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…

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. 🙂

Quick Wrap: Attack Is Great, But Useless Without A Plan

TONIGHT’S POST is a short piece to reconfirm yet again that I have not disappeared, but merely continue to operate at a million miles per hour; even so, there is a Newspoll due out later this evening (and I will get to it if I can), but a vicious and brilliant attack against ALP “leader” Bill Shorten by the PM will count for nowt if not followed with proper policies — and other things have been afoot that we will allow to percolate a little further.

I am heartily sorry for the break over the past week and a half, but revenue-generating activities (and the airport) have intervened to thwart us; after a lightning in-out trip to Canberra on Thursday to attend to an urgent business matter — in a week bookended by weekends during which I worked almost the full four days on a project I’m launching with one of my other hats on — I’m now contemplating three interstate trips over the next nine days, beginning with an in-out run to Sydney tomorrow, and scarily enough that tally of return flights is likely to grow. So whilst I apologise for the absence, I ask regular readers to bear with me.

Indeed, there is a Newspoll due for publication in The Australian later tonight, and if I can get to it before I head out to Tullamarine by 6am tomorrow I will; if you don’t see it, you’ll know the clock has beaten me.

But it will be interesting to see the picture this survey paints in terms of the Turnbull government’s fortunes, for last fortnight’s offering was (as readers could probably tell) very close to the point in my view at which Turnbull, and possibly the Coalition in this phase of holding office, passed the point of political and electoral no return.

It was cheering (and I mean this sincerely, given my trenchant criticism of Malcolm Turnbull) to see the PM rip into Labor’s alleged “leader” last week in brutal and uncompromising terms; Bill Shorten isn’t merely the least appropriate figure ever fielded by either major party as a candidate for the Prime Ministership, but is a vindictive, lying and downright obsequious piece of work to boot.

I don’t go along with the school of thought that has found its way into mainstream press analysis that “the troops” should take heart from this one-off piece of vitriolic savagery from Turnbull; the fact is that the “sycophantic parasite” Turnbull painted Shorten as should have been torn into so many pieces by the Coalition over the past four years that even a sparrow should be having trouble filling its beak with one peck.

In other words, Turnbull merely did what he should have been doing for the past 18 months — and what Tony Abbott should have been doing for two and a half years beforehand.

Whether the onslaught against Shorten continues remains to be seen; Parliament sits again next week, and it’s the way of these things that such attacks are invariably made from the safety of parliamentary privilege. But whilst destroying Shorten might amount to a case of “be careful what you wish for” — he could be replaced by someone more adept at selling a convincing, and honest-style, message — nobody on either side of politics can claim with credibility that Shorten adds any value whatsoever to Australian politics.

Leave him where he is and his opportunistic, hypocritical, populist style wreaks pandemonium on the ability of the government to govern; permit him to win an election, and the sum total of his behaviour to date adds up to the highest-taxing, highest spending, highest debt government Australia will have ever seen in which violent, militant union thugs run roughshod over democracy and the general public. A Shorten government would burn through the economy like a nuclear blast, with the likely impact of tax rises and ill-considered changes like abolishing negative gearing contributing to a hefty recession, and so even if it makes the next election even more winnable for the ALP, it is in the national interest for Bill Shorten to be driven out of the Labor leadership (and, preferably, Parliament too) at any and all costs.

Credit where it is due though: Turnbull has finally laid a glove on the imbecilic opposition “leader.” More of the same, hopefully, will follow.

A surer bet is the apparent decision by the government, from Turnbull down, to suddenly champion the consumer where essential services are concerned; what one British MP once described as “all this Greens bullshit” has led to the farcical situation whereby electricity and gas are now almost priced beyond the reach of ordinary households to afford — and what there is available to them to consume isn’t even a reliable supply, as the uselessness and unfitness for purpose of renewables to generate constant baseload power has been laid bare after a summer in which much of the country has experienced extreme heatwaves for months.

Perhaps the penny has finally dropped — perhaps — that government in Australia is not a vocation in prosecuting the trendy crusades of the smug left on climate change, Muslim immigration and “gender fluidity” (whatever the hell that is), but is in fact an obligation to govern for the people who live here in order to improve, and maintain, the standard of living they are accustomed to enjoying.

