won a cake-baking contest with an entry showing Gillard being eaten by a crocodile, then whoever it was needs to take a damned good hard look at themselves.

She might be a liar, she might be a failure, and hey! Guess what? She might not even be a very nice individual once you get her away from politics.

But do you know what? We don’t settle these things with violence in Australia.

We wait for an election and then metaphorically kick the living shit out of people — and the ballot box is the weapon of choice.

It’d be a hell of a lot more satisfying to do it by a vote, surely?

This column does not and never will stand for one iota of violence against elected political figures — irrespective of which party they hail from and irrespective of how contemptible they and/or their policies may appear.

So a message to any imbecile who thinks killing Gillard — as reported in The Telegraph of all places ( — is a great idea: you can go to hell.

Perhaps my post on capital punishment yesterday overlooked the category of political assassination.

Whether it did or not, the idea of killing Gillard over a tax is abhorrent…

If you do it, I hope the book they throw at you is hard and heavy and painful.

And that you rot in hell.

Direct Democracy And A Contentiously Capital Question

If you live in the State of Victoria, an interesting exercise in direct democracy is underway: the Baillieu government wants your feedback. And if you don’t live in Victoria, it could make for an interesting spectacle.

In the car on the way home yesterday I was listening to 3AW Drive as I usually do, and Tom Elliott (fill-in host for Derryn Hinch) had as his guest Robert Clark, the Victorian Attorney-General. It was the subject of the interview that got me thinking.

Ted Baillieu and the Liberal-National Coalition won last year’s state election on a platform heavy on law-and-order issues; in addition to a commitment to the abolition of suspended sentences, a review was promised into sentencing generally.

One of the foremost considerations in this promise was the issue of the reflection of community standards and expectations when it comes to criminal sentences, and for those resident outside Victoria, this is something that has increasingly been a source of disquiet here over the past ten years.

Weighted against the “jail is a last resort” mentality that seems to have afflicted sentencing practices has been increasing public outrage at what have been perceived by many as sentences that are too lenient, too soft and manifestly inadequate — especially when applied to more serious and heinous crimes such as violent rape, murder, and so forth.

As part of this review, the government has opened a four-week online survey ( and encourages Victorians to complete a 10-minute survey about what they would realistically regard as suitable sentences in a range of criminal scenarios.

Clearly, the potential for such a survey to be abused or corrupted does exist; political opponents or others opposed to a general tightening of sentencing (e.g. civil libertarians) may dismiss the manoeuvre as hokey or otherwise imperfect.

However, I think the idea is positive, and well worth trying. Whether flawed or otherwise imperfect, the idea of public submissions being collected and considered in this way as part of the overall process of policy development is worthy of exploring, at the very least, as a way of increasing direct participation in government.

And that can only be a good thing given the general disenfranchisement and disconnection so many people express in frustration toward their governments.

So Premier Baillieu and Attorney-General Clark get a big tick here from The Red And The Blue: even if the idea proves impractical or otherwise unworkable, the concept is sound.

Even so — having completed the survey myself — I noticed that each scenario offered only a set range of possible responses. On the final page however is a general question with lots of room in which to write: “What Do You Think Can Be Done To Improve Sentencing In Victoria?”


Some time ago, before starting The Red And The Blue, I posed a general question to my Facebook friends by way of status update: I was interested in gauging their thoughts on a very sensitive subject. Without even knowing what the subject was, enough responded that they were happy to help, but at the time I deemed it too provocative and quietly let the matter drop.

Now, though — with a State Government openly canvassing the views of its citizens on sentencing matters — I think the time is right to revisit it.

What do people think about a reintroduction of the death penalty?

As is appropriate — I’d be a hypocrite otherwise — I’ll put my views on the table: I favour a reintroduction of the death penalty in a limited range of circumstances and applicable to a small number of offences.

The boundaries would need to be very tightly delineated. For example, if you run a red light by accident and through negligence and hit another car that happens to contain Police officers and one dies, you’re likely to be serving a stint in the Barwon Prison if the circumstances warrant incarceration.

