Poll Revival? If He Survives, Abbott Must Change

FOR THE SECOND TIME in a week, a new opinion poll has signalled a dramatic recovery in Coalition support, with the less-than-reliable Fairfax-Ipsos poll’s 51-49 lead to Labor apparently validating the four-point rise recorded by Newspoll last week. If these polls buy the Prime Minister time and should he survive, Tony Abbott must make changes, for even in recovery, he is burdened by unacceptable liabilities that continue to imperil his government.

Some will find it incredible that having opined on Friday that Abbott should resign, I am today talking about changes to sustain himself in office; the two narratives are not as contrary as first blush might suggest, however, for underlying everything else we have discussed here about the fate of Tony Abbott’s Prime Ministership has been the decades-long support for the man I am reluctant to withdraw, and would do so only if utterly convinced his position was terminal.

Make no mistake, Abbott’s flirtation with his political mortality in the past few months has been real, and may yet prove fatal. As it is, I think his tenure as PM hangs by a thread.

Yet that thread appears to have acquired modest reinforcement, with the appearance of a second poll in six days suggesting some kind of recovery in the Coalition’s electoral stocks; it began with the Newspoll last week that I suspected was a rogue result, and now continues with a Fairfax-Ipsos poll which, whilst looking suspiciously generous to the government, nonetheless seems to confirm Newspoll’s baseline finding of a significant improvement in its position.

The Ipsos poll — appearing in the Fairfax press today — shows a three-point increase in the Coalition’s share of the two-party vote to 49%; it finds the conservatives’ primary support rising 4% to 42%, with Labor’s falling by the same amount to 36%, with an 11% cut in Bill Shorten’s lead over Tony Abbott as preferred Prime Minister (to 5%) and a deterioration and improvement in Shorten’s and Abbott’s personal approval numbers respectively.

I remain deeply sceptical of these sorts of numbers, coming as they do in the wake of continued leadership machinations within the Liberal Party, and after the emergence of credible reports of a further decline in support for Abbott among Liberal MPs relative to last month’s spill attempt following his failure to deliver on various undertakings he gave to retain his leadership.

They are, however, likely to buy Abbott a reprieve, the question of just how trigger-happy those MPs determined to drive a leadership change might in fact be notwithstanding: for even in the face of apparently rising support, those disenchanted retain more than enough reasons to feel aggrieved, and we will come to some of those (ageing) issues shortly.

But after several “barnacle removals,” resets, a (botched) reshuffle and the onset of “good government,” Abbott — provided these figures buy him more time — is surely now on his last, last chance to fix his government and salvage his tenure as Prime Minister.

The Coalition, which rapidly squandered the post-election glow from its big win 18 months ago, descended into an election-losing hole after last year’s budget and has remained there ever since, and even the numbers from the Ipsos poll — if replicated at an election — would still hand Labor a tiny majority if the 4.5% swing they represent was uniform.

It is true that Abbott has faced obstacles to governing that he (or any other leader) would face, and about which little can be done: specifically, the poor position of the Coalition in the Senate and the wilful hostility toward the government of those who hold the balance of power in it.

Labor’s blind, blithe, unreasoning and unreasonable opposition to everything in sight doesn’t help, of course.

But many of this government’s problems have been self-inflicted: and inflicted through decisions given Prime Ministerial imprimatur where common sense and shrewd judgement ought to have restrained Abbott rather than the indulgence of ridiculous, outdated and misplaced shows of loyalty being permitted to push his government to the electoral precipice.

And if these polls truly represent a modicum of breathing space for Abbott, they should be regarded as unexpected, and the last time such an opportunity is likely to present itself.

I can say little more than to reiterate two key points this column has made for months now; I am convinced that the key to repairing the Abbott government lies in two personnel changes which, if made, should flow through to other appointments and other aspects of the machinery of government that remain besmirched and compromised by the effects of those roles that are integral to its smooth and productive operation.

The first is the Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin; what I am hearing from multiple well-placed sources paints a picture of political destruction that cannot and must not be permitted to destroy the government from within.

There are good reasons for Liberal MPs — including a contingent of senior ministers — to be aghast at the continuing influence and control Credlin wields, and the almost unilaterally negative effect this has on the government’s standing, its ability to prosecute its case, or even to fashion a feasible political case at all.