I have been blunt over the years that with Australia accounting for less than 1% of global emissions, the moves to price cheap, inexhaustible coal out of the energy mix in this country is tantamount to a criminal negligence against its citizens; even if you accept human emissions are responsible for climate change — and I don’t, for I think it’s puerile to use 150 years or so of data to make ridiculous pronouncements over millions of years of history — there is literally no difference Australia can make to the overall global emissions load.

Yes, clean up industry and yes, wherever possible, make smoke stacks belching shit into the air a thing of the past, but not at the cost of ordinary families being slugged with $500 bills every three months to turn the lights on.

Even here, I think the safest bet is to simply wait and see.

For whilst I have been implacable in my insistence over the years that Turnbull isn’t, wasn’t and won’t be the ideal candidate for the Prime Ministership, my personal view of him is very high indeed (even if I don’t hold some of his mates in the same warm esteem); if there is some way Malcolm can not only deal himself back into the game, but carry the millions of lost conservative votes back into the Coalition tent with him, nobody will cheer him on more loudly than I.

I do think such a storyline, however, remains improbable in the extreme.

But now experimenting with hard policy as a way to cut the cost of living on utility prices, maybe a flutter of success (and a flicker of cognisance in the opinion polls) might finally induce Malcolm to do what this column has been calling for over a period of months: to outline a program of comprehensive reform (however difficult the Senate might render its execution) on taxation, industrial relations, welfare and education reform, along with a sweeping program of cuts to Rudd-Gillard era spending programs and a severe cull of federal public servants, and — most importantly of all — a hard-hitting and efficacious communications and political strategy with which to sell it — not the festering, pustulent crap with which the Coalition has approached matters of mass communication in office for far, far too long now.

Of course, a poor Newspoll result might render any talk of tentative upswings entirely redundant. We will see.

I am off to watch the ghastly ABC talkfest that is #QandA, which tonight features Attorney-General George Brandis as the chief token Liberal amid the usual stacked panel of pinko sycophants and Australia-hating left-wing filth.

It should at least prove a more edifying spectacle than last week’s all-out brawl between the cringeworthy Jacqui Lambie — whose credentials, based on her performance last week, as the stupidest person ever elected to an Australian House of Parliament are well and truly intact — and Muslim activist Yassmin Abdel-Magied.

For once Lambie was right, although her apparent bogan tic of terminating every sentence with “that’s BOOLSHITT!” wore very thin by the end of the show: even so, the suggestion by Abdel-Magied that Islam is a “feminist” religion, and that criticisms of Sharia law are based “in ignorance” when women, children and babies are routinely raped and slaughtered under regimes predicated solely on the strictest possible interpretation of Sharia law, well and truly deserved the tsunami of condemnation it elicited in the mainstream press and in social media this week.

I’m the first to draw the distinction between moderate Muslims and Islamic extremists — something the far Right refuses to acknowledge even exists, and which the Left roundly dismisses as “racism” and bigotry” — but the simple truth is that graphic videos of women being raped and/or beheaded by Muslim men, in some cases apparently with the sanction of the Islamic states involved, are readily available online and are more than enough proof that if anyone is delusional, it’s the young Abdel-Magied who has had the benefit of a free life in Australia, not the sisters she dishonours with talk of “feminist” Islam.

After all, if her words contained a grain of truth, there would be no women from Muslim backgrounds in Australia (or any other free country) at all: life would be too good where they came from to abandon.

So let’s dispense with the nonsense that the ABC is in any way impartial or factual by providing a platform for such views, and condemn whomever approved the expenditure at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for the taxpayer-funded field trip to Muslim countries for Abdel-Magied that was — and let’s call it for what it was — an attempt to curry favour with yet another minority group whilst the interests of the majority, who largely pay for such ridiculous trifles, are ignored.

 

Bernardi Can Kill The Liberals, Non-Labor Government, And Himself

ANY GUTLESS FOOL, knowing they can’t win a lower house seat, can “start a party” by standing in the Senate and rustling preferences to bolster single-digit support, but it takes a special kind of cowardice to do it by deserting a party that six months ago delivered up a six-year term. If Cory Bernardi leaves the Liberals to do just that, he stands to kill off the Liberal Party, the prospects for non-Labor government in Australia and, eventually, himself.

It’s a short post from me this morning: I suspect we will be returning to this theme very soon, and possibly as soon as tonight.

