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.

 

Dumping Shorten Still On The Cards For Labor

A REPORT in The Australian shows that despite denials, Anthony Albanese remains in ALP plans as a possible leader at this year’s election; the revelation comes after Coalition scandals stayed the execution of incumbent Bill Shorten late last year, and shows that as recently as February, Labor was ready to dump him. With his rank unpopularity and the Liberals’ declining poll position, Labor will junk Shorten if it thinks change will seal victory.

It’s a powerful pointer to the periodic potency of spin over substance, but one of the facts that was lost on average punters in the hype about the ALP’s “democratic” and “inclusive” leadership selection rules — unilaterally introduced by Kevin Rudd to insulate himself from coup attempts by the colleagues who hated the sight of him, lest he won the 2013 election — is that despite the posturing and positioning of this cynical measure as an internal Labor “reform,” those leadership rules can be set aside by a simple majority vote of ALP MPs.

And late last year — if present “leader” Bill Shorten refused to resign, as he was set to do in November — the Labor caucus was prepared to do precisely that, as the fallout from the Royal Commission into the union movement and a raft of other scandals had seemingly rendered Shorten’s position untenable and, combined with the change in the leadership of the Liberal Party, looked set to invite the slaughter of the ALP if new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull took the government to an early election.

As I have said before, the story I broke in this column that Shorten was set to resign was grounded entirely in factual information gleaned from (and cross-checked with) multiple sources, and it is a stark illustration of the infinitely shifting nature of political life that he was able to dig in and survive in his post.

Personally, it was enormously satisfying to see Shorten spend a good deal of time in the couple of weeks following our article denying he was about to quit or be dumped; forced to confront the inevitable consequence of lacklustre performance combined with the eventual effects of a string of poorly handled issues and bad headlines — most deriving from Shorten himself — it seemed likely that the vapid, vacuous “leader” who has made no secret of the delusion that he is “destined” to be Prime Minister would instead be forced onto his sword in an ignominious humiliation and denial of that dream.

But politics is a ceaselessly changing business; the question of who would replace Shorten if he was squeezed out was quickly resolved by a public revolt against deputy leader Tanya Plibersek’s (successful) campaign to deny Labor MPs a conscience vote on the fraught issue of gay marriage: in a characteristically illiberal piece of handiwork, Plibersek saw to it that ALP members would be forced to support the change whether they liked it or not, and disqualified herself as the heir-presumptive in the process.

From that point, Anthony Albanese — who had carried more than 60% of the members’ vote against Shorten in the post-2013 leadership contest, only to be overruled by the party room — became the only potential replacement during this term of Parliament.

And the raid conducted on the home of former Special Minister of State Mal Brough, in relation to the ongoing investigation into the tawdry Peter Slipper affair sealed, for the time being, Shorten’s undeserved survival in the Labor leadership, as a united opposition assault on the government over the alleged misconduct of its ministers was launched.

Of course, it would quickly emerge that Brough was not the only target available to the ALP on this front, and five ministerial departures and a major reshuffle later, there are still signs this attack may continue to bear fruit.

2016 has been marked by the decline of the Coalition’s standing across the contingent of reputable opinion polls that are regularly conducted, a movement that has been accompanied by the collapse of Turnbull’s once-stellar personal popularity ratings, and whilst Shorten’s own numbers have correspondingly recovered to some degree, he continues to trail Turnbull by some 20 points on the “preferred PM” measure, and continues to record net personal approval figures in the -20% cohort even as Labor’s average standing across the polls, after preferences, is beginning to indicate a winning position once more.

It is fairly obvious Shorten is depressing support for the ALP, and probably acting to suppress its overall position, which could well see the party further ahead of the government on the two-party measure.

And whilst former Prime Minister Tony Abbott may indeed have won an election with the kind of entrenched deep unpopularity now endured by Shorten, the precedent of Abbott being chopped down as PM after a protracted period of poor polling for the government probably mitigates any comfort or claim to be entitled to contest an election that Shorten might seek to draw from it.

A very unpopular Prime Minister has no store of public goodwill to draw on when the numbers go sour: so as it happened to Abbott, so too it would to Shorten in the same situation.

The Australian today is carrying a story that, whilst ostensibly noting denials of the claim that Labor was moving to replace Shorten with Albanese, sets out many of the same pieces of information that underpinned my own story on this matter back in October: the NSW Right looking to switch its allegiance to Albanese; the broader ALP Right reconciled to the prospect of another leader from the Left; and significantly in this case, the “mutterings” it alludes to are dated to February: before the Royal Commission/Brough fiascos had fully died down, but after the slide in Coalition (and Turnbull) poll numbers had commenced.

And today’s story in The Australian also provides a link to a piece detailing internal research conducted by the ALP in February which concluded Shorten was a “dead weight” on the party’s electoral prospects; at the time, Labor was facing the loss of perhaps a dozen seats as the Coalition continued to ride high on the honeymoon effect of its own leadership change. But today, as support for the government and the Prime Minister continues to slip, even the mainstream polling undertaken since then is sufficient to validate that internal assessment of Shorten, and to reinforce the notion he is a handbrake on the party’s ability to build support.

I have thought for most of this year that whilst the risk Shorten could become Prime Minister is real — and, if he is allowed to remain in his post, growing — that the likeliest outcome would be that if Labor thought it would lose against Turnbull, it would allow Shorten to lead it into battle: and to allow him to be destroyed by the ensuing defeat.