We have discussed these matters ad infinitum and I do not propose to revisit them in detail today. Newer readers can, of course, access a selection of the relevant material through the “Peta Credlin” tag in the tag cloud at the right of this article.

I have opined in the past that the loyalty Abbott shows to those around him is admirable, and increasingly rare in politics; even so, loyalty without insight into wider circumstances can quickly become blind, and at some point Abbott is either going to have to accept that his trusty adviser has become a liability and get rid of her, or accept that his colleagues will dispense with his own services in order to get rid of her themselves.

Indeed, if a second strike against Abbott’s leadership is launched despite the better polling numbers of the past week, Credlin will have gone a long way toward motivating those who initiate it.

And with a second budget due to be delivered in two months’ time — and with it, the last real opportunity to credibly attempt the structural reforms the government was elected, in part, to deliver — Abbott needs to replace Treasurer Joe Hockey as a matter of some urgency, and arguments about the poor signal such a move might send are fatuous: just as it is with Credlin, Abbott’s loyalty to Hockey has been shown up as misplaced.

The Treasurer (with or without Credlin’s direct input and sanction, depending on whom you listen to) has already fudged one budget and cannot be entrusted with a second; MPs and voters are entitled to have no faith at all that Hockey — a decent and otherwise able guy — is up to the demands his present portfolio make upon him.

As it is, I am reliably told a little ginger group of economically literate backbench MPs is working on the germs of an alternative budget, “just in case:” and the fact this is happening at all is an unbridled indictment on Hockey and his capacity to inspire any kind of confidence whatsoever.

Far from amounting to a sign of weakness, a straight swap of Hockey’s portfolio with Malcolm Turnbull’s would enable the Treasurer to save face, be retained in a senior domestic portfolio, and lock the aspirant Turnbull into a solid role to which he is arguable the most suited MP in Coalition ranks.

It would also show Abbott is comfortable enough to promote a rival at a time of ostensible threat to his own position.

But if these changes are not made, it is difficult to envision any real or sustained recovery in the government’s stocks, and should the downward slide resume, the consequences will be catastrophic.

The outcome of the NSW state election be damned: the next Labor government in Canberra is likely to commit untold damage to this country, and if Abbott remains in office and gets the next round of key decisions wrong — which the retention of Credlin’s influence will do little to avert — then Labor’s chances of prevailing at the next election become frightening.

Should that occur, rogue polls holding aloft the iron sulphite prospect of non-existent electoral Nirvana will count for naught.

Abbott has had an existential warning of his political mortality in the past few weeks. If the Ipsos and Newspoll numbers offer him the chance to get on with the job, he would be unwise to regard the opportunity as anything other than the very last one he will get.



15 thoughts on “Poll Revival? If He Survives, Abbott Must Change

  1. My opinion remains consistent that a change in P.M will see the demise of this Government and the bedwetters will seal their own fate.
    Get on with the job backbench M Ps and let the P.M do his.
    Malcolm Turncoat…..slink back into your communications hole and shut up!

  2. I quote these thematic words: “Some will find it incredible that having opined on Friday that Abbott should resign, I am today talking about changes to sustain himself in office.” This shift is certainly a welcome one. I can’t see that Tony Abbott has made any errors that disqualify him to be Prime Minister. But I think he suffers from a contagion of carping outrage that has spread from the red press into other organs and commentators who owe Tony Abbott greater loyalty, as a genuine man of vision and probity who has suffered terribly from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, to quote another lesser known author.

    • gregdeane, you know – like most readers who have been with me for some time – that I have long been one of Abbott’s staunchest advocates.

      The problem has arisen from his ill-judged decision to virtually abrogate the governance of this country to a staffer: and I hasten to note (or even, shamefully, admit) that if it had been a success then no-one would be criticising or complaining.

      It has not been a success.

      Policies are designed to poke voters in marginal seats in the eye; there is no apparent grasp of what might fly politically, or what might not; any concept of sales and marketing (or even effective communication) might as well be an exercise in alien linguistics; parliamentary strategy — sepecially where the Senate is concerned — has been woeful, as has the broader-brush political strategy with the electorate (if one even exists) around retianing and nurturing electoral support; and the polls, until this week, have been riveted to election-losing positions for the past year.

      So much of this derives from Credlin; whether directly, with her lock on the Prime Ministerial ear and her command of every government adviser and staffer in Canberra and beyond, or indirectly, through the ranks of the hand-picked, hand-vetted staffers who are so obviously not up to the jobs they were elevated to above the wishes of MPs and ministers and over better people deliberately left out of the loop.