But the apparent putsch by Cory Bernardi to desert the Liberal Party to set up his “Australian Conservatives” party — fortified with cash from mining billionaire Gina Rinehart, if media reports are to be believed — seems set to occur very shortly, and as much as readers know I despair the inability of conservative forces in Australia to get their shit together, this is simply not the way to go about it.

(I emphasise, conservative forces: not whack-job right wing garbage almost exclusively focused on Muslim immigration, abortion, and vilifying homosexuals en route to stopping gay marriage — a measure I don’t support either).

Thanks to the endlessly updating speculation that filled large portions of yesterday’s press, we know Bernardi will likely stand alone if he walks out on the Liberals: the likeliest fellow travellers in any defection — Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz and Queensland MP George Christensen — have both ruled out joining their colleague on the crossbenches, for now at any rate.

Anyone seeking their five minutes in the limelight can try to start a new “party” by running for a Senate berth, armed with the knowledge they could never assemble a majority in a lower house electorate, and using a strategy of preference harvesting to bolster single-digit direct support; we’ve seen it time, and time, and time again.

But it takes a special kind of cowardice to use the money, resources and manpower of another party to secure a fresh six-year Senate term, and then “start a party” by biting the hand that fed you and walking out.

Bernardi, to be clear, is a creature of the Liberal Party, whatever he suggests to the contrary: he has been the president of the SA division, a vice-president federally and, of course, a Senator in SA for some years.

And the idea that walking out on the party that gave him a profile and a career will somehow empower the millions of frustrated voters looking for genuine action on mainstream conservative policies is fatuous, to say the least.

The Liberal Party has its problems — and we have explored them at great length in this column — but nothing a change of leader, a sweeping cleanout of the ranks of its advisers, a few astute preselection changes and some backbone wouldn’t fix.

To make those changes would take great effort, hard work, the making of enemies and the termination of the careers of many vested interests; the reward, however, would be to restore the Liberal Party to its role as the mainstream conduit for conservative sentiment that I passionately believe informs the outlook of a majority of the Australian electorate.

In recent years, this connection between party and base has certainly become strained, to put it most kindly; the present occupant of the federal leadership wears a heavy share of the responsibility, but he is not alone: the risk-averse advisors, the state Liberal Parties filled with deadwood and/or factional hacks, and the perennial desire to offer all things to all people — meaning the party actually ends up pleasing nobody, with the leaching of its support the most tangible consequence — have all played a part.

I note that Bernardi, despite his position on the backbench, has remained largely mute in terms of mass communication where any cogent conservative agenda is concerned; it’s hardly a state secret to advocate for a proper slate of conservative policies in government, and the inevitable conclusion is that no such platform is in the offing.

And it is dubious as to how many of the 50,000 people he has “signed up” will follow him if he walks out on the Liberals: as I noted some time ago, I too signed up — to keep an eye on what Bernardi was up to — and no doubt a fair slab of that 50,000 bloc was doing the same thing. Continue reading

Newspoll 54-46 To Labor: Early Days, But Turnbull Is Doomed

THE stupidest of many ill-advised statements by Malcolm Turnbull is the excuse of “30 losing Newspolls” he gave to justify knifing his predecessor; today’s is the seventh straight “losing” Newspoll, featuring awful numbers for the government on almost every line, and Turnbull’s abysmal ratings stuck where they dwelt for much of his first hapless stint as Liberal leader: in the toilet. It is early in the day, but this poll makes it clear. Turnbull is finished.

You know there is something very, very wrong when a Prime Minister whose personal approval rating increases by a solitary point — despite two-thirds of the respondents to a reputable poll declining to express approval — and leading a government on track for an electoral belting has a pack of sycophants in tow disseminating the message that he’s roaring back into contention because he “stood up” to Donald Trump: never mind the fact that the rest of the world almost unanimously recognises that the PM was badly humiliated, and in front of a global audience to boot.

Yes, Malcolm Turnbull’s approval rating in Newspoll increased this week, from 32% to 33%. Truly.

But sarcasm aside, the first Newspoll for 2017 (published in The Australian, which you can access here) might be easier for the Turnbull camp to spin its way out of if not for the fact that it lands squarely in the middle of ReachTel and Essential Media findings that have been posted over the last month; the headline finding that the Coalition trails Labor by eight points after preferences is now disturbingly consistent across all of the polls that have been in the field so far this year.

The fact Newspoll is generally the most accurate makes this result even worse.