But as readers have also heard me suggest several times, if Labor moves on Shorten, then all bets are off: replacing Shorten would be a sign the ALP seriously thinks it can win an election, and if that situation eventuates, the last thing it needs is an unmitigated liability trashing its ability to maximise the number of extra seats it might snatch from the government.

Albanese’s insistence that The Australian‘s journalists did not ring him to check the story are a red herring and should be ignored: for one thing, there are plenty of people in Canberra who are able to provide authentic information about subterranean goings-on without the need to speak to the potential beneficiaries of those activities, and for another, Albanese wouldn’t be the first leader-in-waiting in politics to be deliberately kept in the dark about the grubby details by coup plotters to ensure he could don the cloak of denying any involvement in the act of assassination.

I don’t think Albanese’s is a particularly formidable policy mind, or that he’s a messianic figure around whom the Left and the swinging voters it might attract can coalesce.

But he is more substantial than Shorten, less given to tacky stunts and excruciating dishonesty and hyperbole, and is, in the general sense, infinitely more likeable than the man who is rightly ridiculed and pilloried by many these days as “Billy Bullshit.”

Clearly, this will remain a fluid process until or unless a change is initiated and/or the formal election campaign commences with Shorten still at the helm.

But the fact this has surfaced yet again — just as Labor moves toward a commanding position in the polls despite its liability of a “leader” — suggests a leadership change remains very much a live option.

As soon as Labor is certain dumping Shorten will seal an election win, it will immediately move to do exactly that: and whilst any such judgement about its electoral prospects should be taken with a dose of salt, the smart money remains on the ALP confronting Turnbull with a fresh face of its own: bolstered, ironically, by the effects of a leadership honeymoon period that carried Turnbull himself to the highest heights of public esteem, but on which he failed to capitalise — perhaps, ultimately, to his terminal detriment.

Time will tell. It always does.

 

About Your Resignation Then, Mr Shorten

THE RUTHLESSNESS with which the ALP has tackled the question of its parliamentary leadership for 30 years means that after sustained abysmal polling — particularly, this week’s Newspoll — Bill Shorten’s resignation is not a matter of “if,” but “when;” and should he attempt to defy the consistent message that voters can’t stand the sight of him, that resignation — deferred for now, but not averted — will soon be involuntarily obtained.

In taking the highly unusual — and foolish — step for a political “leader” of offering journalists analysis and comment on Labor’s disastrous numbers in the Newspoll published in The Australian this week, Bill Shorten inadvertently highlighted the fatal truth that must spell the end of his tenure in Labor’s top job.

Desperately seeking to deflect attention from his shocking personal approval figure of just 23% — and the humiliating finding that just 14% of Newspoll respondents preferred him to Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister — Shorten announced to a press pack yesterday that “Labor’s vote is 47-53 (sic) and I think the two-party preferred vote is relevant.”

It is, and therein lies the rub.

A two-party result of 47% at an election (which would be a swing to Labor since 2013 of 0.6%) translates to the ALP winning just three of the 21 seats it needs to reclaim if it is to form a government; such a result would leave the ALP with just 58 of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives and facing the very real prospect of at least a further two terms in opposition before winning government became a realistic proposition.

Such a result would mean that, in round terms, Labor would have completely failed to rebuild after its landslide defeat in 2013.

And that’s assuming the swing was uniform; a 53-47 result at an election could very well see the Turnbull government win a handful of additional seats once state-by-state factors are taken into account.

Six weeks ago, I revealed in this column that Shorten was set to resign his “leadership” of the ALP; clearly that has not as yet happened, despite the (impeccable) information I received suggesting this would occur in November or early this month, and one or two left-leaning readers who clearly regarded it as their mission to split hairs over literal interpretations of dates and events tried, without success, to divert discussion in this column down the tangent of MEAA guidelines and “unfair” representations of Shorten’s position, blissfully oblivious to the fact politics — no matter how immovable some things might seem — is an eternally fluid business.

Indeed, I have been emphatic ever since that as reliable as my sources invariably are, the potential for events to intervene was real: and it isn’t a great stretch to assert that had the twin issues of Ian Macfarlane’s attempted defection from the Liberals to the Nationals and the brouhaha over Mal Brough’s alleged involvement in the Peter Slipper/James Ashby matter not materialised, Shorten may have already been pushed onto his sword.

Yet the party that sacrificed its leader the day an election was called in 1983 to seal a victory that was probably a certainty anyway has shown no tolerance toward likely losers ever since: and having executed many of his predecessors since then, Shorten is unlikely to escape an identical fate.

It has grown abundantly, and increasingly, clear that voters just can’t stand the sight of Bill Shorten: with his approval rating now situated in the toilet at 23% and his disapproval rating at 61%, he is as unpopular as Tony Abbott ever was; preferred as Prime Minister over Turnbull by just 14% of Newspoll respondents, not even the paltry 33% who said they would give their first preference vote to the ALP supports him for the job.

These are damning findings, to be sure. But alarmingly for Shorten and Labor, there remains room for him to fall further, and drag the party down with him.

As a conservative — and notwithstanding my well-documented concerns about Malcolm Turnbull leading the Liberal Party — I would like nothing more than to see Shorten “lead” the ALP into an election campaign; the consequent disaster would be no less than he deserves, and an appropriate return on the spiteful, deceptive rhetoric and destructive tactics he has employed ever since securing his position through a union-controlled vote of MPs that saw him triumph over the wishes of the Labor rank and file.

But the decision isn’t mine, of course, and the ALP — which has shown itself to be utterly ruthless in sacrificing leaders it believes will shepherd its flock to electoral slaughter — is unlikely to permit Shorten to continue in the post much longer.

