At 53-47 To Labor, Newspoll Very Near The Mark

ANOTHER abysmal Newspoll — with the ALP ahead of the Coalition, this time by an increased 53% to 47% margin — is probably an accurate reflection of the public mood, and carries messages for both sides of Australian politics: people have turned off PM Malcolm Turnbull altogether, whilst Labor remains lumbered with an unelectable and boorish oaf at its helm. Meanwhile, minor parties continue to prosper, which favours the ALP, if only by default.

10 down, 20 to go…

Apologies to readers for the rather abrupt (and unintended) hiatus over the past fortnight; the “something” that I alluded to that popped up last time we discussed a Newspoll has in fact consumed a goodly portion of my time since that point, but with a solution now in hand with which to deal with it, here we are again (although there is something else that will interrupt me during the coming couple of weeks, albeit not quite so thoroughly as this has done).

In any case — as I forecast — the headline comment today, in light of the latest Newspoll published in The Australian, is that Malcolm Turnbull is now fully one-third the way toward replicating the benchmark he used to justify knifing predecessor Tony Abbott through the shoulder blades. Not for the first time, it warrants the observation that only a foolish politician indeed makes public pronouncements on the longevity of political leadership through the prism of opinion polls, and Turnbull only has himself to blame if the sound of sharpening scabbards can be heard emanating from some quarters within his party.

And as I suspected, this poll has shown the last one was, indeed, a rogue result; today’s 53-47 finding in Labor’s favour doesn’t fully restore the ALP’s 55-45 lead from a month ago, but it does move the political conversation back in that direction: and it does broadly cross-validate a finding recorded in the ALP’s favour during the week by Essential Research, which itself saw Labor give up a point to arrive at a 54-46 assessment.

To say the average of these two polls — a 53.5-46.5 lead to Labor, or a swing of 3.9% since the election last July — is pretty much on the money illustrates just how far from favour the Coalition has fallen in less than four years; these findings amount to a 7% swing to Labor after preferences since the thumping win posted by Tony Abbott in September 2013, and would net the ALP an extra 19 seats (for a total of 88) and government in a canter based on the July results if replicated at another election.

What should deeply disturb Coalition “strategists” is the fact that using the Turnbull camp’s yardstick of progress as a benchmark, the past fortnight has been an unmitigated triumph for the Prime Minister, with a reasonable slice of his corporate tax cuts being legislated, along with piecemeal changes to the way the Human Rights Commission is to process complaints made under S18c of the Racial Discrimination Act, and in the afterglow of his warmly received plan to expand the Snowy Mountains Scheme as a downpayment on tackling energy affordability.

A more objective assessment of the period would also note that despite scoring sporadic hits on opposition “leader” Bill Shorten, the government has been seen to lose the debate (for want of a better word) on changes to penalty rates; has proven singularly incapable of enacting structural (and sorely needed) changes to S18c; has had its company tax plan gutted, despite the partial success it booked; and is showing every sign of once again approaching a critical federal budget in five weeks’ time with no tilling of the public soils being undertaken in preparation, and no over-arching theme or narrative to bind its economic message together.

In other words, this Newspoll — like the nine before it — is something the Prime Minister’s Office can scarcely argue comes as much of a shock.

As is so often the case with these polls, today’s Newspoll charts incremental movements: on the question of a primary vote the Coalition is down a point, and the ALP up a point, to sit level-pegging at 36%.

On the question of who the “preferred PM” might be, Turnbull is down two points to 41%, and Shorten up three to 32%: thus maintaining for now the clear but not decisive lead that seems the only “bright” spot in survey findings for Malcolm — such as it is.

And where voter satisfaction with personal performance is concerned, Turnbull’s 30% figure is unchanged this time, but 59% (+2%) disapprove; by contrast — and reflecting the rather damning indictment upon Turnbull that Bill Shorten should be more popular than any other figure in Australian politics — 32% (+3%) approve of the way he is doing his job, whilst 54% (-3%) do not.

There are those (usually associated with the incumbent party and/or leader, whoever it happens to be at any given time) who argue that such modest movements are within the margin of sampling error, and that they are statistically insignificant.

Yet as we have said many times now, the trend against Turnbull — ever since Federal Police raided the home of former minister Mal Brough, after he was unwisely and rashly restored to Cabinet for supporting Malcolm in the leadership ballot against Abbott — has been so large in overall scope, and almost uninterrupted in its duration over the past 16 months, that statistical insignificance went out the window well over a year ago.

The messages from this poll — like most others doing the rounds — are fairly simple, and very clear.

One, it doesn’t really matter what Malcolm Turnbull does: rightly or wrongly, “fairly” or otherwise, the vast majority of Australians don’t like him, are fed up with him, and have stopped listening to what he says and does altogether: it’s a dangerous piece of political real estate to occupy, and the fact a few genuinely praiseworthy achievements haven’t mattered one jot in public opinion sampling is a potent signpost to the fact Turnbull is (as we have said in this column repeatedly) finished.

Two, whilst these results might appear encouraging for Labor, the hard reality is that people hate its “leader” almost as heartily as they’re sick to the stomach with Turnbull: and a change in the ALP leadership (and especially to a Plibersek/Bowen team as leader and deputy) might just be all it takes to lock Labor’s two-party lead in for at least long enough to turn a likely election victory into a certainty.

Three (and this is an old story), until the Coalition finally recruits some smarts in the areas of political strategy and tactics, mass communication and parliamentary management — and backs them with a slate of sober, mainstream conservative policies, not the lefty social whims of its leader and/or panicked pandering to the ruthlessly advancing monster that is the Left — it won’t even matter if the Liberal Party tosses Malcolm overboard. It won’t matter who the replacement is. It won’t matter how long there is until an election, and it won’t matter how “brilliant” the latest mediocre exercise in pea and thimble tricks federal budget is purported to be. Right now, opposition beckons the Coalition almost irresistibly. Like an adolescent determined to be entrusted with a dirty secret at all costs, the Coalition gives every appearance of being willingly drawn further and further toward the cliff.

And just to put the tin hat on it all, the share of the vote identified by Newspoll as belonging to minor parties and “Others” continues to hover near 30%, and whilst some Turnbull figures (who shall remain nameless) like to suggest privately that these are “parked” Coalition votes that will “come home” at election time, most of them didn’t last July — and even more of them won’t next time either, at an election that is now at most less than two years away from being called.

I’d never vote for a party led by a pinko like Tanya Plibersek, and I think Chris Bowen is a charlatan and an intellectual fraud who’d have very little to say if someone didn’t script his lines for him and wind up his power pack every morning so he could deliver them.