And with the 4.4% swing to the ALP this poll represents from the July election — handing 20 seats to Labor if replicated at an election and with them, government with a majority of 24 seats — it is obvious that Malcolm Turnbull has a very big problem indeed.

There are some interesting messages coming out of this poll, and Turnbull isn’t the only one who ought to be contemplating his next move in life, but more on that shortly.

But at a time of year that is often the friendliest for governments — the silly season, when most people switch off politics, and re-emerge feeling pretty good about themselves and the state of the world* — it does rather appear that for the second year in a row, Turnbull has blown the easiest opportunity on offer to get a bit of momentum going before the business of government cranks back up to top gear.

Another travel expenses scandal, another disgraced minister, another reshuffle that may or may not turn out to have been astutely crafted (for once), the embarrassment of the leaks about the Trump call, the botched disclosure of Turnbull’s personal $1.75m donation to the Liberal Party: it’s getting to be a fairly tired old story, and there is every indication — and not just from the polls, if you talk to enough people on the street, well away from the surrealistic bubble politicians occupy — that the electorate has completely switched off from Malcolm Turnbull.

The personal approval numbers — for both Turnbull and opposition “leader” Bill Shorten — are abjectly pathetic, to the point anyone on either side who crows about them has a psychiatric problem; Turnbull elicited approval from 33% of Newspoll respondents; Shorten, 32%. It doesn’t really matter that Turnbull picked up a point, or that Shorten dropped a couple. There are no trends here aside from the fact voters generally want to throw the Turnbull government out of power. More than half of Newspoll’s respondents disapproved of both.

Similarly, the fact Turnbull continues to lead Shorten on the “preferred PM” measure — by 42% (+1%) to 30% (-2%) — has all the excitement about it of a mildew colony growing spores. A friend of mine (a fellow Carlton Football Club fanatic) has a habit at Carlton games, when we trail the opposition by 50 or 60 points, of sarcastically yelling “Charge!” when the team kicks a behind for a miserable extra point after missing a goal; the anecdote neatly reflects Turnbull’s “progress” on this measure in this survey: negligible to the point of useless.

But aside from the headline 54-46 finding — which is damning for a government re-elected seven months ago that hasn’t really actually done anything — it is on the primary vote findings in this Newspoll that the real story lies.

With the Coalition registering just 35% (-4% since December), the magnitude of the hole Turnbull has adroitly steered the government into over the past 15 months becomes starkly apparent. No government has ever won an election with 35% of the vote; even Julia Gillard in 2010 — at an election Labor technically lost — managed a sliver better than 37%.

Those votes appear to have gone to One Nation and the “Others” pile (which register 8% and 11% respectively) and, by virtue of Labor’s two-party figure increasing two points to 54%, it is clear that these nominally conservative voters are disinclined to back Turnbull on any basis: the now well-known phenomenon of right-wing electors preferring to banish the Coalition to opposition and endure a term of Labor in office rather than vote for Turnbull at all.

Yet the ALP vote, at 36%, has not increased in this poll, sitting just a solitary point above its level at last year’s election and two points above the belting it suffered at the hands of Tony Abbott in September 2013. Labor is simply not an attractive option for anyone beyond its bare core base.

There are three things that can readily be extrapolated from these figures: one, the support lost to the Coalition may or may not be retrievable, given the ALP has singularly failed to make direct inroads; two, that the problem emanates almost exclusively from Turnbull (and to a lesser extent, the non-performing ministers who hold their posts because they voted for him against Abbott, rather than fielding the best team the Coalition might offer); and three, if the ALP is serious about a return to office, it is going to have to get rid of Bill Shorten and replace him with somebody more attractive to the broader electorate.

Had Mal Brough — a Turnbull appointment that quickly proved very foolish indeed, given the lightning speed with which federal Police raided his house after his return to the ministry — remained on the backbench, it is likely Shorten would have been junked by Labor in late 2015; bereft of credibility and reeling from the Royal Commission into the union movement, ALP hardheads were readying to dump him if he didn’t go quietly. But the Brough raid gave Shorten breathing room, and he survived.

Just as a week can be a long time in politics, it often turns on a dime; and had Brough not been promoted as a reward for his work putting the numbers together for Turnbull’s leadership challenge, or had Turnbull done as this column advised and called a December 2015 election, then the Coalition’s thumping 2013 majority would likely still be intact today — and the government equipped with a lot more insurance against the parlous situation it now contemplates.