There is a school of thought that has been given some air of late that having been comprehensively beaten in 2013, Labor will “stand behind” Shorten on the basis all of its existing MPs would hold their seats at an election under his stewardship, but such a contention is based on a false premise.

And in any case, the latest Newspoll was taken at the end of a torrid fortnight for Turnbull and his government: not only did Shorten go backwards at one of the more propitious times Labor has encountered under his “leadership,” but his party failed completely to make any headway whatsoever against the government.

Which takes us neatly back to Shorten’s pronouncement that Newspoll’s key finding was that ALP support, after preferences, sits at 47%.

If — after Mal Brough, Ian Macfarlane, the North Sydney by-election, and lingering distaste for Malcolm Turnbull among the Liberal Party’s more conservative supporters — 47% of the two-party vote is the best Shorten can rustle up, there is absolutely nowhere for him to hide.

Ominously, given his deep and inextricable links to the union movement, the Royal Commission into the unions hasn’t even reported yet, although key figures — most recently CFMEU Victoria chief John Setka — are already being prosecuted on charges arising from evidence the Commission has uncovered.

The inquiry may well have declared that Shorten personally has no case at law to answer as a result of its deliberations, but the potential for him (and Labor) to be hit hard by collateral damage is real, virtually inevitable, and will only be mitigated by a switch to a leader far less personally enmeshed with Trades Hall than Shorten is.

In other words — before we even factor in the lack of any meaningful policy agenda — the prospect things will get worse for Labor under Shorten is all but certain.

Far be it for this column to advocate in the best interests of the ALP, for I couldn’t care less where such considerations are concerned.

But irrespective of whatever delusional ambition or fatally misplaced belief in his suitability as a candidate for high office he fortifies himself with, the simple — and irrefutable — truth is that if Shorten genuinely gives two hoots about his party beyond what he thinks is its capacity to inflict him on this country as its Prime Minister, then his resignation is already past due.

The 47% two-party result Shorten has tried to parade as vindication for his “leadership” should, in fact, be used to crucify him; and Anthony Albanese — already supported by 63% of the Labor membership, which we know from the ballot that took place two years ago — could scarcely manage worse.

As surely as night follows day, the change will come; Shorten’s execution might have been stayed, but has not been averted; and if he won’t go voluntarily, the brutal ruthlessness of the ALP where questions of leadership are concerned points to the matter being taken out of his hands when Parliament — and the ALP caucus — reconvenes in early February.

It’s time to go, Mr Shorten.

 

No, “Picking A Fight” Will Not Save Shorten, Help Labor

IN THE AFTERMATH of our article on Tuesday, opposition “leader” Bill Shorten is being urged by ALP strategists to “pick a fight” with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to save his “leadership” and give Labor a chance to win the looming federal election; it is a last-gasp strategy born of terminal desperation. Labor’s chosen fight starters are tired and predictable, and will cut no ice with a fed-up electorate virtually begging for Shorten to quit his post.

Following the article published in this column on Tuesday, I should just note that the response, online and offline, has been considerable; opinion among readers has been divided — presumably along lines of party support — with one contingent professing satisfaction at Labor “leader” Bill Shorten’s prospective demise, and the other claiming the reports are baseless.

Rather disturbingly, a sizeable proportion of the latter camp has truculently insisted on the naming and publication of the identities of the sources used for the piece, and whilst I intend to dismiss those entreaties with the contempt they deserve — confidential sources are and will remain precisely that, thank you very much — the lynch mob mentality betrayed by this clamouring for insiders with information to be publicly named (and, presumably, abused and pilloried) is a symptom of the sickness that emanates from the political Left in this country today, and its determination to crucify anything or anyone who opposes with it or contrives to derail its “historic” mission of illiberalism, thought dictation, and the imposition of its positions on a cynical and wary electorate.

Even so, just about the best defence of Shorten that has come from these quarters is that opinion polls are no guide to political behaviour — which in the current environment is a ridiculous view to take — and that if Shorten remains where he is beyond 30 November I (and the sources of information used) will have been shown to be wrong.

Yet politics is a febrile business; we are talking about events that are set to occur over the next four to five weeks. If Shorten goes in early December, will the want of a few days make us look silly? Hardly. And if he somehow elects to stubbornly cling to his post a little longer — with enough time between now and then to decide to do so — it will simply mean that when the time to fall on his sword early next year belatedly arrives, Shorten will be even more damaged in public estimation than he is now.

There is nothing so abjectly pathetic as a dud political “leader” continuing, zombie-like, to stumble in circles, comatose, well past the end point of their political usefulness: Shorten has already passed that marker (if he was ever of political use to the ALP at all), and whilst I am in no way favourably disposed toward the ALP, the move to remove from around its neck the electoral millstone that Shorten constitutes is one time when someone inside that party at least is 100% right for once.

Having said all of that, a typically repugnant “last stand” appears to be under way around Shorten, with reports yesterday that Labor strategists are urging him to “pick a fight” with Malcolm Turnbull to save his leadership and to give the ALP “a chance” to win the coming election.

The suggestion smacks of some of the very worst judgements that emanated from the bunker of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott on the watch of his infamous chief of staff, Peta Credlin. The declaration that last year had been “a year of achievement,” for example, springs to mind in that regard.

(Even those reports, it should be noted, suggest Shorten is unlikely to face a challenge: exactly as we reported here on Tuesday. But they do not rule out a move to a new Labor leader by other means).

It is difficult to see what “fight” Shorten could pick that might prolong his miserable tenure as Labor “leader,” but it is impossible to see how Labor could win an election on his watch: not now, not next year, and not ever.