But out in Voterland, where people don’t think twice about politics and where visual impressions increasingly count for more nowadays than anything requiring serious thought anyway, this ticket, properly handled, could yield the ALP great electoral dividends, and anyone who thinks Labor lacks the capacity to capitalise on such a vapid but electorally potent ticket should reflect upon how close Bill Shorten went toward becoming Prime Minister nine months ago…and he’s a lying, fork-tongued soothsayer whose past handiwork as a union hack and ministerial saboteur mark him out as someone to be avoided at literally any cost.

I know I sound like a broken record when I say, not for the first time, that this poll screams at the Liberals to knuckle under and get their shit together: if Labor moves on Shorten first, it’ll all be over. It’ll be too late. Perhaps it already is.

And in two weeks’ time, provided Newspoll isn’t delayed, it’ll be a case of “11 down, 19 to go.” Bet tens on it. Malcolm will never win another election. He almost lost the last one. The time to fix things is now. The need is becoming more urgent with every day that passes.

The alternative is Tanya Plibersek as Prime Minister, and for all his faults, that’ll make Malcolm and his social ideas look, improbably enough, positively saintly. But by then of course, it really will be too late for the Liberals to do anything more than count the cost of doing nothing now.

 

Newspoll’s 52-48 ALP Lead: Rogue Poll Or Reality?

DESPITE THE FACT only a sycophant would believe the “improvement” scored by the Coalition in yesterday’s Newspoll, some interesting questions arise from a survey showing the government gaining three points on Labor in three weeks at a time some interesting things have been happening. Do voters approve of Turnbull’s plan to expand the Snowy River scheme? Is Bill Shorten finally cooked? Or is this poll — as I suspect it is — a rogue result?

Nine down, 21 to go…

Whatever else anyone might say about the latest Newspoll — carried in The Australian yesterday — the indisputable fact is that not only does it find Malcolm Turnbull 30% the way toward racking up the “30 losing Newspolls” he used to justify a move on predecessor Tony Abbott, but it also shows the government remaining on course to lose an election fairly clearly were one to be held today.

Needless to say, of course, the imminent orgy of propaganda from Malcolm’s people won’t present it quite so starkly.

But yesterday’s Newspoll (and I apologise for the delay: something popped up that diverted my attention elsewhere when I started writing this piece) might simultaneously be both a rogue result and a genuine finding; I will explain what I mean.

First, the increase in the Coalition primary vote (from 34% to 37%) and the corresponding decline in that for the ALP (from 37% to 35%) is in itself unremarkable; in the past 25 years the ALP has only three times outpolled the Coalition on primary votes at an election (in 1993, 1998 and 2007) and has, unless overall opinion sampling indicated a Labor landslide of epic proportions, generally trailed the Coalition ever since the entrenchment of the Greens as a third force over the past 15-20 years.

And on the surface of it, a three-point lift in the Coalition’s two-party vote — reducing the ALP’s lead to (a still election-winning) 52-48 — would seem quite commensurate with that primary vote lift.

But the poll was taken after the government received a battering from the ALP over penalty rates, and appeared clueless as to how to respond; most of the fortnight was also punctuated by leaks from Scott Morrison’s upcoming budget — and most of what has oozed out (such as changes to negative gearing and capital gains tax arrangements on property investments) — are, unwisely, apparent moves to play on Labor’s turf: probably a recipe for more trouble.

In this sense, improvements in Malcolm Turnbull’s standing as “preferred Prime Minister” (from 40% to 43%) and in his personal approve/disapprove numbers (from 29/59 to 30/57) are — aside from being largely within the poll’s margin of error — made to look a little too conveniently positive for my liking by corresponding drops in Bill Shorten’s “preferred PM” number (from 33% to 29%) and his own approve/disapprove ratings (from 30.56 to 29/57).

Just to make it interesting, The Australian‘s comment that this survey represents the fourth straight Newspoll in which Shorten’s leadership approval has gone backwards is a trend that is difficult to dismiss — even if there is a rogue element to some of the other findings.

And to put the cherry on top of the cake, plotting to remove Turnbull from his post by forces aligned with former PM Tony Abbott — which was all but being conducted in the pages of a number of mainstream media publications a fortnight ago — has strangely fallen silent.

There are things in flux on both sides of the political divide at present, and both may be factors at play in the phenomenon I am describing.

On the Labor side, I have long believed that having conducted himself appallingly for three years and failed to win an election on the back of lies, half-truths, exaggerated promises and half-baked slogans, Bill Shorten’s one and only shot at winning an election as Labor “leader” has been and gone; it does not matter how close the ALP got to victory, and it does not matter how few seats (or how small a swing) it needs next time: taking the debased route of “Politics by Bullshit” either works first go or it kills off the practitioner.

Readers have heard me say in the past that a change in the ALP leadership should be interpreted as a sign that Labor is not only serious about reclaiming office, but that it seriously believes it can do so: jettisoning the imbecilic Shorten would remove a very large amount of lead from its saddlebags.

Should Shorten be left where he is, however, the converse is true.

And this might well prove the case, if Turnbull and his acolytes finally and belatedly prove able to get their shit together.

On the Coalition side, I headlined my Newspoll piece last time as a “call to arms” for the Liberals: it seems they are responding.

Malcolm’s plan to expand the Snowy River scheme — at a time of increasing electricity prices and collapsing supply reliability, as the scourge of unviable renewables begins to make its inevitable consequences felt — was and is a great idea, but in the context of this poll, it is hard to ascribe the bounce the Coalition has received to this initiative alone — and not least when everything else continued to go badly for Turnbull, as it almost always has ever since he stole the Liberal leadership from Abbott in a lightning coup in 2015.

Hence my thought that the result is rogue: it makes no sense whatsoever when judged against the three-week period it contrived to measure.

(And we haven’t even touched on the Liberal Party wipeout at the WA state election, which also happened during that period).

But in the past couple of days — after the results were published — there are tentative signs of life emanating from the government.

A more concerted attempt to defend the Productivity Commission ruling on penalty rates is underway; Turnbull and his troops have caught Shorten on the hop in Parliament this week (as opposed to the vapid and frankly pathetic drubbing they received last time it sat) and — rarely, but encouragingly, where the Coalition is concerned — decent memes have begun appearing in social media, highlighting the difference between penalty rates that will apply on Sundays under the Productivity Commission ruling, and those that apply under deals struck by Shorten as a union leader that sold out the pay rates of the workers he claimed to protect (the rates in the Shorten deals are almost always the lower of the two).