I have said many times, including in this column, that a leadership change at the ALP should be interpreted as a sign it is serious about winning an election, and confident it is able to do so. In this sense, there is little for Shorten to be satisfied with in these numbers even though they show Labor comfortably ahead on the two-party measure.

But that’s the point: and however the 54% ALP number is arrived at — low primary vote notwithstanding — it is impossible to crunch these numbers and get any other outcome from them but a crushing election defeat for the Coalition.

I’d never vote for it, but the last thing the Coalition would want is to allow an ALP duumvirate of Tanya Plibersek as leader and Chris Bowen as deputy to get ensconced with a soaring lead in the polls before doing something about its own dire predicament: by that stage, a Labor win would be almost inevitable irrespective of what the Liberals belatedly did about Turnbull.

And this is why a change in the Liberal leadership is likely in the top half of 2017: by Easter or at latest before the budget is what I have been hearing.

The Liberals have been here before with Turnbull: in 2009, in the aftermath of his injudicious “Utegate” own goal, which raised permanent questions of his political nous and judgement. Malcolm’s personal numbers are now no better than they were following that event. The Coalition’s two-party number, having hit 53% soon after he rolled Abbott and at the time he should have called an election but didn’t, has traversed a gentle but almost ceaseless downward path ever since.

During his first stint as Liberal leader, the Coalition’s average two-party result was a 44-56 deficit. On today’s numbers, which are a deadly reconfirmation of that downward slide, Turnbull has almost returned the Coalition to the sorry state in which he left it more than seven years ago.

The frustrating thing — as I have published numerous times, including in several articles so far this year — is that the solutions to the government’s problems, whilst difficult to implement, are blindingly obvious: proper conservative policy, sounder strategy and tactics, and far more effective communications. It is clear that the Coalition in its present guise does not possess the requisite smarts on any of these measures. Today’s Newspoll is proof of it, corroborating to vicious effect other polls that have recorded almost identical findings.

I think we have reached the point that it doesn’t really matter what Turnbull says or does now: out in Voterland, nobody is listening. People couldn’t care less. The Liberal Party needs a new leader. It might be early in the day, with two years or so until an election is due, but the bell is tolling. Turnbull is doomed.

I might not be one of Malcolm Turnbull’s greatest (political) admirers, as readers well know; but as I said to one rusted-on Turnbull insider a week or so ago, I don’t actually want to see the Liberal Party pushed out of government, either.

The only way that outcome can be avoided is by a change of leadership: the transaction risks and costs now easily outweigh the political risks of leaving Turnbull in his post.

But with question marks hanging over almost all of the feasible contenders to replace him, and a karma bus with Turnbull’s name on it seemingly packed and ready to hit the road, the party simply cannot afford to make another mistake if it goes down that track, and whilst I have declined at this stage  to endorse anyone to replace Turnbull, whoever it is that steps up to the challenge is going to have their work cut out if the Coalition’s electoral position is to be retrieved.

Today’s Newspoll is highly unlikely to trigger any kind of leadership challenge when MPs return to Canberra this week.

But it almost certainly represents the point at which the ambit muttering that has been going on and the disparate groups resolving to “do something” about the Liberal leadership are galvanised into more concerted activity aimed at getting rid of their dud leader.

And it might prove to be the trigger for Cory Bernardi to walk out of the Liberal Party to set up his new “conservative” party, if that is what he actually intends to do…who knows on that front? But were it to happen, then the government would probably be dead in the water anyway.

The stupidest thing any political leader can do is to give his or her opponents a poll-driven yardstick with which to beat the living shit out of them if they flounder; Turnbull did precisely that 17 months ago when he nominated a consecutive sequence of “30 losing Newspolls” as his pretext for shafting Tony Abbott.

Today is Malcolm’s very own “losing” Newspoll #7. In a row. If there is one thing that is certain, he won’t get to 30 — or anything remotely approaching it.

Turnbull is finished. Anyone with a different reading of today’s Newspoll numbers should enrol in a remedial English class.

