AFTER A WEEK in which Bill Shorten’s shenanigans on gay marriage have taken centre stage, first opinion polling suggests voters have seen right through the opposition “leader’s” cynical attempt to deflect attention from his crumbling position and a reasonably popular federal budget, and to arrogate to himself any “glory” deriving from a renewed focus on gay marriage. The backfiring move has damaged his — and his party’s — standing.
I am not in the slightest bit surprised that what was clearly intended as a knockout blow by the Shorten camp (or at least, as a leveller to insulate itself from leadership problems) has spectacularly rebounded on the Labor “leader,” with both his own standing and that of the ALP taking a hit in the latest Newspoll, published in The Australian today.
This morning’s post — for reasons regular readers are now well familiar with — is a brief one, on the run again as I am; but if I was standing in Shorten’s shoes today, I’d be more than a little concerned that the mutterers, whose voices have already been audible whenever Tanya Plibersek passes by, are still muttering within Labor Party circles.
First things first: readers can access the tabulated findings from Newspoll here, and whilst they show Labor retaining enough support after preferences to win an election — for now — it’s reached the point where such an outcome would be a damned close-run thing if these numbers were replicated at an election, and even these findings potentially mask further downside for the opposition and for Shorten himself.
But having talked during the week about the wisdom or otherwise of Bill Shorten’s decision to “pull the trigger” on gay marriage, as some sycophants in the press saw fit to describe it, it’s already becoming clear that rather than firing bullseyes, all Shorten has managed to do is to shoot himself in the foot.
This Newspoll finds that as preferred Prime Minister, the single-point lead re-established by Tony Abbott after trailing Shorten for months has quadrupled; it also finds that Shorten is now less popular than Tony Abbott is, fulfilling a prediction of mine that probably would have come to pass far sooner were it not for the indecent and politically idiotic budget gifted to Labor by Treasurer Joe Hockey a year ago.
Shorten’s approval rating in this survey (32%) now lags Abbott’s by six points; and whilst more respondents (53%, up 1%) voice disapproval of Abbott than Shorten (50%, up 4%), the net approval ratings tell the real story: Abbott’s at -15%, Shorten’s at -18%. Two months ago, these numbers were -32% and -11% respectively.
And whilst the ALP primary vote has remained constant in this survey at 37%, single-point increases in both the Coalition’s and
Communist Party Greens’ numbers have seen the Abbott government narrow the two-party margin in this Newspoll to 52-48: and as has been suggested elsewhere in the press this morning, were it not for the Greens picking up a little extra support in this poll — perhaps in a “honeymoon” effect for their new leader, Richard di Natale — it’s arguable an actual 51-49 split toward Labor has been slightly cushioned.
My point is that confronted by a budget that — unlike last year’s shocker — appears to have been well received and faced with a Labor caucus that exudes every indication of wanting a new leader, Shorten has gambled heavily on wrapping himself over the past week in the colours of the gay marriage debate.
He has gambled, and it seems he has lost.
These results should fortify the government’s resolve to continue to work on the so-called Leyonhjelm solution, for whether you agree with the legalisation of gay marriage or not, the libertarian crossbench Senator represents a middle path for the major parties, and an honest broker: and any resolution that derives from the Senator’s efforts is likely to be less divisive, more inclusive and better accepted than a ridiculous partisan stunt pulled on by “Bull Shittin’.”
I think Shorten’s time would be better served developing and articulating responsible policies designed to attract the support of the majority of Australian voters in the middle of the electorate, rather than engaging in petty partisan antics that may be effective at disrupting and frustrating the Coalition’s legislative program, but which ultimately add nothing to either the ALP’s political stocks or to its case for a return to office.
Shorten and his irresponsible behaviour, happily enough, also seem to be just the ticket to ensure he never achieves his cherished ambition to become Prime Minister, and for that I should be egging him on.
But at the first measurement of the electoral mood in the wake of Shorten’s attempts to use gay marriage to save his “leadership,” Newspoll’s message is unequivocal that when it comes to questions of a marriage, Shorten has become a turn-off.
Simply, the voting public is showing signs it has had just about all it can stomach of Bill Shorten’s “leadership” and, if he doesn’t fix his act quickly, his own MPs — or 48 of the 80 of them at least — might soon concur, and sign the requisite petition in those requisite numbers to make a divorce all but final, bar the decree of a vote of the rank and file ALP membership.
It is any wonder Anthony Albanese put in such an impressive showing on the ABC’s left wing gabfest #QandA last night. Plibersek, for her part, has also spent her time getting herself ready for a leadership tilt.
For Bill Shorten, the elements of a messy relationship break-up are all but aligned, it seems.
It may be too late for him to save himself, and the latest and most concerted attempt to deflect attention from his poor standing has failed.
In my view, the only pertinent question about a leadership change at the ALP is “when.” This Newspoll probably makes the answer to that sooner, rather than later.