Turnbull is taking changes to section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act to the Coalition joint party room this morning for final approval; they fall short of the complete repeal of the section, which would be the desirable result, but they nevertheless constitute an improvement on the existing regime.

Simultaneously, Turnbull is announcing a review of the Human Rights Commission, and specifically, the guidelines with which it will handle future complaints under a revamped 18c.

There are moves afoot to hold a plebiscite on the question of gay marriage — in line with the policy that received a mandate at last year’s election — by using a postal ballot (that doesn’t require legislation) to get around the opportunistic and cynical opposition the measure originally foundered against in the Senate.

So whilst it is too early to tell, we may be in the situation that whilst the Newspoll itself was rogue, the improvement in the Coalition’s stocks becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: hence the paradox to which I alluded near the top of today’s piece.

But one swallow does not make a Spring; much will have to go right from here for Turnbull to enact any serious or meaningful recovery: one slip could be all it takes to cast him, and the government, right back to the bottom of the well — and if this occurs, Turnbull’s conservative colleagues are less likely to be forgiving in future.

Or patient.

There is a huge test looming in the form of Scott Morrison’s post-election budget that can arguably make or break Turnbull, Morrison, and the government overall: and just to underline the point, Turnbull was widely regarded as a terminal commodity just a few weeks ago. Certainly, I thought he had passed the point of political no return. Perhaps he had, and perhaps it really is too late. But for the only time in 18 months, the government looks the goods right now.

In a fortnight’s time we will know whether the bounce was genuine, or one best characterised by a dead cat. Either way, the odds of “10 down, 20 to go” sitting atop the next instalment of the Newspoll story must — in good common sense — remain at very short odds indeed.

Time will tell. It always does…

Lawless Filth: Unions, Greens, ALP Show True Colours

A CALL by ACTU secretary Sally McManus for unions and workers to break laws they find “unjust” is a clarion call to thugs and militants who think they run Australia; downplayed by ALP “leader” Bill Shorten and lauded by the Leftist filth of Communists Greens, McManus has confirmed what most people always knew: unions are lawless. If ever there was a pretext to smash union power — rather than cloak it in fatuously soaring rhetoric — this is it.

There are a couple of issues I want to try to cover off on today, so I will keep it fairly straight to the point; yet again, my week has once again panned out in rather time-consuming ways, and with a Newspoll probably due out tonight or tomorrow — it skipped the usual fortnightly cycle this week in the aftermath of the WA state election — we need to come up to date.

But the midweek outburst from incoming ACTU secretary Sally McManus — an explicit sanction by Trades Hall for unions and workers to break industrial laws they think are “unjust” — was rightly and correctly slammed by federal Liberal minister Christopher Pyne as “anarcho-Marxist claptrap.”

The comments were made in the context of a campaign to wind back restrictions on the right to strike; some additional coverage from The Australian may be accessed here and here.

Bill Shorten — always happy to play both sides of the fence when it comes to appeasing his Trades Hall chums — claimed he didn’t agree with McManus’ prescription for breaking laws she didn’t agree with, but left the open-ended assertion that “if you think the law is unjust or unfair, you change the government and you change the law” hanging as a clear wink-and-nod to both the position McManus outlined, and to expected lawless union tactics in the lead-up to the next federal election.

As is always the case, Shorten has tried to have his cake and eat it too: he deserves to choke on the crumbs.

And predictably, almost unqualified support for this new ACTU campaign of thuggery and thumbing its nose at authority was quickly forthcoming from that despicable hotbed of left wing extremism, the Greens, with leader Richard di Natale congratulating McManus and claiming she had said “what many Australians know and understand.”

Anyone who takes any notice of di Natale and/or his party needs their heads examined, frankly.

McManus pointed to “international labour standards” that she claimed enshrined the right of any person to “withdraw labour” as a justification for the secondary boycotts and other outlawed industrial behaviour that has led to the notorious CFMEU being repeatedly slapped with fines running into the tens of millions of dollars; I simply say that nobody should care less about these “international standards:” this is Australia, and Australia is governed from Canberra — not through some convenient assortment of international accords struck by unelected partisans, which too often provide excuses for the anti-Australian behaviour of the Left.

And that applies to a whole lot of other areas than just the whims of the bloody unions.

It is a disturbing new development to find Australian unionists (and leadership figures within their movement at that) dispensing with claims that their organisations always act lawfully, and instead now advocating wilful and knowing illegal behaviour.

It strongly suggests that Trades Hall is growing immune to the threat of prosecutions of its minions, and this — along with the quickly growing threat of a return of the ALP to government federally within the next couple of years — ought to alarm decent, law-abiding Australians who simply want to go about their business.

What makes it worse is the fact that unions now count just 9% of private sector workers among their membership: the union movement is now nothing more than a fringe movement. Comments such as those made by McManus during the week merely show (once again) that this minuscule and largely irrelevant little junta genuinely thinks it runs this country. It most certainly does not.

During the coal miners’ strike in the UK in the mid-1980s — an attempt by the Trade Union Council (the British equivalent of the ACTU) to bring down the Thatcher government — Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously characterised the TUC campaign as “an attempt to substitute the rule of the mob for the rule of law and that it must not succeed;” Thatcher won that battle, which is more than anyone can say about the present government and its adherents when it comes to curbing the excesses of union power.

Bleating about the Senate simply doesn’t cut it when the unions and the ALP raise money for high-profile national mass communication campaigns that cut through and win votes, when the Coalition and its business friends, quite plainly, do not.

Thanks to a Productivity Commission ruling that mandates modest reductions in penalty rates on Sundays for some workers — which currently see the absurd situation of restaurant workers being paid $60 and $80 per hour to make coffee, and clean tables, and wash dishes — the Turnbull government is being skewered by an ALP/union campaign against which it seems incapable of mounting a persuasive defence, and has been all but abandoned by its alleged allies in the business sector.

This would be the same business sector that begged the Howard government, in 2005, to use its Senate majority to enact labour market deregulation; WorkChoices was in fact a reasonably moderate platform, especially once the “no disadvantage” test was restored after an oversight. But to listen to the unions at the time, ordinary workers would end up being paid just a few cents per hour unless the laws were repealed. On that occasion, as on this, the business community and its various lobby groups and industry bodies sat on their hands, kept the coffers closed, and allowed the Howard government to be sacrificed to a $13 million union campaign that was mostly comprised of lies and fairy stories.

Unions claim their “role,” especially in the construction sector, is predicated on “safety:” on a recent flight back to Melbourne, I sat next to the wife of a very senior union figure, from whom the admission was eventually extracted that industrial injuries and deaths occur on union-controlled sites just as they do on non-unionised sites. There goes that theory.