 

*The “state of the world” is an expression…with an eye to the new occupant at 1,600 Pennsylvania Drive, it is not intended to be taken literally today…

Just Mad: Pauline Hanson’s Garbled, Incoherent “Plan” For Australia

FOR someone who’s had years to get her story straight — if, that is, she was ever serious about solving problems she whips up fear and discord around — the agenda Pauline Hanson has unveiled to fix Australia’s alleged ills is a garbled mishmash of contradictory, populist thought bubbles that would do untold damage to this country. It underlines the fact that on matters of consequence, One Nation is just mad, bad, and downright dangerous.

Today’s article deals with a subject — Pauline Hanson — that is a perennial headache, an enigma, and a national embarrassment sprinkled with tiny kernels of justification; that said, the position of this column is (and always will be) that Hanson and her One Nation party, which attracts extremists, nutcases and ordinary folk who are fed up with mainstream politics in equal measure, must be neutralised and defeated at all costs.

Regular readers know that one of the central criticisms I have levelled at Hanson (who I know personally) is that she has always been adept at identifying “problems” — Aborigines, Asians, Muslims, single mothers, dole bludgers — but when it comes to offering “solutions,” Hanson has traditionally had nothing meaningful to say.

Until now.

I have read the rather generous profile piece being run in the state-based Murdoch mastheads today (and one in The Australian, too), in which Hanson outlines a manifesto (for want of a more suitable term) to “fix” Australia that — to be completely blunt — is a recipe for laying waste to it rather than rendering any remotely beneficial change.

Perhaps we should have been content to let her rail on about “problems,” and forget about seeking the “solutions” that might have spared her the criticism of being just another empty-handed troublemaker, content to foment paranoia and discord, whilst selling little more than snake oil and baseless prejudice.

Either way, the onus is now on the major parties — and the Liberal Party in particular — to systematically dismantle Hanson’s program and to show, unequivocally, that far from saving Australia it would, in fact, virtually destroy it.

Before we get started, I should remind readers that this column did in fact call for the Queensland LNP to strike a preference deal with One Nation for the looming state election (see here and here); whilst I stand by that call, it should be in no way construed or misrepresented as an endorsement.

Whether you like it or not, a disproportionate number of Coalition votes are fuelling the rise of One Nation, in the same way a disproportionate number of Labor votes fuelled the growth of the Communist Party Greens; whilst One Nation is a very different creature to the Liberal Party, the two are closer than One Nation is to the ALP, in the way Labor and the Greens are similarly closer than the Greens to the Liberals. It is high time the Coalition focused on discrediting the relationship between Labor and the Greens, ensuring as many One Nation votes as possible return to it on preferences, instead of self-immolating over the issue and becoming paralysed by inertia as a consequence.

But let’s be fair: Pauline Hanson has apparently done as this column has demanded, for the first time in almost 20 years of milking votes and electoral funding from a brazen dog whistle to every redneck idiot in the country, and put some policies on the table.

Let’s see how they stack up.

The 2% EzyTax proposal she apparently pins her economic credibility on is a stinker that has been doing the rounds of those looking for something jingoistic and idiot-simple to flaunt as “tax reform” for decades; I’ve seen it surface, for example, at the fringes of the Liberal Party repeatedly during 27 years as a member.

This silly notion — that literally every transaction of money should attract a 2% tax impost — may or may not lead to a zero-sum equation where total government revenue is concerned, or even yield more revenue; I’m not an economist and even if I was, I don’t have access to the kind of modelling that would provide a ready answer.

But some of the consequences are so blindingly obvious that anyone with a skerrick of understanding of economics — which Ms Hanson and her cohorts clearly do not possess — could foresee them.

In the short term, the effect of this policy would be to convey the appearance to consumers that their disposable incomes had rocketed; after all, income tax would fall to 2%, and GST would be abolished.

This would fuel a boom in imports and a steep hike in the inflation rate, as consumption ballooned; as consequent price growth accelerated to facilitate profit growth, wages would follow suit, locking in the kind of prices-wages spiral that afflicted the Australian economy during the Whitlam years and arguably took a decade to unpick.

In turn, this would leave the Reserve Bank with no choice but to start moving official interest rates steeply higher in a desperate attempt to choke the life out of an unsustainable price-wage-consumption bubble; and the effect of that would be to trigger a vicious contraction in the property market — perhaps inducing a recession — which would see potentially hundreds of thousands of jobs (to say nothing of the hard-earned wealth of Australian workers) lost.

Higher interest rates would also send the Australian dollar sharply higher, again mitigating against economic growth, this time by making Australian exports much more expensive.