However, deliberately murder a cop (and I’m thinking the Walsh Street murders in South Yarra, or the Silk/Miller murders in Moorabbin) and it ought to attract a capital penalty.

I believe the onus for the prosecution of charges subject to capital penalty ought move from beyond reasonable doubt to beyond any doubt; great advances in forensics, DNA technology and so forth have gone a long way toward reducing the odds of erroneous conviction in such terms.

And the nature of the charges to which capital penalties would apply would also limit the scope for wrongful execution. For example, in a hypothetical case involving a man allegedly raping a woman — admitting sexual intercourse but a dispute over whether consent was obtained lying at the heart of the complaint — a conviction would likely lead to a custodial sentence.

However, if there was also violence and/or torture involved leading to unspeakable physical injury, scarring, and so forth (I’m being a bit vague as I hate the very idea of such an offence) that may, in the judicial process, lead to a capital punishment — especially were the offender a serial recidivist. In such a case it would be far more difficult to establish the innocence of the accused if the accumulation of evidence was so great as to be overwhelming.

Certain individual cases stand as examples also: everyone in Australia knows about the little girl thrown off Melbourne’s Westgate Bridge by her father in an unspeakably and indescribably callous act. There were dozens of witnesses. There was no doubt. A panel of mental health professionals established the culprit was in no way diminished in capacity. And in my view the appropriate punishment for what he did to his little girl is to pay with his life for it.

I’m well aware of compassion babblers, bleeding hearts and UN-style human rights activists and the line taken unilaterally by these people with little or no consideration of the other side of the debate or, indeed, for anything other than their own agendae.

I take more seriously and am also aware of more reasoned and rational opposition to capital punishment. Indeed, a very good friend of mine (who is likely reading) — a libertarian in the true, real sense of the word — argues that the “bottom line” in this debate isn’t about criminal punishment but about the rights and wrongs of a government executing its citizens.

This is a difficult question and in some ways there aren’t any rights or wrongs to it. I think however that decades after capital penalties ceased to be applied in Australia, and with the notion of capital punishment growing louder in the cacaphony of discussion around the country, it’s time to revisit the issue.

This isn’t a Left/Right or Liberal/Labor issue; there are plenty on the Right who oppose capital punishment and plenty on the Left who would enthusiastically welcome its reimposition.

For the record, and deliberately in no particular order, if you

  • murder a Police officer or member of the armed forces;
  • are a convicted mass murderer (Martin Bryant, Julian Knight, etc);
  • engage in the violent pack-rape of a woman;
  • involved in the high-volume production and trafficking of illicit narcotics;
  • are a serial and/or violent sex offender against small children;
  • engage in acts of terrorism against Australian interests, either on Australian soil or abroad;
  • are a multiple offender on ANY charges that would otherwise attract a penal sentence of life in prison;

then as far as I am concerned, a capital penalty ought be available to a judge as an option in sentencing.

To meet such criteria, you will  have irrevocably taken the civil liberties of others; and in my view, you will have irrevocably forfeited your own in so doing.

An eye for an eye — retributive justice.

And can I just say that as someone who does look for the good in people, and who genuinely believes that some people who do horrific things may be rehabilitated, there are others beyond redemption. It is these people who we don’t need as members of society and, frankly, we don’t need to be paying taxes for their incarceration either.

I don’t accept that capital punishment is uncivilised: rather, I would counter that people guilty beyond doubt of the types of crimes that might be subject to a capital penalty have no place in civilised society — even in a jail cell.

Something tells me this won’t be the last time I post on this, and that I’ve probably stirred up a hornet’s nest. I’ve only given a very broad overview of my position and my case for now, but if this generates a fair debate we will clearly cover things in far more detail.

However, let’s have the discussion. Spread the word to your family, friends and colleagues; have them come here and participate. They can post under a pseudonym to avoid identifying themselves should they wish.