Rather, the privileged position unions have ensconced themselves in is more aimed at riding roughshod over the companies that employ their workers, freezing out people who don’t want to join a union (which is in itself illegal), and driving up construction sector costs, which — using the international comparisons so beloved of the Left in this country — are the highest in real terms in the developed world.

Is it any wonder the unemployment rate in Australia is rising?

In other sectors — such as Education — unions work almost exclusively to entrench mediocrity, and to make it impossible to pay the very best teachers more than the no-hopers at the bottom of the pack who give the profession a bad name.

And I say “almost exclusively” because when they aren’t working to entrench the institutionalised socialist instrument of uniform pay scales irrespective of ability or results, teacher unions have in recent years evolved into a willing instrument for the propagation of contemptible left-wing doctrinal misadventures. The insidious “Safe Schools” program, with its agenda of destroying traditional values masquerading as an anti-bullying package, is a case in point.

In the wake of McManus’ remarks, take a look around social media: there is no shortage of hardcore union and socialist activists posting quotes from people like Martin Luther King to ennoble and promote the law-breaking spirit McManus has sought to foster. Such diatribes dishonour the likes of Dr King, and further cheapen the message from a union movement that starts from a position of very little value in today’s Australia anyway.

In truth, all McManus’ words are good for is to justify a determined assault on the malodorous presence of the union movement in Australia that far transcends its actual support or a proportionate degree of influence, when judged against that pathetic 9% take-up rate outside the ranks of the teachers and the public servants.

They should encourage and embolden, not deter, a renewed focus by law enforcement agencies and the likes of the Australian Building and Construction Commission to penalise transgressions of industrial laws even more heavily, for penalties are no deterrent if they fail to discourage recidivist actions.

And they should motivate the Coalition, and its followers in the business community, to get serious about tightening curbs on secondary boycotts, industrial thuggery and other militant (and often violent) union behaviour even further: it is not right, for example, that unions should bring whole cities to a standstill over relatively isolated incidents (such as the dispute with Carlton and United Breweries in Melbourne a couple of years ago), and especially when the marauding union pack is mostly comprised of workers with no direct connection to the companies, the industries, or even the actual unions involved in those incidents.

I’m known for my dislike of unions, and especially the more militant and thuggish ones; I’ve never shied away from that perception, although I have always maintained that people have a right to join a union if they want to: it is the way those unions behave that I take issue with.

But when one of the leaders of the peak industry body in this country openly advocates lawless, anarchic, gratuitously unlawful behaviour until or unless Trades Hall gets what it wants — to the exclusion of being held to account, facing penalty, or acting in a way that most people would regard as acceptable — then its time for the whole citadel to be smashed, and for incitements to union members to ignore the law at will to be heavily punished indeed.

If anyone wonders why I’m such an enthusiastic proponent of smashing unions and breaking the ill-gotten influence they enjoy in this country, McManus’ remarks go very close to the mark; and if anyone questions why I think unions are out of place in today’s Australia, or why I think they add nothing whatsoever to constructive economic and social outcomes, McManus couldn’t have served up a more fitting answer if she had tried.

 

Cowardly: Qld ALP To Wait For One Nation To “Implode”

IN A DESCENT into the depths of gutlessness, Queensland Labor is to delay a state election widely thought to have been just weeks away in the hope Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party implodes; the decision — weighed against Hanson’s declaration that Labor is her “enemy” — defies the fact Labor won in Western Australia on Saturday in a canter, and flies in the face of the abjectly pathetic campaign performance turned in by Ms Hanson herself.

My grandfather used to have a saying: it was better to keep quiet and let people think you were an idiot than to speak up and prove that you were, and this idiom is one that certainly applies to Pauline Hanson and the eponymous One Nation outfit that may not yet have collapsed but which, based on the frightful performance turned in by Hanson herself on the stump in Western Australia, is looking decidedly shaky at best.

I am going to keep my comments brief this afternoon — there may well be a federal Newspoll out later tonight, and if there is, I will repost again with analysis of that — but an interesting snapshot of the mentality of ALP types in the wake of Saturday’s thumping win in Western Australia has emerged, and it speaks volumes of the misreading of the political climate that is being engaged in with the distractions of red herrings like One Nation and its preference deal with the WA Liberals being given more oxygen by the media than they deserve or warrant.

I have been reading an article posted in the Fairfax press this afternoon by James Massola, whose observations on political behaviour are usually pretty good; the core thrust of his piece is that Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is set to defer the looming state election that many suspected was a matter of weeks away — or even a chance to be called tomorrow — on the basis that Labor would prefer to give Hanson and One Nation time to “implode” before they head off to the polls.

“The thinking process is, we give them enough time to do our job for us (sic),” Massola’s article quotes an ALP source as saying. “We let them go and let them implode and let the public see them for what they are. Waiting until early next year does that.”

Never mind the fact the ALP — despite a high-profile One Nation presence — has just scored its biggest state election win in Western Australian political history.

Never mind the fact that Hanson — upon whom naive journalists have lavished the unjustified praise in recent weeks that she has “matured” — saw fit (among other things) to posture as an anti-vaccination campaigner, to urge GST monies to be diverted from Queensland to WA (despite the obvious need to front Queensland voters at some point within the next 12 months) and to make the stunning confession on the stump that she “is from the east” and that whilst she consequently might not always “get it right” in Western Australia, her defence to accusations she didn’t understand the West at all essentially boiled down to no more than an empty assertion that her heart was in the right place.

And never mind the fact that the WA Liberals, in making the quantum leap gaffe of a preference deal that not only placed One Nation ahead of Labor and the Greens (as it should have) but above their National Party governing partners as well, have guaranteed themselves ridicule and condemnation on a national scale that will follow the LNP into the Queensland election, and probably still plague the Liberals in Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia next year too, even if common sense prevents a repeat of what can only be described as a fuck-up.

Hanson — early in this latest incarnation of her on-again, off-again One Nation juggernaut, which she launched claiming to be “fed up” — made the declaration that the ALP was “her enemy,” presumably on account of the fact it was a Labor state government that jailed her in Queensland on convictions for electoral fraud that were eventually quashed.

Yet traditionally, it has been the Liberal Party and its satellites that have repeatedly been the worst affected by One Nation and the effects of its preference strategies: Coalition state governments killed off in Queensland in 1998 and Western Australia in 2001; a Country Liberal administration destroyed in the NT in 2001; and Coalition oppositions all but obliterated in Queensland in 2001 and New South Wales in 1999 stand testament to One Nation’s disproportionate drawing power of votes from the Coalition’s base and/or preference strategies explicitly calibrated to wreak as much damage as possible upon the Liberals, the Nationals, and in today’s parlance in Queensland, the LNP.