His attempt to “pick a fight” over Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s not-inconsiderable wealth, dismissed by most as a brazen class-based assault guided by envy and resentment of success, hardly went well.

So what issue is the magic bullet that will infuse life into Shorten’s undead, brain-dead “leadership?”

Industrial relations? Labor is gearing up to fight its fourth consecutive election campaign over WorkChoices. The Coalition is powering ahead in the polls with a full-blown debate over penalty rate reform — the kiss of political death, according to the ALP — in full swing. No, WorkChoices was the gift that gave to Labor just once, in 2007. The world has moved on.

Education? The issue resonates less than Labor thinks. But at some point, the emphasis of any debate over Education is going to be moved decisively away from the raw dollar funding pledges Labor is so fond of to one over value for money. If and when that happens, Labor — which, mindful of the clout of powerful teacher unions, refuses to allow discussion of falling literacy and numeracy rates to be tied to teachers’ ability and training — won’t have so much as a fig leaf for cover.

Health? Labor wants to abolish the private health insurance rebate. Good luck justifying that, or the consequences for public healthcare that would flow from it.

A continued attack on Turnbull’s wealth? The article I’ve linked today suggests this will resonate in outer suburbs and regional areas, making Turnbull “appear less connected” in those places. I would suggest it would instead be interpreted as an insinuation that voters in those areas are too stupid to identify with an aspirational and entrepreneurial Prime Minister. Such a campaign would backfire as badly as Labor’s first ill-advised attack on Turnbull’s wealth did last week.

Shorten took aim yesterday at Tony Abbott’s speech on Tuesday night (AEDT) to British conservatives on asylum seekers, stating that Europe “did not need” Tony Abbott. But Abbott is no longer Prime Minister, and his views are now only that: his views. It is difficult to see how Shorten’s political resurgence might derive from such an attack.

The Labor sources quoted in the piece I’ve linked insist Shorten must be more confrontational: bipartisanship doesn’t work for us, they say. Tony Abbott wanted a fight over everything whereas Malcolm Turnbull wants to agree on everything, they say. But Shorten has spent two years opposing everything and being wantonly bloody-minded on Coalition legislation as it is. How confrontational do ALP hardheads think Shorten should be?

And then there is, of course, the small matter of the Royal Commission into the unions, which seems certain to tip a bucket of excrement all over the ALP; not only will the political fallout damage Labor by association — it is, after all, chock-full of union hacks, and largely bankrolled out of Trades Hall — but Shorten in particular stands to be badly damaged irrespective of whether he faces further action on account of his past status at the head of a union himself.

Just as Tony Abbott had Peta Credlin, her husband (and Liberal federal director) Brian Loughnane, a contingent of Liberal MPs and considerable organisational support behind him even as he was being removed from office so, it follows, will Shorten enjoy a similar quotient of support within the ALP even as the clock ticks down on his doomed “leadership” of that party.

But the strategy — if you could call it that — of picking fights with everyone and everything in sight isn’t the path to salvation.

Ironically, were Shorten to deploy that strategy in his own back yard — taking aim at Labor’s unhealthy reliance on the unions, confronting the vested interests that dictate to Labor in return for donation money, and exploring new positions in areas regarded as sacred cows like Education and Industrial Relations — he might in fact find a credible point of differentiation for the ALP that could win broad public support.

But he won’t. He can’t. The forces in the ALP that Shorten is beholden to — the unions — would never permit it. As a unionist himself, he would never sanction it.

In the end, the “pick a fight” call is no more than a desperate last stand from the dwindling support base of a terminally compromised “leader:” and irrespective of whether Shorten goes next month, in early December, or scratches out the silly season before he accepts the inevitable and quits, it won’t help him at all.

And given nothing along these lines has worked for Labor at all in the past two years — a judgement we can make now its vilified hate figure Tony Abbott has himself departed the political centre stage, robbing the ALP of perhaps its sole political positive — there is no reason to believe it will work now either.

Bill Shorten To Resign As Labor Leader

LABOR “LEADER” Bill Shorten is set to resign his post, and possibly from Parliament, next month; with the ALP now recording poll numbers commensurate with his abysmal performance and set to be hit by fallout from the Royal Commission into the unions, Shorten’s departure will terminate a shameful era for Labor. The move raises questions around timing, and of who will replace him to face a snap double dissolution in December or early 2016.

We generally do not break news in this column — mainly because I simply don’t have the resources at present to operate as a journalist on a fulltime basis — but this morning is an exception, and whilst we will relay the news in the conversational discussion style readers are familiar with, the details are very much an early break on a developing story.

Usually reliable sources report that the ALP is preparing for the imminent resignation of its “leader,” Bill Shorten, during one of the two parliamentary sessions scheduled for November.

The development comes in the wake of the leadership change at the Liberal Party, with new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull now outscoring Shorten in some polls as “preferred Prime Minister” by a four-to-one margin, and ahead of the likely release of the final report by the Royal Commission into union corruption and misconduct in either November or December.

It is unclear at this stage whether Shorten intends to recontest his seat of Maribyrnong, in Melbourne’s inner north-west, at the looming federal election, although this column understands there is a distinct possibility he will resign from Parliament altogether.

News of Shorten’s intention to vacate the Labor leadership comes as the ALP’s opinion poll numbers have collapsed on trend beyond the woeful 33.4% primary vote it scored at the 2013 election under Kevin Rudd, and we understand just one further round of shocking polling could be decisive in determining Shorten’s position.

It is understood that rather than face a leadership challenge in the ALP caucus, Shorten will stand aside voluntarily.

