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…

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. 🙂

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…

More Newspoll Misery: Turnbull Mired In Losing Position

IN NEWS with which Malcolm Turnbull will be sorely familiar, his government seems welded to a losing position; today’s “triumph” — a tiny lift in support to 48% — is the sixth in a rerun of the “30 losing Newspolls” Turnbull used to justify knifing Tony Abbott. His personal numbers are the lowest since 2009. Solutions are difficult, but obvious, as they were under Abbott. Unless Turnbull finds a way to enact them, his papers will soon be stamped.

It seems ridiculous, really, that one year ago, the Coalition was positioned to crush Labor and potentially gain a majority in both Houses of Parliament had a double dissolution then been held; the first chink in Malcolm Turnbull’s armour had been exposed by a raid by Australian Federal Police on the home of former minister Mal Brough, yes. But the initial effects of Turnbull’s ascension to the Prime Ministership — compounded by the scathing report into the union movement tabled by Dyson Heydon, which directly damaged Labor “leader” Bill Shorten — saw the Liberals with enough support across all reputable polls to maintain their 30-seat majority in the lower house (and probably increase it) whilst making the Senate a tantalising proposition indeed.

In the ensuing twelve months, many of the same mistakes made by the Abbott government have continued to be made — albeit by a different group of people — whilst Turnbull has spent much of the year giving the distinct impression of a man determined to find new ways to tank at an election (his excruciatingly pointless taxation “debate” a salutary case in point) with the pathetic two-seat victory on 2 July more reward, judged objectively, than his efforts probably deserved.

And it seems that for all the pointers emerging across Western democracies that the majority of people want to be listened to and provided with leadership by their governments — not fed elitist bullshit and told how to speak, and think, and behave, whilst being prioritised below minorities and foreigners — those who govern Australia at present simply refuse to heed the message.

Clearly, I have been far too busy of late with other obligatory things to have posted as regularly as I would like, and we have missed a couple of the Newspolls published by The Australian since the 2 July election was held.

But in one sense, we haven’t missed much; in what is quickly becoming a case of “another fortnight, another Newspoll shocker,” the Turnbull government is now six polls into an increasingly likely rerun of the “30 losing Newspolls” its leader used to justify overthrowing Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, and whilst there was some direction and strategy provided under Abbott on the watch of the redoubtable Peta Credlin (even if it was hopelessly flawed and misdirected), under Turnbull it is difficult to even acknowledge that.

Newspoll’s finding (and you can access The Australian‘s coverage here) that Coalition support, after preferences, has increased by one percentage point over the past fortnight to 48% will be cheered by some in the Liberal bunker and among some of its public mouthpieces and so-called strategists.

The reality, however, is that this degree of support (or the lack of it), corroborated by all of the other recent polls, amounts to a 2.4% swing to the ALP, which if repeated at an election would cede at least 12 seats to Labor and with them, government.

Coalition hardheads, noting their 39% primary vote has actually risen a point in this poll, will point instead to Labor’s 36% (-2% over the fortnight) and insist this level of support is too low to win an election, but of course thanks to the system of compulsory preferential voting we use in Australia, 36% will suffice if the ALP can harvest enough preferences in enough seats: and with the Communist Party Greens polling 10% and probably half the 15% recorded by “Others” in this Newspoll also likely to flow to the ALP, the flaw in this kind of logic is a fatal one.

Shorten, as he has deservedly always been, remains vastly unpopular, with just 34% of Newspoll’s respondents approving of the job he is doing as Labor “leader.”

But as The Australian correctly notes, Shorten’s net satisfaction rating has improved from -35% in January to -17% now; and — incredibly — he is actually more popular than Turnbull, of whom 32% of respondents expressed approval for a net satisfaction score of -23%.

Irrespective of the woes that befell the Abbott government and no matter how appropriate critiques made of that administration might be — in this column as elsewhere — it isn’t hard to spot the central defect in the current government: the Prime Minister himself.

A series of abysmal ministerial appointments that exploded in his face have been compounded with a steady supply of ongoing political embarrassment (George Brandis, take a bow) in an area of personnel management that is Turnbull’s direct responsibility, and his alone.

The appalling directionlessness of the top half of 2016 — the “reform” of the Senate notwithstanding — persisted into and throughout the glacial federal election campaign which, as I noted earlier, was probably rewarded with more than it deserved in the form of outright victory by a single seat. Indeed, had Shorten not overreached in the final fortnight with the wildly dishonest “Mediscare” attack, I think Turnbull would in fact have been beaten.

His arrogant, ranting performance when he belatedly fronted the cameras on election night (which may or may not have been fuelled by copious amounts of champagne, as some scribes at the time suggested) further alienated many voters who had already turned on him, or who had supported the government with pegs on their noses.

And there has, to be sure, been very little for the government to crow about in the five months since.