To say that Queensland Labor is using One Nation as its pretext for delaying a state election in view of all this is bizarre: a judgement less based in spin than reality suggests that despite the smashing victory enjoyed by its western brethren, Queensland Labor is simply terrified.

The simple truth is that by moving to abolish optional preferential voting and restore the compulsion to allocate preferences that was dispensed with in Queensland 25 years ago — and to do so before this latest burst of One Nation activity had really cranked up to full throttle — Queensland Labor thought it would steal a march on the LNP by harvesting Communist Greens preferences, and gaining an unfair advantage over the LNP led by Tim Nicholls in so doing.

Instead, this brazen electoral rort has backfired: just as there is a stream of preferences Labor might harvest from the Greens, so too now are there preferences en masse for the LNP to target from One Nation that it can, and should, target (so long as it is less hamfisted in its approach than the WA Liberals were).

The fact is that by forcing One Nation voters to allocate preferences — especially when it is remembered that such votes are disproportionately drawn off the Liberal pile anyway — the probability Queensland Labor can reap the ill-gotten fruits of its electoral rorting and win a majority becomes significantly lessened; far from waiting for One Nation to “implode,” the likelier explanation is that Labor knows Queenslanders really aren’t impressed, after two lacklustre and do-nothing years: “not being Campbell Newman” might have been a strategy of sorts for winning an election against Campbell Newman himself, but it is not a template for government, and Queenslanders have well and truly woken up to it.

The strategy of Palaszczuk and the Queensland ALP is nothing more than old-fashioned gutlessness.

Hanson conducted herself appallingly in the WA campaign; her party scored less than half the votes it was expected to attract; WA Labor won its biggest ever state election victory despite her presence; and when the Liberal Party isn’t confronting the political mortality of Malcolm Turnbull this week, it has the headache of the WA Division’s stupid and destructive deal with One Nation to unpick, unpack, and discard.

Why is Palaszczuk delaying a state election in Queensland?

Readers can play “connect the dots” for themselves, but among the plausible or proffered reasons, the likelihood of the Palaszczuk government being re-elected is not one of them.

 

Armageddon: Nuclear WA Election Result Is Turnbull’s Newman Moment

ANY TALK that WA’s election result is purely due to “state factors” is, to be kind, delusional; just as Tony Abbott’s unpopularity fortified the swing against Campbell Newman in Queensland — where One Nation and “arrogance” were factors, as they were in WA — an unpopular federal government has compounded the revolt in another Liberal state. WA provides Malcolm Turnbull’s “Newman moment.” it is inconceivable he will emerge unscathed.

I am not simply taking a potshot at Malcolm Turnbull, whose claims on the leadership of the federal Liberal Party have never stacked up in my eyes; but so bad is the outcome of yesterday’s state election in Western Australia for the Liberal Party — the worst, in fact, since the ALP first contested a state election there in 1901 — that it is impossible to argue, with any credibility whatsoever, that a deeply unpopular federal Liberal government led by a deeply unpopular Prime Minister is innocent of blame for a truly dreadful result in what has traditionally been one of the best states in Australia for the forces of mainstream conservatism.

In fact, and whilst I used the metaphor of lambs engaging in the slaughter of Liberal MPs to frame my piece ahead of the WA state election yesterday, a better analogy today is that of a nuclear Armageddon that has generated millions of tons of lethal fallout: and some of this, inevitably, must fall on Canberra and poison Turnbull’s government.

With more than a third of the 47.1% of the primary vote Colin Barnett’s Liberal Party attracted at the 2013 WA election lost — along with more than half of the 31 MPs the Liberal Party won on that occasion in the 59-seat lower house — the Liberals, along with their National Party alliance partners, appear to have been able to muster less than a third of those 59 seats, if projections of 14 Liberals and 5 Nationals come to pass: easily the worst state election result for non-Labor forces in WA in more than 100 years.

This isn’t merely an embarrassment — it is an indictment.

Yesterday’s abysmal state election result in Western Australia is a wake-up call to the Liberal Party nationally; to have been completely poleaxed in what has for decades been one of its best states can’t simply be attributed to the longevity of the Barnett government (eight years and seven months) when Labor has spent more than a decade in office continuously in every other state over the past 35 years (and in Victoria and South Australia, has done so twice in that time).

It can’t simply be attributed to the huge pile of debt that has been racked up on Barnett’s watch after the end of the mining investment boom; in Queensland in 2015 and South Australia in 1997, Labor rebounded after crushing election defeats where financial mismanagement was the key factor within a single term to force minority governments; in Victoria in 1999 and Western Australia in 2001, the ALP reclaimed office after just two terms despite the scale of financial scandals that cost it office in landslide defeats dwarfing anything Barnett might be accused of today.

And it can’t just be blamed on the silly preference deal the Liberal Party struck with One Nation, whereby the Liberals foolishly preferenced the protest party above their National Party allies.

The result in WA is, to be clear, a sign of the Liberal Party’s slide from favour across the country: and more evidence of this recalibration of the national polity will follow, as sure as night follows day, unless the penny finally drops for those Liberals in a position to actually do something to reverse it.

Whilst the Barnett government was far from perfect, it did in fact have a powerful record of achievement upon which to campaign: a message which, in increasingly typical fashion for the Liberal Party everywhere, proved impossible for it to sell.

The Barnett government spent much of its second term fighting with itself, with a clear lack of succession planning forcing it to ask voters to endorse an unpopular 66-year-old figurehead for a further four years — a big ask at the best of times, let alone in the straitened economic circumstances the WA Liberals found themselves in after eight years in office.

But it reflects on a sick and increasingly inept organisation which, right across Australia, is showing signs of being incapable of winning unless it is to capitalise on the faults and shortcomings of the Labor Party, and with the resurgence of federal Labor under arguably the least suitable individual ever presented to voters as a potential Prime Minister, it is growing difficult to ascribe even that capability to the Liberal Party either.

Readers of this column know exactly what I believe are the handicaps my party faces — and these are as applicable to yesterday’s election in WA as they are anywhere else in Australia.

A basic inability to formulate and execute effective political strategies and tactics.

An utter inability to sell anything whatsoever, and a “communications” capacity that is amateurish at best and downright juvenile at worst.

A contingent of advisors, staffers and other insiders who owe their presence to parking their noses up the backsides of factional overlords, or to pandering to minor chieftains presiding over petty dunghills and fiefdoms, rather than being selected on the basis of what they can actually do to help the party: the Liberal Party, at senior levels and wherever any degree of operational expertise is required, better resembles a crony club these days than a slick, well-oiled, effective political machine.