And let’s all remember my site rules: no abuse, no profanity, no defamation.

Beyond that I want to know what you think. Let’s talk about this important issue.


Is Malcolm Turnbull Gillard’s Replacement As Leader…Of The Labor Party?

An odd, albeit interesting, article appeared in The Age today; an opinion piece by Rowan Dean, he of The Gruen Transfer fame.

Readers of this column will know that I have repeatedly opined on the subject of Malcolm Turnbull and his outbursts on climate change policy. This, however, is something else.

Dean suggests that Turnbull’s Virginia Chadwick Memorial Speech last week — the forum in which he made his latest intemperate remarks — was a sales pitch aimed squarely at the ALP and its backroom henchmen; effectively, an unsolicited audition piece in which Turnbull says, “Draft Me!”

For many years, it has been a matter of informal public conjecture as to the partisan purity of Turnbull’s political aspirations; for instance, there’s the old story that he tried to get into the Senate as a Labor appointee during the Prime Ministership of Bob Hawke.

As I understand it, the story runs something like this: Turnbull, brilliant boy from a humble background becomes a self-made millionaire through intellectual gift, astute judgement and sheer hard work; that despite his refined presentation and obvious affluence he retains links to the working class whence he came; he possesses great innate electoral appeal without the leadership of his party through which to exercise it; and that as a moderate Liberal, his views on policy would sit comfortably on the ALP Right. Climate change and Republicanism, strap yourself in!

Dean concludes his piece by saying Turnbull would “consolidate” the independents, give Kevin Rudd “the finger,” presumably flip the bird also to The Greens, and send Julia Gillard back to school staff rooms and kindergartens where she is “best suited”.

Oh, and provide the ALP with a very good chance of winning the next election.

In short, Turnbull is the Messiah! When is he coming?

Dear, dear…if only it were so simple.

I’m not going to comment on the merit or otherwise of Turnbull becoming Prime Minister by way of a leadership takeover of the ALP; I have said he ought to go to the cross-bench if he can’t knuckle under and comply with Coalition policy as a shadow minister when it conflicts with his personal ideas, and others have called for his exit from Parliament altogether for the same reason.

I will however say Dean’s interpretation of Turnbull’s speech is bizarre, to say the least, and not lacking in road blocks on the journey to its fruition.

Let’s look at a couple of them.

I don’t believe Turnbull holds much electoral appeal — even before the Godwin Grech fake email scandal, and before the subsequent revolt by his MPs over emissions trading policy, his opinion poll ratings were routinely in the toilet for all of his 14 months as Liberal leader (go and look at historical polls at if there is any doubt on this point).

If anything, a move to the Labor Party would further diminish his already-meagre electoral support: turncoats at the top echelon of politics these days are exceedingly rare, and the scepticism such a move would generate would compromise much of whatever electoral goodwill Turnbull might retain.

In 1924, when Winston Churchill returned to the British Conservative Party after a 20-year defection to the then Liberal Party, he famously stated “anyone can rat once. It takes a certain amount of ingenuity to re-rat.”

Well, Turnbull might be many great things, but he is no Winston Churchill, and his very defection (20-odd years after his initial reputed flirtation with the parliamentary ALP) would do him no favours.

The next problem is the small issue of his electorate. Turnbull holds the inner-Sydney electorate of Wentworth, a seat which has only ever returned conservative parliamentarians and which is home to some of the richest suburbs in Australia (think Bellevue Hill, Point Piper, and so forth).

Marginal that electorate may have been at times — not least following Turnbull’s brutal overthrow of its previous Liberal member, Peter King, in a torrid fight for preselection — it is inconceivable this electorate would ever vote for a Labor member of Parliament. Not unless its boundaries are radically altered, at the very least. So a Labor time-server somewhere in a safe Labor seat needs to be kicked out to make way for Turnbull to take over the seat, and that potential exercise raises many more interesting problems in its own right.