Eventually, the adjustment — one way or the other — would be carried through.

But the permanent effects of this policy would be to devalue the savings of the ordinary people Hanson claims to want to help: every time they took money out of the bank, 2% would be added to the withdrawal; every time they deposited money, 2% of it would disappear. Whilst I support GST being extended to everything except healthcare, education, retail banking and housing, it is a paradox that most of those cheering Ms Hanson on are typically opposed to these basic services (and food) being taxed: under her policy, they would be.

With GST abolished, 2% EzyTax would make the states more reliant on Commonwealth handouts, not less, which in turn would make Commonwealth-state relations even more confrontational, and render the two tiers of government more inclined to playing each other off for partisan gain than they already are.

And all of this is merely represents the most obvious adverse effects of 2% EzyTax. There are bound to be countless others. Is this the kind of tax policy a modern, advanced, first-world economy should countenance? I suggest the answer, resoundingly, is “no.”

For a politician purporting to want to roll back the role of the state, Hanson offers other policies that are oxymoronic, to say the least.

She wants couples to be forced to lodge pre-nuptial agreements with the Family Court before they can marry: a ridiculous, unjustifiable imposition that in any case will cause the marriage rate to drop like a stone, in turn fuelling even greater burdens to befall the Court and the welfare system as de facto relationships are easier for people to walk away from, leading to a potential spike in single parent payments, protracted family law litigation, and the like.

(Speaking of children, these agreements are supposed to cover, in advance, arrangements for managing children that result from marriages. Just shake your head and invest in a pack of tarot cards: the reading will have as much chance as any other mechanism of getting that particular piece of silliness right).

She would unapologetically mire Australia in a reputation for sovereign risk, forcing foreign companies who have bought infrastructure assets into compulsory divestiture; it is unknown what Ms Hanson proposes to pay these companies to acquire them, but it’s a fair bet it would be a discount to their fair market value — compounding the dreadful reputation as a place to do business she openly advocates shackling Australia with.

In any case, government debt — another Hanson priority — would need to blow out exponentially in order to fund an acquisition program that would likely run to trillions of dollars.

With no sense of irony, Hanson claims she would offer a taxpayer-funded program to get young Australians into apprenticeships, apparently ignorant of the fact such schemes have existed for many years.

There is no detail offered around the notion of offering manufacturers tax incentives “to create Aussie jobs (sic),” but I would note that a) jobs presently filled by immigrants on 457 visas are typically jobs that others refuse to take, and that more to the point, b) the deleterious effects of Ms Hanson’s broader economic “vision” are likely to be so dire as to substantially reduce the base of potential employers in the first place.

Hanson says she would cull the number of politicians in Australia. How? As “Prime Minister” she would have no jurisdiction over state or local governments, and there isn’t a syllable in her announcement advocating, say, the removal of state governments and a streamlined two-tier system of governance.

Readers know I have advocated a referendum to abolish the “nexus” imposed by S24 of the Constitution (which dictates the House of Representatives be roughly double the size of the Senate) in order to reduce the number of Senators and increase the number of electorates in the lower house to enable better representation of a growing population, but this kind of complex argument appears beyond the capacity and/or inclination of Ms Hanson and her cohorts to attempt.

In other words, any move to implement this one-liner of populist nonsense is likely to bog down in constitutional litigation, a constitutional crisis, or both.

Limiting immigration is a classic calling card of far-Right entities appealing to base prejudices on the fringe of the electorate that raise more problems than they solve. With an ageing population (and fewer people to pay the taxes that support government expenditure), Australia relies on its immigration program for its viability. We do not have the critical mass of the 320 million people of the United States, or even of the 65 million people in the United Kingdom, but we do have a population that is rapidly becoming top-heavy with old people. A more credible proposal would be to alter the immigration mix to achieve a heavier emphasis on skills and less emphasis on family reunion, but even this straightforward distinction appears to be too much for Hanson and her party to draw.

And of course — as a token sop to racists (yes, racists) — full head coverings (read: the burqa or niqab) would be banned. I don’t like the sight of people covered from head to toe either. But this pledge, rather than ranking well down the pecking order of One Nation’s priorities, is in fact a headline act near the very top of the bill.

Ms Hanson wants a Royal Commission to determine whether “Islam” is a political ideology or a religion; this half-arsed suggestion is perhaps the greatest attempt to hoodwink the gullible and the stupid in this country in some time.