The prospect of Shorten’s imminent departure as Labor “leader” comes as little surprise; the motivation for it, however, and the identity of his replacement remain matters for conjecture at present.

Already adversely named in testimony before the Royal Commission, it is possible Shorten — irrespective of whether charges are recommended against him — may elect to vacate the Labor leadership to provide a fresh start for a new leader, freed of the lingering malodorous effects of the dirty union linen that has been aired.

It is not known whether Shorten has advance knowledge of any possible action to be recommended against him and/or his associates from his past career as a union official, or whether such a consideration has motivated his mooted resignation, and this column makes no suggestion or implication to that effect.

Either way, it is understood that a replacement Labor leader will be chosen with a single candidate nominating for the post, avoiding the need for a messy, protracted and potentially divisive campaign lasting weeks or months, and avoiding the risk of a snap election being called whilst the ALP is — quite literally — leaderless.

It is unclear at this point who the new Labor leader is to be: however, factional considerations dictate that the Left cannot simultaneously hold both the leadership and the deputy leadership (ruling out a ticket comprising Anthony Albanese and Tanya Plibersek); Chris Bowen is known to want to wait longer before contesting a leadership ballot, meaning he is likely to run as deputy to either Albanese or to Plibersek.

This column understands that as soon as Shorten announces his resignation, preparations to engineer a double dissolution election that are currently afoot in Liberal Party circles will be activated; the timing of the election will to a large degree depend on the timing of Shorten’s departure as Labor “leader.”

The last practicable date on which to hold an election this year is Saturday 19 December, and for constitutional reasons, such an election would need to be called on or before Tuesday 17 November.

Federal Parliament is due to sit twice in November: from the 9th to the 12th, and again from the 23rd until 3 December: clearly, unless Shorten’s resignation occurs before or during the first of those sitting weeks, any election will be delayed until the new year.

Should that occur, it is understood a polling date in late February or early March is under active consideration.

This timeframe — and the need to be ready, should Shorten pull the pin sooner rather than later — places an obligation on the government to reintroduce whichever of its stalled bills is necessary to the Senate, with great urgency, to provide desired double dissolution triggers that can then be passed at a joint sitting: the Registered Organisations Bill, which if passed will enforce the same regulations and standards of governance upon the union movement as the business community is already subjected to, being chief among them.

But on the other hand, an election at the end of this year or early next carries the prospect of substantial adverse findings against union and ALP figures providing a backdrop to the campaign, against which the ALP will struggle to present a palatable or credible offering to voters.

By way of commentary, I offer that Shorten has been a poor “leader:” this column has consistently refused to acknowledge him without qualification as the leader of his party, when even Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd were thus acknowledged.

Bill Shorten — lampooned in this column as “Billy Bullshit,” with good reason — isn’t a leader’s bootlace.

Shorten’s tenure as Labor “leader” represents a shameful period in ALP history, driven as it has been by blatant attempts to stoke class warfare and envy among Australians, punctuated by mindlessly obstructionist Senate tactics in cohort with the Communist Party Greens and a willing crossbench composed mostly of supposed conservative independents and minor parties, and publicly articulated in fundamentally dishonest terms that have lowered the bar for standards of political decency in this country and unforgivably assumed of voters the lack of intelligence or perception to see through the contemptible tactics on show.

A self-acknowledged liar who has admitted to deceptive and untrustworthy conduct among his colleagues is unfit to hold the leadership of his party, let alone the great office of Prime Minister, and Shorten — in the absence of Tony Abbott, whom Labor personally demonised and defamed for years — is regarded in reputable opinion polling by voters with the contempt he deserves now he has been judged solely on his own merits in the absence of the frenzy his party whipped up around Abbott.

If Labor is smart, it will replace Shorten with Plibersek and give her two attempts to win for the ALP; if it is predictable, it will instead anoint Albanese. Both offer tantalising contests against Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull: Albanese representing the product of a not-dissimilar background that evolved in a very different direction, and Plibersek (her gender notwithstanding) being a warrior of the Left on many of the issues Turnbull is noted for championing from the Right.

But either way, the departure of Shorten from senior political life will be no loss whatsoever to this country, and in the big scheme of things won’t matter a tin of beans.

Shorten isn’t even yesterday’s man, unless your preference yesterday was for a lying, scheming, manipulative union thug with a penchant for burying axes between the shoulder blades of those supposedly closest to him.

The prospect of Shorten as Prime Minister should horrify even those most apathetic about politics; the emphasis of the ALP in stoking envy, hatred of success and war between classes on his watch has placed a great stain on that party, and Shorten’s tenure at its helm will come to be viewed by Labor people as a matter of deep embarrassment that dishonoured it.

Nobody will miss Shorten when he is gone. This column is waiting, eagerly, for the anointed day to arrive.

Ipsos Poll: Coalition Storms Ahead, But Can Honeymoon Last?

ANOTHER OPINION POLL — this time from Ipsos for the Fairfax press — shows the federal Coalition storming ahead of Labor since its change of leadership last month; restored to its election-winning position of 2013 and with both the ALP and Bill Shorten crashing, the temptation is to interpret this as part of a general recovery in the Liberal Party’s stocks. Yet the government remains vulnerable, and would be unwise to become complacent.

With everyone else in politics, the media, the independent commentariat and those who observe politics watching opinion polls like a hawk at the moment, we might as well too — and viewed through this prism, the latest offering from the Fairfax press makes for some interesting reading indeed.