And third, what about the Labor caucus supposed to embrace Turnbull with open arms? Some of his utterances might gel with the ALP’s platform but the reality is that most of them don’t. The ALP knows that.

But even if that detail were cast aside, would Gillard step aside for Turnbull? No. And the ridiculous alternative — a Liberal MHR challenging for the leadership of the Labor Party? Spare me.

Stranger things may have happened and may happen again, but I’m confident this is a bit of kite-flying on an otherwise slow-ish news day.

But I will say this: should Turnbull ever find himself in the position of being a Labor PM, it will only last as far as the ensuing election.

I reiterate a point central to many of my criticisms of him: great guy, vastly capable, but from a leadership point of view he has very little appeal whatsoever.

Unelectable, if you like…

But if the cross-bench isn’t an option, and he won’t play the team game in the Liberal Party, and he won’t leave politics altogether, then what gives?

Still, anyone who will flip the bird to Kevin Rudd and The Greens can’t be all bad, can they?

Asylum Seekers: Pack Your Bags And Go To Hell

This is one of those articles that will earn me a slap from the hardcore Left — and so be it. Raw, base politics — not compassion — is the sole informant of the Labor Government’s policies on this issue.

Remember the good ol’ days? It was 2001, and the MV Tampa had appeared on our horizon, laden with the scum of humanity, who merrily proceeded to chuck their kids into the open seas before the very eyes of our own Royal Australian Navy detachment.

Just like the Nilsson song…remember? Prime Minister John Howard, floundering in the polls and (electorally) at sea, engineered the nasty, draconian, “Pacific Solution,” redrawing Australia’s borders to exclude anywhere a boat might land as a valid point for refugee processing, and co-opting bankrupt lickspittle Nauru to house what we came to know as “asylum seekers” until their claims to asylum could be processed.

Remember? That desperate and nasty old man, Howard, and his evil, ancient cohort, Ruddock, allocated to this festering horde of human filth “temporary protection visas” as a bridging measure until their claims to be refugees were either verified or disproven; if disproven they were deported immediately to the cesspit whence they came, and condemned to a life of tyranny, oppression, persecution and servitude.

Remember? Mere days later, terrorists from the Middle East — all part of the grand plot — flew hijacked Boeing 757s and 767s into buildings in the United States. George Bush, according to spin momentarily speechless, was in fact too intellectually compromised to string a sensible sentence together, let alone order a retaliatory nuclear strike.

Remember? It was our very own Man of Steel, the viscerally detested Howard, whose grand plot reached maturity on September 11, 2001, and who ran off to the polls and eight weeks later won a thumping re-election as racist Australians and other assorted bigots on the electoral roll voted for him in droves.

Remember? The terrorists had delivered for Howard, although the mutterers and conspiracy theorists on the Left blamed everyone and everything from the CIA to the State of Israel. From behind their hands, of course. And everyone was happy to have someone to hit out at, to demonise, and to revile: John Howard. It was the finest hour for the Australian Left since its victory over Menzies’ Communist Party Dissolution Bill in 1951.

Would anyone like fries with that?


In case anyone thinks I’m joking — and what I have said so far is a deliberate caricature of some of the arrant nonsense utilised by the Left in its propaganda portrayals of the Howard government at the time — it’s instructive to look at events some ten years ago, as they inform the conduct of the present government admirably.

Conduct best summed up in one word: hypocrisy.

When the ALP got into office, one of the first things it did was to dismantle Howard’s Pacific Solution. Before long, the flow of boatloads of asylum seekers — and the Australian arm of the cashflow of people smugglers — resumed apace.

To the Labor Party, the blissful opinion poll-driven Nirvana of 2008-09 rendered it deaf to the thoughts of the nation consequent upon this policy.

Tony Abbott wasn’t and isn’t deaf to these concerns, however, and his election as Liberal leader forced Labor to confront the consequences of its own policy.

With boats then already arriving again in their dozens, Labor hastily cobbled together a policy known as the “East Timor Solution” — without actually gaining East Timor’s consent — and went to the election on it.