It fails to draw the distinction between militant, radical Islam (which aims to destroy the liberal democratic societies of the West) and more moderate, orthodox strains of Muslim doctrine (whose adherents don’t want to hurt anyone, and simply want to be left alone). Yet once again, the idiot-simple appeal to bigoted lunatics appears to hold more sway at One Nation than any attempt to prosecute a nuanced, finely argued case, separating extreme elements from the harmless, and coming up with constructive ways to deal with the former whilst leaving the latter well enough alone.

Hanson says she would introduce an identity card to end welfare fraud: not to stamp out identity fraud, which costs Australia billions of dollars per year, but to single out welfare recipients and to brand them all as bludgers and criminals who are on the take. In practical terms, this means those doing the wrong thing will simply have more hoops to jump through to get their welfare cheques (and as surely as night follows day, they will be prepared to jump through them).

There are indeed those who are rorting the welfare system to the cost of both working Australians and of those genuinely needy people who can’t help themselves, who might get more assistance if the Commonwealth wasn’t also supporting the indolent and the unmotivated. But this measure will not make a shred of difference (aside from adding to compliance costs) and, as I said, the real scourge of identity fraud would be relegated to an afterthought.

Apparently, One Nation wants to build more dams, railways, and ports. With what? After its compulsory asset acquisition program bankrupts the federal government, and sources of private sector capital flee Australia in panic, there won’t be any need for railways and ports because the country’s trade relationships will have been destroyed.

As for dams, which I support, good luck with that. After all, if One Nation can’t make a sensible case for anything else Hanson says it is advocating, there is no foreseeable way it can engage the Greens in a fight over damming rivers and come out on top.

On and on it goes; we could be here all day, if the blowtorch was applied to every aspect of this mad, bad, dangerous “vision” for Australia’s future, which in any case is nothing more than a step-by-step recipe to destroy the country Ms Hanson claims she wants to “save.”

Her adherents will lash out at my remarks, claiming they are just a manifestation of the “panic” sweeping major parties that are scared of her; I simply say that the points I have made are merely the tip of the iceberg in any concerted, rational, fact-based smackdown of an agenda that is lunatic in nature and a guaranteed way to wreck anything in its path.

And of course, the articles I’ve linked from the press today contain a healthy dose of the victim mentality on which Ms Hanson invariably trades; she’s had knockdowns. She’s been in prison. They haven’t beaten her. She’s got up again. They can throw everything at her. Blah, blah, blah. The irony is that nobody has ever really subjected Ms Hanson to the full force of a frontal assault over everything she stands for because until now, there has rarely (if ever) been a package of “solutions” put forward by her to take aim at.

Now, however, she has presented a much bigger target for her opponents to attack, and attack it they must: for these ideas are nothing short of ridiculous, and constitute a very dangerous delusion indeed about how this country works — and how the issues that face it can be managed.

It is true that Australia has problems, and readers have seen me repeatedly advocate a program for moderate, mainstream conservative solutions that would be difficult enough for a proper conservative government to implement in the face of irresponsible populism and blather from the likes of Bill Shorten and Labor, but which in any case are vastly more realistic and practicable than anything included in Pauline Hanson’s plan.

I have said before and will say again that Hanson herself isn’t a bad person; I genuinely think she means well. But she is very limited in both her ability to grasp critical issues and comprehend the ramifications of what she proposes, and whether she likes it or not, her voice — and the message of One Nation — are forces of destruction and conflict, rather than agents of anything positive or useful.

The agenda she has unveiled is nothing more than a garbled mishmash of contradictory, populist thought bubbles that would inflict great damage on Australia’s institutions of governance, its economy, its standing in the world, and on Australian society itself.

Hanson has had decades to get her story straight, and if this is the best she can come up with, perhaps it would be better for all concerned if she slunk off into retirement like so many people of her age are doing.

Certainly, the very supporters looking to anyone who will listen to them would be best served if she and her party simply disappeared. It is just one more irony among many that her own supporters stand to be the hardest hit by the policies she now says she will pursue if ever (God forbid) she is elected to a position from which to implement them.

In the final analysis, One Nation is just mad: the Hanson announcement this weekend sounds a clarion call to all parties to tackle this menace once and for all, and to drive from Australian politics a scourge that has been permitted to fester and ensconce itself as a legitimate offering for far too long.