Shortly after Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister — and we’re not going to split hairs over either the merits or the method of the change today — I had a series of private conversations around political strategy with a number of Liberal Party insiders scattered across the country (and some of those are exceedingly well positioned adjacent to spheres of influence within the party) in which I suggested, on balance, that the smartest thing Turnbull could do was to immediately advise a double dissolution election and take the endorsement he had received from MPs to the people to seek a final seal of legitimacy.

By and large, the response was that I was wrong. Remember Gillard, they said. Look at the anger on the Liberal Right and consider the potential for malicious mischief, they said.

Different circumstances involving different people five years ago on the other side of the political fence are an unreliable indicator of what might happen here and now, and to some degree, the Ipsos poll being carried in The Age today offers little to alter my view.

With the best will in the world, an election held early next year in March or April, ahead of the budget (or even on schedule in September or October) may very well see the Turnbull government returned to office.

But the longer it’s left, the less certain it will become; and the longer Labor’s numbers — which have descended into the toilet in every major poll — remain depressed, the higher the likelihood the ALP will get rid of Bill Shorten and remove its greatest impediment to an election win.

The central point is not a belief Turnbull has gone off like a firecracker (so to speak) and will plunge to Earth as Kevin Rudd did when restored to the Prime Ministership; rather, I think that having wasted two years and an ocean of opportunity tolerating Tony Abbott’s indulgence of his Chief of Staff, spectacularly abysmal performances by a handful of key ministers and an advisory pool selected for compliance rather than performance whose overall political efficacy was non-existent, the Liberals are faced by an ALP that is only a decent leader away from an even start at any election campaign, and are hobbled by latent resentment and anger toward the government irrespective of whether “God” has now taken charge of it or not.

Let me be deadly clear: what I am saying should in no way be taken in jest.

But first things first: The Fairfax Ipsos poll records Labor’s vote crashing well past the embarrassing 33.4% it recorded against Abbott two years ago to now stand at just 30%, down 6% since its last national survey two months ago in the final days of Abbott’s leadership; it finds support for the Coalition at 45% (+7%), the Communist Party Greens at 14% (-2%), and “Others” at 11% (+1%).

On a two-party preferred distribution of preferences based on flows at the 2013 election, this sees the Coalition (53%, up 7%) leading Labor (47%, down 7%).

The Ipsos finding mirrors the trends that have now been identified by every reputable opinion poll that has conducted research on voting intention since Turnbull replaced Abbott — and we’ll come back to that — but the numbers in the contest between Turnbull and Labor “leader” Bill Shorten are even more stark.

Ipsos finds 68% of its respondents approve of the born-again leadership of Turnbull, with just 17% disapproving; by contrast — and based on its August polling — it finds 32% (-7%) approve of Shorten’s performance as Labor “leader,” with 56% (+7%) disapproving.

On the “preferred PM” measure — and using the variance from Abbott’s final result on this count — Ipsos’ figures see Turnbull (67%, +28%) a country mile ahead of Shorten (21%, -24%) on the question of who voters rate as most likely to perform best as Prime Minister.

I think there are two things happening here, and whilst they appear to be moving in unison for now, the prospect that they may (and probably will) diverge ought to be a sobering one that places great restraint on any temptation within the Coalition camp toward triumphalism, complacency, or even hubris.

If we talk very broadly, every major poll conducted since the leadership change — Newspoll, Essential, Galaxy, ReachTel, and now Ipsos — has found Coalition support bounding out of the doldrums to draw level or ahead (to different degrees) of the ALP on the two-party measure. Even the notoriously fickle Morgan poll, with its historically wild movements out of nowhere and its tendency to favour Labor out of kilter with all the other polls, has identified the same movement (and with typical Morgan excess, its latest survey — putting the Coalition at 56% — is the most heavily pro-Liberal finding of the lot).

And again, talking broadly, every one of these polls has recorded spectacular approval numbers for Turnbull and a collapse in those for Shorten, who on the “preferred PM” measure — in all of them, irrespective of the Coalition support recorded — is now being routinely belted by the new Prime Minister.

My point is that a pattern appears to be forming where questions of Malcolm Turnbull as a leader and Prime Minister are concerned: people like him — even those who didn’t or don’t support him and/or will never vote for him like him — and even after six weeks in the job and judged against a flurry of early polling, there seems no end in sight to stratospheric personal approval numbers or a crushing lead over Shorten as preferred Prime Minister, which I have described previously as amounting to a return to “normal” settings on that question for a new Prime Minister faced by a first-term opposition leader following a landslide election loss.

But on the voting intention side of things, the early signs of ambivalence are already evident.

Two Newspolls: the first found the Coalition ahead, 51-49; two weeks later, that poll recorded a dead heat, 50-50.

Three Essential polls (or at least, three that count, given one week’s findings are combined with the next in a rolling survey): two and three weeks ago respectively, it found 52-48 for the Coalition (after, indeed, a huge spike after the leadership change from a 52-48 Labor lead) but last week, that had slipped to 51-49 — and given half last week’s Essential “result” was actually the fieldwork done the week before, a 51-49 outcome last week actually had to be a 50-50 finding in the field to pull down a 52-48 finding a week earlier.

ReachTel is yet to record a lead for the Coalition under Turnbull at all.

And if we forget about opinion polls altogether for a moment, nobody can seriously deny that with the exception of the election of a Liberal government in Tasmania 18 months ago, the overall political movement around the country has been almost all Labor’s way ever since the Abbott government was first elected.