When that fell into the inevitable abyss, Gillard started casting around to virtually every country in Australia’s vicinity — but not Nauru — looking for a way out of the mess the Rudd/Gillard government had created on this issue.

Having abandoned the Pacific Solution — and having seen the resumption of a strong flow of boatloads of asylum seekers — the ALP was spooked. After all, mainstream Australians do not want their country continually bombarded with illegal arrivals.

And if anyone doubts that reality, one only needs to look to the frantic country-shopping being undertaken by Gillard Labor to find a “solution” that isn’t its own failed policy and that isn’t, on paper at least, the successful Howard government policy it unilaterally killed.

Enter Malaysia…and a despicable and disgusting deal.

Malaysia will take 800 illegals in exchange for 4000 asylum seekers on their own shores every year.

Malaysia has the absolute veto right on anyone Australia wishes to send there.

Australia is obliged to accept whomever Malaysia deigns to send to us.

Malaysia will not take any illegal immigrants from us prior to the signing, today, of the Gillard government’s half-baked deal on this issue.

And so, those already here who can’t be shunted off to Malaysia by Gillard will be deported.

To Papua New Guinea.

And that’s a whole new and, as-yet unexplained, can of worms.

The cost of this entire new set-up is $3 billion to the Australian taxpayer.

I ask, what is wrong with this picture?

It is clear Labor has realised — belatedly — that not only did the Howard policy work, but that the majority of mainstream Australians actually don’t want an endless stream of ambit arrivals turning up here demanding asylum.

That, my friends — especially those on the Left — is called DEMOCRACY.

However, such is Labor’s desperation on this issue, they will send people arriving by boat to virtually any corner of the Earth to get rid of them and appear strong on the issue.

But they won’t send them to Nauru, or do anything else that would make it undeniable that they seek to replicate Howard’s highly successful policy.

And in the process, immigration policy is fast becoming yet another Labor Party catastrophe.

In a country like Australia, people elect governments to do what they want: and in Australia, people don’t want to be overrun with asylum seekers.

I don’t say this is right or wrong, but mainstream Australia is resistant to Muslim immigration, hesitant about extremely high immigration numbers generally, and worried about unscreened arrivals from countries where diseases such as tuberculosis are rampant.

I think Labor has unwillingly grasped half of this reality, but is resistant to the the half of it which is dismissive of “bleeding heart” considerations and is utterly obsessed with its own electoral fortune.

The ALP is effectively saying to illegal arrivals that they can pack their bags and go to hell.

To wherever they need to go to avoid them hurting that party’s electoral prospects.

Labor doesn’t really care where they go, so long as it’s not to Nauru. And they don’t really care what conditions are placed on these movements, which is why a foreign government in Malaysia now has veto on who we send them for processing and can send anyone they like here for settlement.

Personally, I’m not interested in whether things have the “stamp of approval” from the United Nations.

This country is ours and, at the risk of a provocative paraphrase, the people here ought decide who comes here and under what circumstances.

And bollocks to the UN, Malaysia, or anyone else who thinks they can interfere with what we have here.

The immigration/asylum seeker issue is the first and next cab off the rank now carbon taxes are losing their currency on the front pages of the country’s newspapers.

Which is why I think it critical that this discussion be had: forget about taunts from the Left about racism and bigotry and hard-heartedness; and forget about those from the Right about bleeding-heartism and compassion babble.

At some point a debate on sensitive issues must rise above such petty jingoism and abuse.

But it must be about what Australian people want. If millions of Australians — a majority — want open borders and unlimited immigration, it ought occur.

But if the majority doesn’t, then that must be respected.

Without the abuse and name-calling from a defeated Left, if that’s the outcome.

I return to my original premise: current government policy is essentially a declaration that asylum seekers can go to hell.

And the little folk-story about the Howard years, whilst devised to get a smile out of the Left and a knowing nod out of everyone else, isn’t the way future debates on this issue should be conducted.

Go to hell! What do you think?