There are those in the government who think the passage of the Registered Organisations laws and the bill to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission are a triumph from which the revival of their electoral fortunes will soon flow, and who will also point to the tiny rise in the Coalition’s vote in this poll as “proof.”

But those who comprehend such things know that by agreeing to a two-year lead-in for the restored ABCC — irrespective of whether Derryn Hinch or Turnbull himself proposed such an idiocy — the government might as well not have bothered; in two years’ time, unless something drastic happens, Australia could well be weeks away from returning the ALP to office, and if Labor wins the next election, its CFMEU masters and other filth at Trades Hall will ensure the ABCC never sees the light of day.

The sad truth — and I speak as a conservative nominally sitting on the mainstream Right — is that three years after its big win in 2013, this government has progressed from accident-prone and ineffective under Abbott to a living, breathing electoral time bomb under Turnbull, whose approval ratings now closely resemble the unflattering (and terminal) levels of support he recorded late in 2009 before a successful leadership challenge from Abbott put him out of his misery.

The solutions are obvious, if difficult to implement: a focus on fixing the structural abyss in the federal budget and finally paying down some of the obscene national debt. Slashing extravagant Gillard-era social spending, on programs and constituencies that would never vote Liberal or National in a pink fit. Banishing the scourge of political correctness, in every form, from the government’s handiwork. Abolishing (or enacting a proper revision of) Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act. Drawing up a program of modest labour market reforms to restore some of the flexibility wiped out by the ALP’s union-dictated “Fair” Work laws.

The list goes on, but the point is that the Coalition has spent too long (in opposition and in government) cowering before the onslaught from Labor and the Greens: too timid to stand its ground on what are bread and butter Coalition issues, and too timid to stand up to the slithering creep of socialism and big government spending that panders to the constituencies of the Left.

Before Tony Abbott was knifed by Turnbull, I suggested in this column that the government should simply reintroduce every piece of legislation rejected by the Senate in its original form, inviting it to be rejected a second time, racking up perhaps dozens of double dissolution triggers in the process: a messy way to govern, perhaps, but any double dissolution election would be fought on a substantial and wide-ranging program that a joint sitting would pass to transform Australia.

Instead, a poor campaign focused on an empty slogan masquerading as an “economic plan” — “jobs and growth” — received an appropriately tepid return that was insufficient to make a joint sitting of Parliament worth bothering with at all.

In any case, the two bills — useless as the ABCC one probably is — that might have been passed at such a sitting are now finalised, and the government has to start from scratch for an agenda for the coming two or two-and-a-half years.

Will the penny drop? Who knows. But media reports last night, suggesting Turnbull’s government was set to abolish the Abbott-era Green Army environmental initiative and look to implement some revamped form of a carbon tax, are hardly encouraging: a carbon tax has been proven over a decade to be absolute political poison. The bodies it has claimed are strewn across both sides of the political divide. One of them, in 2009, was Turnbull’s. It beggars belief that he could be so inept and suicidal as to revisit it now.

But really, what issues Turnbull does and does not pursue are only half the problem.

The Coalition — and this is an old story, as much as it is an embarrassment — seems incapable of selling anything to the public; it seems incapable of prosecuting an effective attack on its opponents that has any impact at all, let alone any lasting impact; it is wrong-footed and outsmarted by a greasy, smarmy, duplicitous and downright contemptible specimen in Shorten, whose path to the Prime Ministership might yet be paved by the tactical and strategic ineptitude of the Coalition. And it does seem, as I have heard quite a bit around the party of late, to be not quite sure of what it actually stands for.

For all that, it also seems incapable of breaking the finger-shaking, totalitarian culture of the Left — dictating to voters what they should say, and think, and do — that took root in this country under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, and which has been permitted to become more and more deeply entrenched as a consequence.

All of this should be called out for what it is: the resurgent menace to democracy that is socialism. Instead, it is treated with kids gloves by the Liberal Party, lest it offend anyone by standing up to it.

Meanwhile, all over the world — Brexit and the ascension of Donald Trump to the US presidency illustrating the point — silent majorities are signalling in the clearest possible terms that not only have they had enough, but that they will no longer tolerate it.

So here we are: six losing Newspolls into a sequence that may yet stretch to 30. The Coalition has its problems, and the solutions will take more intestinal fortitude to implement than we have witnessed from it since John Howard led it.

My guess is that Turnbull will be dead meat long before he is allowed to rack up 30 shockers in a row, but you never know; either way, there is little point in junking him unless the party is prepared to fix the misfiring apparatus that is the government it continues to form.

Yet unless Turnbull moves to do exactly that — starting with the substantial removal of dead wood from his ministry and a sweeping overhaul of the government’s back of house — his papers will soon enough be stamped. Australia needs Bill Shorten as Prime Minister like Argentina needed Galtieri, but if things don’t change quickly, “our Galtieri” is exactly what we will get: and the Coalition, it pains me to say, will be culpable for it.