Irrespective of the reasons (and yes, we all know the filthy tricks the ALP and the unions use to hoodwink people), Labor has reclaimed office in Victoria and Queensland after a single term in opposition in both — the latter after a swing of almost 14% from the wipeout it suffered three years earlier — and despite nevertheless losing, scored a two-party swing in NSW this year of almost 10%; anecdotal evidence is that it is making great headway against an entrenched Liberal government in WA, and that despite trailing 49-51 in latest polling would nevertheless score a 3% swing to the 13-year-old Labor government in SA if an election were held there now, resulting in a comfortable majority win on that state’s notoriously rigged boundaries.

As we all know, Labor led the Coalition in every major federal opinion poll for 18 months until about six weeks ago, in some cases by wide margins.

And it remains to be seen whether the trend across the polls continues, but it does now rather look as if Turnbull’s stellar personal numbers are holding, or even rising further, whilst the big hit in voting intention already gives every indication of very slowly beginning to recede.

In arguing for an immediate election when Turnbull replaced Abbott, one point that stood out for me was that Gillard — the great example, in so many ways, of what not to do — was, despite some kudos over two-and-a-half years as a minister and a chequered record in shadow Cabinet in opposition, still a relative unknown when she became Prime Minister even after 12 years in Parliament and every possible advantage to fast-track her having been accorded to her.

By contrast, the “Turnbull’s an unknown quantity” argument was rubbish: he might be new as PM, but he’s been around, and highly visible, for decades: as a lawyer in the Spycatcher case. As the head of the republican movement. From his days in enterprise at OzEmail and at Goldman Sachs. On account of his profile working for the Packer empire. And with 11 years in Parliament, three as a minister under John Howard, and one stint as leader already under his belt. As what the News Corp journalists refer to as the “co-host” of the ABC’s #QandA programme.

No, unlike Gillard, nobody in Australia is under any illusions whatsoever as to who Malcolm is.

Putting aside both my political opposition to Malcolm and my genuine regard for him personally, I think the hostility and bile that appears to have abated since the downfall of Abbott is still there: it may be concealed for now by good poll numbers and euphoria in non-Labor circles, but it’s still there, and as we’ve briefly seen, the country has shown that in its current mood it is not averse to electing Labor governments — whether it likes them or not.

One of the things I think has been missed (or at least horribly underplayed) is Shorten’s, and Labor’s, poll collapse: yes, this was always to be expected, and in that sense the “sugar hit” Liberals were banking on emerged right on cue as the first post-coup polling was published.

But what has to some degree been overlooked is the fact that sugar hit coincided with weeks of ceaselessly dreadful testimony emanating from the Royal Commission into the unions that Shorten was every bit as complicit in attempts to neuter or shut down as any of the other bozos over at Labor or Trades Hall, who are panicking and desperate to keep their arses out of the sling.

Additional corroboration of allegations of fake invoices and other ostensibly fraudulent measures to enrich unions whilst simultaneously trading away legislated worker entitlements, whether ultimately found to conclusively implicate Shorten in any wrongdoing or not, will nevertheless rebound on him with full force anyway. That’s how it works. It might not be right and it might not be “fair,” but people en masse jump to conclusions based on the whiff of scandal, and do not readily forgive or forget even if exoneration follows. That — whether you like it or not — is human nature, however much some try to deny it or to rationalise it away with sermons about being innocent until proven otherwise.

(It is, not to put too fine a point on it, exactly the reason Labor under Gillard invested so much energy smearing Abbott as a violent misogynist).

In the context of our discussion, it means Labor has been hit with the negative of a Liberal leadership switch to a man identified in most polls as the most popular politician in Australia, and then belted again by the septic runoff from the Royal Commission hearings that makes Shorten, his party and its thuggy masters at Trades Hall all resemble the pre-treatment contents of a sewer.

And as if the twin hits of the Turnbull ascension and the Royal Commission revelations aren’t enough, Shorten has apparently determined to flirt with fate even further by responding with the announcement of “policies” that simply distilled equate to tax, tax and more tax, in addition to the pre-existing announcement he and his colleagues dare not utter again: to abolish the private health insurance rebate, which would decimate healthcare in Australia if ever implemented.

My best estimate of the average Coalition two-party vote across the latest round of polls is somewhere near 51.5%, or fractionally higher. Given the opposition it is faced with and considering the removal of the electoral liability the Abbott regime had indisputably become, I think the Coalition should be sitting between 55% and 60% — even in the atmosphere of a new leadership sugar hit.

But it isn’t.

Some of the reasons why the Coalition hasn’t climbed higher than it has are its (and Turnbull’s) own fault; we looked at some of them last week.

But deep down — and even though the Ipsos numbers would spell heavy defeat for Labor if repeated at the polling booth — I think the damage caused to residual Coalition support by the Abbott-Credlin-Loughnane government, not-so-ably supported by the likes of Kevin Andrews and Joe Hockey and Ian Macfarlane, is probably proving more enduring than anyone imagined.

Or, if they were honest, than Coalition strategists might fear.

That Shorten is an insipid, dishonest, untrustworthy, slimy imbecile is beyond dispute.

Yet he stood to profit from the distaste he and his intellectually bankrupt cohorts had spent many years creating and fanning where Abbott was concerned, and with Abbott now gone from centre stage, Shorten is being seen by voters for what he really is: a nothing. A charlatan. A joke. And a downright dangerous one at that.

It is no wonder that where personal approval ratings are concerned, Turnbull is trouncing him.

Yet were the ALP to find the bottle to jettison Shorten (and we know the mutterers are muttering inside the ALP tent, but either can’t find the votes required to get rid of him or can’t count) and replace him with someone more credible, then Turnbull could find himself in a world of trouble.