Newspoll Today: Coalition 56, ALP 44

Firstly, my apologies for posting later than I ordinarily would. Whilst I had these figures late last night, I was “otherwise occupied” finalising a matter which also took up a good portion of today. Anyhow, here we are.

I’ve read the latest Newspoll in The Australian with quite a little surprise, but not for the reasons being bandied around in other commentary today.

Elsewhere, today’s poll figures have been reported through the prism of “offering a glimmer of hope to Gillard,” heralding a “slight warming,” and so forth.

They herald nothing of the kind.

The surprise to me is that every movement in this poll — at least in terms of voting ratings and leader approval — is all inside the margin of error of the opinion sample.

ALP primary up 2, Greens up 1, Coalition down 2…this is possibly just static in the sampling methodology.

I expected a slightly better result for Gillard and the ALP: to at least close the two-party measure three points to 55-45.

Readers will recall my comments a fortnight ago that I expected the ALP to get some bounce, but that it wouldn’t be large and I didn’t expect it would be sustained. But this poll is a disaster for the ALP.

After two weeks of doing almost nothing apart from selling the carbon tax, with a disproportionately high amount of media oxygen, two points on the two-party measure is all the result Labor could muster.

The movements in approval/disapproval ratings for Gillard and Abbott, and on the preferred PM measure, are so statistically small as to be irrelevant.

And even though there is a small movement back to Labor in this poll, it is still the second-best result the Coalition has recorded in Newspoll since the election last August.

The last Newspoll — taken mostly prior to Gillard’s policy announcement — showed a spike in support for the Coalition, which I urged people not to get excited about: it was likely coloured by the impending appearance of the bogey tax everyone hated before they saw it.

This one, however, is more a “back to normal” result: broadly returning voting figures to where they were before last fortnight’s poll.

The point I guess informs my surprise is that, broadly, “everyone” who unveils a big, detailed policy package gets a poll bounce — irrespective of the merits of the package.

(Or of the ultimate election result that follows it).

John Hewson rocketed to the lead in 1991 on publication of his Fightback! manifesto. In 1998, John Howard received a similar — albeit smaller — bounce on release of his own GST-based package.

I expected something similar here; if anything, it has been a fizzer.

Let’s keep an eye on all the polls — not just Newspoll — but unless I’m wrong, all will record a similarly minimal rise in the ALP vote, and then bounce around at 53-54 Coalition, 46-47 Labor, until or unless someone does something that is either a positive game-changer or is incredibly stupid.

If I’m wrong, Labor will pick a point or two up every fortnight for the next couple of months, and suddenly find itself in an election-winning position heading into October.

Does anyone seriously see this happening? I can’t.

If you’re from the Labor Party, this poll shouldn’t excite you; it’s an early indication that the last and best chance has been wasted.

And if you’re from Coalition HQ, it’s a message: keep your heads down. It’s no accident that the worst figures the Coalition has recorded in the last three months coincided with Malcolm Turnbull passing himself around again as a leadership option.

The electorate is ready to put the Liberals and Nationals into government, but in the current environment I don’t think either government or opposition would tempt fate wisely.

And this poll illustrates, if nothing else, the sullen mood voters really are in…


Malcolm, Malcolm, Malcolm…Here We Go Again…

Twice in the past two months, The Red And The Blue has suggested, e’er gently, that Malcolm Turnbull’s best course of action might be to go and sit on the cross-benches of the House of Representatives.

Today, Malcolm Turnbull has furnished the world with yet more evidence — if more were needed — of his incapability of operating as a team member and his refusal to adhere to Liberal Party policy.

Frankly, it’s time for Malcolm to shut up — something I wrote to him in a blunt and private email many months ago (over other similar outbursts at the time) and which I now say publicly.

And this opinion is mild, compared to that emanating from some quarters of the Liberal Party, who in recent days have begun to put the word about that it might be helpful if Malcolm were to leave politics altogether.