A lack of policies (or, indeed, a lack of any coherent platform at all) that mark the party out as a beacon for the small government, low tax, pro-family, pro-business, pro-individual constituency it has traditionally represented: the Liberal Party these days is too busy eliminating points of difference with the ALP to be bothered with cogent contemporary expressions of the timeless and noble offer it is uniquely positioned to make for the benefit of all Australians.

A parliamentary cohort increasingly swelled by former staffers, factional stooges, and other worthless types: the same thing it has spent decades (rightly) pillorying Labor for.

And whilst yesterday’s election loss might have been all but unavoidable, its scale speaks to the basic inability of the party to fight effective campaigns these days: with just 14 Liberal MPs likely to emerge after a two-party swing that looks to be in the order of 15%, nobody can argue the party in any way mitigated its losses. It didn’t.

It is one thing to win elections from opposition on slogans such as “stop the boats” or “axe the tax:” it is another thing altogether to govern effectively once government has been secured and in this sense, what happened yesterday merely reflects the malaise that has infected the Liberal Party nationally.

To win — and to win the best victory in WA history in 2013 — and spend the ensuing four years descending into hubris, squabbles over the spoils of office, and exhibiting a complete contempt for the voters who put it there far transcends the difficulties imposed on the Barnett government by cyclical events like the end of a mining boom or the related fall in the state’s GST share: a modest loss might be justified, but this annihilation is at least partly self-inflicted.

But to claim that this was an election decided purely on “state factors” is fatuous; and in this sense, the malfunctioning, misfiring federal Coalition government of Malcolm Turnbull — which itself embodies every one of the problems afflicting the Liberal Party that I have listed here — has to take its share of the responsibility too.

To be sure, Turnbull now faces an odious parallel with the Queensland state election of 2015 and the role played in it by the standing of Tony Abbott and his government, but more on that in a moment.

Right now, I think the Liberal Party is facing the bleakest period of its existence since the early 1980s, when more than a decade of opposition federally (and in most of the states) loomed large; the odd triumph (NSW, 1988) was more than offset by failures that should have been successes (WA in 1989, Victoria in 1988, SA in 1989, federally in 1990 and 1993) and the gradual elimination of what “real estate” conservative forces entered that miserable period with in the first place, losing Queensland and Tasmania to Labor in 1989 and the Brisbane City Council (which at one point represented the most senior administration the party headed anywhere in Australia) in 1991.

Since the Coalition returned to office federally in 2013, state Liberal governments in Queensland, Victoria and now Western Australia have fallen; two years out from another state election in NSW, the party’s prospects look shaky there too. Liberals are unlikely to win in South Australia or Victoria next year, and the Liberal government in Tasmania is as much a hostage to that state’s proportional voting system as anything else when it comes to its prospects for winning a second term next year.

In other words — now holding office only in NSW, Tasmania and federally — there is realistic and probable scope for the Liberal Party to surrender office in all three of these jurisdictions over the next two years, and it is looking down the barrel of an even more painful period than the 1980s, and “professional, modern” Labor, began inflicting on it 35 years ago.

If readers are wondering why I’m not devoting today’s article to a systematic analysis of the numbers emanating from what is tantamount to an apocalyptic, politically nuclear event, it’s simply because I think it represents just the latest instalment of a pattern of decline that will consign the Liberal Party to a decade of misery unless something drastic occurs to arrest it, but those who fret over such minutiae can keep an eye on the Wikipedia breakdown of the results here: I think the question of how many MPs the party emerges with, or where the swing against it finally settles, is that irrelevant in the wider scheme of things.

Just as the 2013 state election in WA sounded the death knell on Julia Gillard’s Prime Ministership (and arguably Labor’s tenure in office federally overall), I can’t help thinking that the one held yesterday heralds a similar milestone — or millstone — for Malcolm Turnbull.

It is a seismic event of the importance of the 1974 election in Queensland, which effectively stamped the papers of the Whitlam government in Canberra.

And another state election in Queensland, two years ago, led directly to the so-called “challenge by an empty chair” which began a protracted process of removing Abbott from the Prime Ministership: the swing against Campbell Newman was almost identical to the one suffered by Barnett yesterday, and whilst the Queensland LNP retained enough seats to remain within spitting distance of reclaiming government, it started from an even stronger position in terms of votes and seats than Barnett entered yesterday’s contest defending.

Nobody can suggest that the lacklustre Turnbull government is blameless for what happened yesterday.

Nobody can claim the Prime Minister, as Abbott was in Queensland in 2015, was anything less than a direct negative that amplified the movement away from the incumbent government.

It is time for Turnbull’s colleagues to seriously consider the damage his continued presence stands to inflict upon the Liberal Party’s fortunes, federally and around the states, should he be permitted to continue as the party’s most senior — and visible — standard-bearer.

But dumping Turnbull will be pointless unless the other structural problems the party has lumbered itself with are also addressed and in this sense, those who “control” the Liberal Party — and who dish out patronage and paid employment to the useless, the inept, and the downright incompetent — ought to take a hard, critical look at themselves in the wake of yesterday’s disaster, and make brutally honest decisions about where they want the party to head: and whether, despite their cosily entrenched sinecures, their handiwork is conducive to the best interests of the party at all.

Yesterday was cataclysmic. Without extensive change at almost every level, many similar humiliations will soon follow.

The Violence Of The Lambs: WA Liberals Face Slaughter

EIGHT and a half years of Coalition government in WA will end today, as Colin Barnett’s Liberals face annihilation at the ballot box; an ageing Premier, coupled with crippling debt in the wake of the mining boom and an inability to resolve GST shares in his state’s favour, will see voters sweep an unready — and undeserving — ALP to office. The result will be a debacle, and a humiliation for Malcolm Turnbull. But it will contain a silver lining of sorts.

First things first: yet again, my apologies to readers for a week and a half of radio silence; the past couple of weeks have been a little busier than I envisaged, and whilst we’ve missed a few issues — not least, the endgame of the WA state election campaign — most of these remain live, and we will catch up on some of them in the coming few days.

But last time I was in England (and it bothers me enormously that it was almost nine years ago), three big political developments occurred: the onset of the Global Financial Crisis, of which nary a word had been reported in Australia, but which erupted the first week I was in London with the force of a doomsday alert; the replacement of hapless federal Liberal leader Brendan Nelson by Malcolm Turnbull, raising the curtain on a misadventure that continues to play out today; and the ascension, in minority, of Colin Barnett and a Liberal-National “alliance” to government in Western Australia for the first time since a One Nation preference campaign laid waste to the government of Richard Court in early 2001.