      It’s the likely election outcomes that are driving all of this. And the logic is clear: if you get rid of Credlin, you can get rid of her lackeys and patsies and stooges, and things might change.

      Where Abbott is culpable is not through any personal failing other than the refusal to see what the cause of the problem is.

      Others have rattled on about “loyalty” in response to my willingness to countenance a leadership change. I would much rather see Tony survive this, thrive, and yet become one of the greats.

      But this is his last, last, last opportunity, gregdeane. I don’t believe the last two polls and I don’t believe voter sentiment is locked in behind the government. I think they are rogues and/or the expression of people who think Abbott’s about to be turfed out (with the subtext they think it will shortly be “safe” to vote Liberal again).

      The thing is that if this final opportunity isn’t seized to re-order the government, Abbott will in fact be dumped. I found out this morning that forces near to Turnbull have held fire on account of these numbers. That should tell you much.

      It is true this government is not without achievement, and it does have a reasonable story to tell.

      But those achievements and that story have been won at extreme cost, and incurred a price in doing so that need not have been paid had the PMO and associated advisory entities within the government been staffed appropriately in the first place and functioning effectively.

      This is why Abbott remains at risk of being torn down. The causes of the government’s malaise are obvious but he refuses to address them. Liberal MPs are clearly not going to sit back and coast downhill to the slaughter out of “loyalty.” If the rot returns, Abbott will be hoicked out forthwith, methinks.

      • Yale, the worst things I can find Credlin has done is in the appointment of ministerial staff, often displacing older advisers as chiefs of staff on enlarged establisments when shadow ministers have become government ministers. Assuming she has appointed moles of her own in several ministries, it could be quite a knotty problem removing her legacy. But even so, she’s still only a public servant with an overblown public profile.

        As for not believing the last two polls, they make a lot more sense to me than the ones that reflected an electorate suffering from Alzheimer’s on a national scale, and contradicting the logic that caused it to vote in the Coalition with a resounding majority. Maybe the turnaround is also a consequence of new Labor ‘governments’ in Victoria and Queensland which have frightened voters into anxiety over the consequences of a protest vote.

        P.S. Greg will do as a name, Yale. Uncapitalised gregdeane is just mangling by WordPress.

  3. “A genuine man of vision and probity” – is this the same Tony Abbott who said only “the statements that need to be taken absolutely as gospel truth are those carefully prepared scripted remarks” and whose vision is knighting Prince Phillip?

    • You are so clever, Bobby. You knew which Tony Abbott I meant almost immediately. It’s hard to believe you’re a libtard.

        • “A libtard wants to live in a fantasy world (in which life is the way that they WISH IT WAS) as opposed to dealing with life the way it actually is.

          (This explains the religious fervor that many of them demonstrate when it comes to smoking pot).

          The most idealistic libtard envisions a time when science/technology and Socialism will eliminate all poverty, hunger, war, disease, injustice, unemployment and prejudice. (It is a nice pipe dream but human nature will forever stand in the way of that goal).

          Most libtards subscribe to the notion that “people are basically good”, and build their foundation for activism and “improving the human condition” on that faulty premise. Because they deny the facts about human nature, their “reasoning” is diametrically opposite to common sense (blue states vs. red states).

          The reality that people have different initiative levels, are basically selfish, and often work for their own interests before helping others, puts a libtard’s panties in a wad. So, when citizens will not voluntarily comply with various libtard prescriptions for “the common good”, then laws must be passed, or force used, to MAKE them comply. (It is the gradual path to totalitarianism).

          Likewise, his/her naïve cries of: “can’t we all just get along?” and “there is nothing worth dying for” are red flags for anyone with a clue.

          Metaphorically speaking, a libtard is a sheep who thinks that their grasp of diplomatic nuance or metaphysical sensitivity will prevent their flock from being devoured by the world’s Islamic/Communist wolves. When America, the sheep dog, responds to wolf attacks, the libtard judges these defensive actions as offensive and wolfish.

          Since libtards are unable to recognize our enemies for what they are, they cannot be trusted to safeguard our future.”

          Gee whiz, I just thought it stood for retarded Liberal Party voter – better watch out for these libtards or we will be devoured by the world’s Islamic/Communist wolves!!!

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