If you’re Tony Abbott, and you have friends like Malcolm Turnbull, why would you need enemies?

It’s true — as both Abbott and Nationals’ Senate leader Barnaby Joyce observed today — that everyone knows what Turnbull’s views on climate change are and what he thinks is the best policy approach to  dealing with the issue.

But the declarations by Abbott and Joyce today are purely for form; the truth is nobody knows how to muzzle Turnbull or to compel his adherence to the Coalition policies to which, as a shadow minister, he is bound.

By continuing to stir up trouble over climate change policy — and as this column has observed before, Turnbull knows exactly what he is doing — all he achieves is to showcase a rift between himself and his leader, and to draw attention to himself as an alternative candidate for the Liberal leadership.

And in the process, to generate media coverage for himself.

And to hand a loaded gun to the opponents of the Coalition — the ALP and the Greens — to whom he is purportedly committed to defeating.

Today, Julia Gillard was having a field day on the issue, effectively attempting to spin Turnbull’s comments as an endorsement of her government’s policy.

It was Turnbull’s overt endorsement of the carbon policies of the Labor government that directly resulted in him losing the Liberal leadership in the first place, so clearly he has learnt absolutely nothing from that particular episode.

Were all this not bad enough, Turnbull today has resorted to the very type of intellectual dishonesty and false premises the climate change junta levels at anyone failing to fall in, unquestioningly, with its views.

His claim today that Margaret Thatcher — a scientist as well as a British PM — took climate change seriously and that it required action is only half correct: in 1988, she did indeed say precisely that.

But Turnbull forgot the other half, presumably because it was inconvenient: by 2003 Thatcher was on the record as having repudiated her earlier position; she had changed her mind. Not that there’s any crime in doing so, but one can’t have the first part of the story, as Turnbull sought to do, without having the other.

He also made the rather odious analogy that “vested interests” involved in coal mining were akin to tobacco companies who question the link between smoking and lung cancer.

Well, guess what? The comparison is ridiculous. For a start, coal — irrespective of any debate over emissions policy — has a clear and unquestionable benefit as a reliable and cheap generator of baseload electricity, without which we’d still be living in the Stone Age.

And for another thing, tobacco smokers (of which I have been one for a tick over 20 years) pay vast amounts of excise tax every year as a direct contribution to the healthcare system that may — may — one day need to treat them.

Demonise smokers if you choose to, but don’t use them to prop up dysfunctional arguments over an issue in which they are completely irrelevant (apart from the fact smokers work in the coal industry too).

Coming back to the main point, though, I’m tired of having to devote column space to Malcolm Turnbull and his overt and implicit displays of disloyalty as a shadow minister.

The time has arrived when he needs to accept his leadership of the Liberal Party has been lost, that he remains a member of the Coalition team, and to begin to behave accordingly.

The growing calls for his relocation to the cross-bench, or even out of Parliament altogether, will only grow louder if he doesn’t.

The great irony is that if Malcolm Turnbull really wants a platform from which to aid the interests of the Liberal Party — and rebuild his own credentials as a possible future leader in the process — he already has it.

It’s called his job: Shadow Minister for Communications.

Such has been the ferocity of the debate over carbon tax in recent times, that great white elephant — the National Broadband Network, which will cost $43 billion of taxpayer funds (or more if the same cost blowouts inherent in Labor government projects occur) — has been treated with scant neglect.

It emerged this morning that taxpayers could be paying up to $190 per month to access it when/if it ever comes on line, no pun intended.

How many people heard the responsible shadow minister in outrage over that?

And on any measure, such a figure is outrageous, especially as the government plans to force consumers into utilising the NBN.

It is but one example, but it’s telling. Nobody doubts what Turnbull wants to talk about. But if he instead knuckled under in his own portfolio, and applied his formidable intellect and debating skills to the issues therein — and left other matters in the hands of those responsible for them — then perhaps the prize at the end of the road would one day still be there.

For Turnbull today, it is a mirage. Should he continue on his present tack, it will remain as such forever.