Despite the fact we haven’t found the time to discuss it in this column, I have been keeping an eye on the WA election campaign, and the only way I can describe it — as today’s Newspoll in The Australian shows Barnett on track to suffer an 11% swing to Labor and the loss of 13 seats — is as a gigantic face-palm event.

Already reeling from the “It’s Time” factor and from the explosion of state debt to some $40bn in the aftermath of the end of the mining boom — and hurt by the decline of WA’s return of GST monies paid in that state to just 30 cents in the dollar, under the convoluted formula used to determine GST payments — the Liberals’ reputation for sound economic management has, perhaps through little fault of its own, become tarnished in the minds of voters who don’t comprehend the finer details of Commonwealth-State relations, and don’t want to: in their view, the local man in charge in Perth is the man who carries the can.

At 66 years of age, Barnett is the oldest incumbent Premier to seek a further term in office since Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s final victory in Queensland in 1986: whereas voters once accepted government was an activity largely conducted by “old men,” those days are long gone — as John Howard’s defeat federally in 2007 showed — with people likelier to “give a young feller a go” rather than cultivate a governing class of gerontocrats of the kind once personified by names such as Bolte, Askin, Menzies, Playford, Court and, of course, Bjelke-Petersen himself.

Barnett’s government was significantly weakened by the transfer of arguably its best minister, former Treasurer and Attorney-General (now federal Social Services minister) Christian Porter to federal politics in 2013, and by the inevitable loss of the freakishly talented but irretrievably flawed Troy “Chair Sniffer” Buswell after literally more than one scandal too many in 2010.

And the deal the WA Liberals have struck with Pauline Hanson’s One Nation — foolishly agreeing to place the minor party ahead of their alliance partners, the Nationals — made a prudent exercise in seeking to harness lost protest votes through preferences a justifiable millstone for their opponents (and the Nationals themselves) to publicly hang around their necks.

Image result for hannibal lecter blood

A bloody mauling awaits the Liberal Party at today’s state election in Western Australia.

This column has openly advocated Coalition parties placing One Nation ahead of the ALP and Communist Party Greens, noting that of the two extreme fringe parties, the Greens are far worse than One Nation; but placing the Hanson party ahead of their governing allies was a lunatic act of overreach by the WA Liberals that will now compound, rather than ameliorate, their imminent defeat.

It is a relatively unimportant detail that the Nationals, under the unpalatable stewardship of the incendiary Brendon Grylls, are an irritant the WA Liberals feel they could well do without: to lose the support of National Party MPs in the lower house, as the political waters recede drastically from the near all-time high mark recorded in 2013, is to lose almost any hope of remaining in office at a difficult election long foreseen in reputable polling to herald likely defeat.

And the Nationals’ beloved “Royalties for Regions” project — which was the key to Barnett receiving their support in minority in 2008 — may well be an expensive fancy that is now completely unaffordable after the evaporation of the rivers of royalties gold that initially funded it, but Barnett’s open promise to all but abandon it is tantamount to a poke in the eye with a sharp stick on top of the brutal betrayal served up by the Liberals’ unwise preference arrangements with One Nation.

The deal with One Nation was all but invalidated anyway by Hanson’s demonstration, in front of TV cameras from the Perth media, of how to vote One Nation without helping to re-elect Barnett: a simple but lethal tutorial in the dangers of getting closer to Hanson’s protest party than the Liberals needed to.

And in any case, Barnett’s case for re-election — which in essence boils down to an appeal for support of the “trust us, we’ll be better than they will” variety — is an intangible offer that voters have no real way to either qualify or to quantify.

Indeed, his suggestion yesterday that Perth would grind to a halt — and that things would “stop happening” in WA — if the ALP is elected today carried with it the distinct whiff of desperation.

Of Labor, there is little to say, except that its case for government in 2017 is barely different than that offered four years ago.

Its leader, Mark McGowan, is at first glance an inoffensive and amenable character who doesn’t scare the horses. In practice, he is merely the latest in a long line of former union hacks and spivs served up to the electorate as a “man of the people” when in fact, he is no more than another Trades Hall stooge uninterested in all that much beyond the whims and decrees of his union masters.

The abortive coup last year — which purported to replace him with former federal minister Stephen Smith — offers a glimpse into just how securely McGowan is ensconced in his leadership: the odds on him being rolled as Premier, should he put a foot out of line in the eyes of his union overlords, are very high indeed, which is hardly an inspiring reality before the keys to the Premier’s suite on Harvest Terrace have even been secured.

And Labor’s signature Metronet initiative — buried by a frenzied Liberal Party attack in 2013 and mired in hitherto unresolved questions of its financial viability — is once again the centrepiece of McGowan’s pitch for votes in Perth.

I think the Newspoll finding of an 11% swing against Barnett is about right; the only real question in my mind is how it translates into seats, for the 57.3% scored by the Coalition in 2013 would, had the swing against Labor been more uniform, have yielded at least three more seats than it did, and possibly as many as five: in other words, Labor’s underlying starting position is stronger than the belting it received four years ago would suggest at first glance.

But I have grave doubts that Labor will prove any better than the Liberals in dealing with the huge debt racked up in the wake of the mining boom — a debt at least partly fuelled by Grylls’ expensive RfR scheme — and whilst an ALP Premier from WA will undoubtedly have his work cut out trying to wrest more money from a Coalition government in Canberra, the rhetoric from McGowan’s federal counterparts about not diverting funds from so-called “mendicant” states (Tasmania, South Australia) suggests the inclement weather of federal-state relations would not be improved by the arrival of a Labor government in Canberra, either.

There is however no point trying to sugar-coat the electoral wrecking ball that is about to slam into the WA Liberals with the impact of a force ten gale, and no credible way to suggest the carnage will not reverberate across the country in the same way their landslide win in 2013 probably sealed both the fate of Julia Gillard as Prime Minister and of Labor itself in government nationally.

There are, however, a couple of improbable silver linings to wrest from the coming political disaster.

One — in a repeat of the pattern that followed One Nation’s unlikely success at the Queensland state election of 1998 — is the undeniable sign that having made real electoral inroads, the wheels on the One Nation cart are beginning to wobble; Hanson’s behaviour on the campaign trail, coupled with her unilateral disendorsement of a swag of candidates and the clear signs of trouble within her federal Senate team, shows once again that whilst One Nation may be able to secure a handful of seats through its destructive populist antics, it simply isn’t up to the responsibility that trust imposes upon it to act soberly, maturely, and rationally.