 

Newspoll: Clock Ticking on Turnbull And Shorten

WITH NEWSPOLL showing a consistent four-point lead to the ALP after preferences — and with Essential Research showing an identical result — it is growing clear that the modest swing to Labor these surveys have shown since the July election is solid; only an imbecile in Malcolm Turnbull’s position would conclude a full term as Prime Minister is guaranteed, whilst the opposition leader is likely to be a casualty of his own “success” at some point.

Just a really quick note from me this morning; my weekly commute to and from Brisbane is now finished for the year (thank you Jesus in your mercy!) and whilst this will mean additional time for posting comment pieces, as I flagged at the weekend, today I just want to make a few points on the latest Newspoll — which, by any measure, isn’t much chop for the Coalition.

And I will, at some stage, address the issue of leadership more comprehensively, for I think Malcolm Turnbull is already a dead man walking, and noxious little Billy Bullshit isn’t all that far behind him.

Yet the latest 52-48 lead to the opposition picked up by Newspoll (again) underlines the gradual downward drift, punctuated by the occasional mild spike — like a gust of wind — that has characterised the Coalition’s polling trend that we have been talking about since the beginning of the year; in one sense I admit the timing of one such “spike” to coincide with election day is useful, but to emerge with literally a one-seat majority and keep sinking is hardly a healthy state of affairs when you have achieved nothing of consequence during your tenure anyway.

And this is the situation Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull confronts.

Essential, for its part, has settled at 52-48 for most of the time since the election on 2 July, providing a useful corroboration of the Newspoll results, and whilst that particular survey rated Labor as high as 53-47 a week ago, the consistency of these polls overall is striking.

I’m not going to run through every index in Newspoll’s findings — there isn’t time today, and we might do so next fortnight — but in one sense, with Turnbull’s personal approval rating now below 30%, there’s no need to do so: based on Newspoll’s findings Turnbull is now less popular than he was when thrown out of the Liberal leadership seven years ago, and this eventual reversal of the stellar, messianic numbers he recorded both before and immediately after returning to that role a year ago is exactly what was forecast in this column, and repeatedly held up as a warning to the Liberal Party not to entertain the delusion of “Malcolm the messiah.”

A swing of 2.5% against the government is easily enough to cost the Coalition office at an election, and it wouldn’t need to be uniform to do so; the only quibble is by how much. I’d give Labor 80 seats in the lower house — enough for a 10-seat majority — and considering any serious movement against the government is likely to become more, not less pronounced, the prospect of a change of government on current parameters has to be considered likely even two and a half years from the next election.*

Newspoll — having gotten within a tenth of a percentage point of the actual result before the election — has demonstrated yet again that its findings cannot be readily dismissed as “yet another poll;” whether it can or not, Turnbull — who used a run of 30 consecutive polling deficits in this survey to justify a leadership coup against Tony Abbott — is peculiarly a hostage to it, and can blame nobody for using the inevitable bad numbers he was always certain to eventually record as grounds for a similar move against himself.

I think Turnbull is a dead man walking; the only questions are a) when he gets dumped, and b) whether the change is to Abbott or a third option such as Christian Porter or (the treacherous) Julie Bishop.

The so-called triumph at the weekend of moderate forces allied to Turnbull, in preserving anti-democratic processes within the NSW division of the Liberal Party, is a poor look, as is the thoroughly unnecessary debacle over legalising Adler shotguns that Turnbull recently brought upon himself in an avoidable embarrassment that helped nobody.

But Bill Shorten — viewed by some as a great success — is likely to be a casualty of any persistent ALP polling lead, too.

Shorten did not win the July election, and with barely a rise in the Labor vote worth crowing about was the beneficiary of minor party preference rather than the generator of some seismic shift.

Shorten has succeeded, however, in one thing — the complete trivialisation of retail politics in Australia — and whilst he would probably suggest he has taken serious positions on critical issues such as healthcare and education, the simple fact is that the Shorten “leadership” of the ALP has simply been an exercise in shit-stirring to the complete exclusion of realistically practicable alternatives that might be taken seriously by the wider public.

If Labor continues to record modest leads across the polls, the ALP will dispense with its charlatan of a “leader” as soon as it thinks a return to the Treasury benches is in prospect: it is one thing to cause trouble for the sake of it, on dubious points of integrity, but it is another matter altogether to make a serious charge at an election win by offering little more than $100bn in tax increases and a pack of lies to back them up.

My tip is that the Liberal Party will act first; probably in the first half of next year, and if it does, it will be Shorten’s cue to start counting his days on death row: for just like counting sheep, it will be about the only worthwhile use of his time he has made since the awful day Labor made him its “leader” in the first place.

I’ll be back with something lengthier in the next day or so.

 

*Owing to constitutional considerations arising from the double dissolution election on 2 July, the next election — if the current Parliament runs full term — must be finalised, including the return of writs, before 30 June 2019; this means the last possible election date is likely to be in early to mid-May 2019, so even an election on term is now just two and a half years away at the very most.