Hanson’s blatant denial of calling for GST revenues to be diverted from Queensland to WA, only for the footage of her doing so to be splashed across the media this week, is just one misstep that has contributed to the steady decline in the One Nation vote for today’s election, and which is likely to erode its support in the Sunshine State as Queenslanders too face a state election — perhaps within a matter of weeks.

And two, the unmitigated disaster today’s loss will force the Liberal Party to confront will have severe ramifications for the federal party’s standing. The already weak leadership of Malcolm Turnbull will be further compromised by a clear rejection of his party in one of its traditional strongholds. The magnitude of the defeat will be impossible to attribute to Barnett and his misfiring administration alone. Taken in aggregate with the Liberal Party’s loss of multiple seats in WA for the first time in 20 years at last year’s federal election, today’s fiasco will at best ram another nail into Turnbull’s political coffin, and at worst may trigger a move against him by his federal colleagues.

It is every bit as bad for the PM as that. Perversely, for the federal Liberals, the defeat could provide the impetus for something positive, although it remains to be seen whether they have the bottle or the stomach or the judgement to act on it.

But to paraphrase the 1991 horror flick The Silence of the Lambs, the lambs are crying; in this case they find form in the voters of Western Australia, and they are baying for blood. It is a Liberal government that now faces slaughter, and the violence of its executioners will leave the survivors with many wounds to lick.

I will be watching the count online after 9pm Melbourne time, but whichever way you cut it, tonight will be a very bad night indeed for the Liberal Party.

Unless the lessons from the debacle are quickly absorbed, and responded to astutely, many more will soon follow.

Battle Stations: Newspoll’s 55-45 To Labor A Call To Arms For The Liberals

THE CEASELESS fall in Coalition support under Malcolm Turnbull over the past year has continued in the latest Newspoll; now lagging by ten points, attempts to claim Turnbull’s leadership of the Liberal Party remains viable are dubious indeed. It makes the changes called for in this column yesterday all the more urgent, and suggests that even if they are forthcoming, Turnbull — and the Coalition’s hold on government — may be doomed anyway.

Eight down, 22 to go…

Today’s Newspoll — published in The Australian, with comment and tables accessible here and here — might not be so bad for the Turnbull government if it had used the authority from its re-election last year to introduce a painful mini-budget, or some other measure to aright the haemorrhaging federal budget, or to do something to introduce a reform program, even if that proved unpopular; the problem of course is that in the aftermath of last year’s election, the government and the PM have little to no authority anyway, and the disastrous position they confront in the polls has been arrived at with virtually nothing to show for it.

My remarks this morning will be relatively brief (I am off to Sydney for the day, and have a plane to catch) but it does seem that the discussion opened in this column yesterday — calling for a radical overhaul of the way the Coalition is conducting itself in office, and the personnel with which it is doing so — was very timely indeed and, if anything, the findings of this latest Newspoll suggest the changes I called for are more urgently required than ever.

When we last had a Newspoll to dissect three weeks ago, I suggested Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership of the Liberal Party might be doomed, and have since opined that that poll represented the point at which he (and the government) might have passed the point of no return; today’s numbers will do little to ameliorate this growing perception, and it seems only a matter of time now before conservative Liberal MPs at least countenance a leadership change.

The two-party result of 55% recorded by Labor in today’s poll is the highest lead for the ALP since 2010, shortly after Julia Gillard called that year’s election; more ominously for the government, the primary vote it is harvested from — just 34% — is the lowest Coalition primary vote recorded by Newspoll since…well, since Malcolm was leading the Liberal Party last time, when a series of bad judgements and inadvisable pronouncements led to a collapse in the Coalition’s standing and prompted speculation then-PM Kevin Rudd would call a double dissolution election.

It all seems so long ago, but it all seems so fresh in the memory.

With just 29% of Newspoll respondents approving and 59% disapproving of Turnbull’s performance, the PM is now less popular than predecessor Tony Abbott prior to his overthrow at the hands of Turnbull’s minions in 2015: hardly a ringing endorsement of the wisdom of that change.

Even Turnbull’s lead over Bill Shorten as “preferred PM” has continued to evaporate, and now stands at just 7%, and has gone from convincing, to solid, to now barely being “clear.”

There is a lot of comment (and not least in The Australian itself, which is decidedly pro-Turnbull in these matters) that the outburst last week from Tony Abbott, combined with a rise in support for One Nation, are responsible for the ongoing erosion of the government’s position, but I beg to differ: to all appearances, the Coalition isn’t behaving or acting like a government at all, and this — coupled with minor but high-impact events such as the defection of Cory Bernardi and the poor look of Turnbull’s confrontation with US President Donald Trump, no matter the spin placed upon them — are proving far more deleterious than the predictable musings of a disgruntled former PM.

In fact, just about the only bright spot for Turnbull today is the standing of opposition “leader” Shorten, whose net approval rating of -26% is barely better than Turnbull’s: yet the fact it is better at all, considering the low calibre of the opponent Turnbull faces, is an indictment in itself.

And as I have said for some time now, any move by the ALP to change leaders should be interpreted as a sign it is serious about winning the next election; with the ALP primary vote now back to 37% — the level at which Gillard was able to harvest a minority government, and its highest in some years — that time cannot be far away either.

This Newspoll also marks the point at which just one marker from Turnbull’s disastrous first stint as Liberal leader remains to be covered anew: the two-party result of 45% is a single percentage point better than the average result recorded between September 2008 and November 2009 of 44%. It is as bad now as that.

Suffice to say, it’s time for Turnbull to get his skates on if he wants to outrun a near-certain leadership challenge or, further down the track, a near-certain bloodbath at the polling stations.

The course of remedial action outlined in this column not just yesterday, but for months, is the only viable way in which Turnbull may salvage his Prime Ministership — and the only way any potential replacement may salvage the government’s standing at all.

But that would take common sense, hard work, the will to develop and fight for sweeping policy reform and, most importantly, the ability to connect with the electorate to sell it, and it is increasingly the case that none of these attributes appear evident even on a generous reading of the government’s strengths.

We are about to find out just how hungry Malcolm really is to remain Prime Minister, and just how important it is to Coalition MPs to stay in office beyond an election certain to occur by May 2019.

On the former count, I’m not convinced, but on the latter, the mutterers have been muttering now for some time. This morning, you can almost hear them sharpening their knives.

I will attempt to comment further when I get back from Sydney tonight, but if I miss, I will catch up with readers later in the week. Tomorrow and Wednesday see me on another trip — this time to Brisbane. Such is life. 🙂