People may be interested again in what the Liberal Party has to say now there’s a new leader at the helm, but it would be unwise to regard the lift in its voting intention numbers as anything other than very soft.

If a Chris Bowen (or even a Plibersek or an Albanese) could abandon his vulgar penchant for parroting the vacuous slogans so typical of a Shorten or a Rudd, and fashion an alternative with sensible policies that have mass appeal rather than pandering to Greens lunatics and union thugs, then the next election would end up being a real fight.

It ought to be unthinkable based on the miserable and disastrous record of the ALP in office between 2007 and 2013, but I believe people are far more open to electing a Labor government than current polls perhaps suggest at first glance.

And if (I stress, hypothetically, if) Shorten were forced to resign as a result of the mess being aired at the Royal Commission, the ALP — far from being damaged by the involuntary departure of its “leader” — would instead grasp the opportunity to retrieve the election win it seemed on track to score until very recently.

In those circumstances, the Labor beast would quite literally fight like hell to drive the Liberals from power, the fact of Turnbull’s messianic leadership notwithstanding.

The longer the government takes to go to the polls, the greater the likelihood that just such a scenario will materialise.

I must emphasise, once again, that my personal views on any or all of the individuals we have discussed in no way colour my remarks this morning: today’s article is purely analytical in intent.

But having missed the opportunity to make the announcement of an election date his first act as Prime Minister, Turnbull now embodies a modified version of that old real estate adage about the best time to get into the property market: the only time better than today for Turnbull to call an election is yesterday.

For now, the Coalition leads Labor in every poll, and in a couple quite handsomely.

But the lead isn’t very much, and when the honeymoon comes to an end, so might the government’s best chance of scoring a clear election win. Shorten will only take Labor to a smashing election defeat if Turnbull engineers an election now. It is inconceivable the ALP will allow him to remain in place for a further 12 months.

For the Liberals, the cost of delay — however nobly framed about serving a full term — could very well be an early return to the opposition benches.

Turnbull Surge: Coalition Lead An Indictment On Shorten

EARLY POLLING showing new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull trouncing Labor’s “Billy Bullshit” in the personal approval stakes — and the Coalition leading, 51-49, for the first time in 18 months — provides succour for those who sought a circuit breaker for the government; the Liberal Party can be pleased with initial voter reactions to its new leadership arrangements. Where Labor and Bill Shorten are concerned, these numbers are an indictment.

One poll a revival doth make; and as the saying goes, one swallow dies not make a Spring.

But the early voter reaction to new Liberal Prime Minister, whilst heartening for the Coalition, is at root a reflection on opposition “leader” Bill Shorten, whose “achievement” in rebuilding the ALP’s position has been instantly exposed as illusory, intellectually lazy, and validates the train of thought we have canvassed here for months that people were indeed prepared to vote Labor, but only in the absence of a more palatable choice.

First things first: Galaxy has published a poll overnight suggesting primary vote support for the Coalition has risen three percentage points since its previous survey last month, to 44%; Labor support falls by the corresponding amount to 36%, with the Communist Party Greens (11%) and “Others” (9%) unchanged — producing the 51-49 headline result that sees the federal Coalition hit the lead for the first time in a reputable opinion finding since April last year.

It finds a preference among respondents for Malcolm Turnbull (51%) as Prime Minister easily outstripping support for Labor’s vapid union parrot (20%), and as solid as that result is, it’s about the only thing that could temper a ReachTel finding one day earlier of preference for Turnbull (61.9%) over Shorten (38.1%), although ReachTel’s rating of both leaders is inflated by the fact it strips out the “don’t knows” and support for other candidates.

Like Galaxy, ReachTel also found a three-point movement to the Coalition after preferences — to an even 50-50 — off primary support for the Liberal and National Parties of 43.3% (+3%), 35.9% (-1.6%) for Labor, and 11.9% (-1.5%) for the Greens.

Heading into tomorrow’s by-election in the Western Australian seat of Canning — which, through the Liberal leadership change and constraints around my time, we haven’t really paid much attention to — all of this augurs well for the Coalition, and media reports yesterday suggested that Labor itself has all but given up on taking the usually marginal seat made vacant by the death of a popular long-term Liberal MP.

In terms of getting overly excited, the true test will be the polling three, six, nine months from now: nobody should be getting carried away, although Turnbull would clearly be happier with these figures than if the initial poll findings on his watch had stagnated, or moved the other way.

But the real story in this — with no disrespect to the new Liberal PM — relates to the ALP, and in that sense, these findings are an indictment.

Like many strategic minds in the Coalition, I don’t expect the initial public euphoria around Turnbull to last; the so-called “sugar hit” appears to be materialising on cue, and a better test of his support will be if the government can lock down the extra support being generated by the week’s events.

The precedent of Kevin Rudd from June 2013, and the earlier example of Andrew Peacock in 1989 — the closest equivalents to Turnbull’s ascension, replete with stratospheric pre-leadership coup poll numbers — should serve as a warning to anyone who wants to get carried away.

Yet the obvious observation to make here is that with Turnbull pulling in between double and triple the support of Shorten in the head-to-head measures, this heralds a return to “normal” poll settings for a first term government: new oppositions typically struggle to make much headway, and Shorten — denied the easy meat of an unpopular Prime Minister compounded by an utterly dysfunctional back office — is recording the kind of dismal numbers his insipid and insidious version of “leadership” truly warrants.

We already know Shorten is a liar, a backstabber, a treacherous plotter and a man obsessed with power and personal ambition, with a woeful personal record of “loyalty” to leaders he has served since entering Parliament, and whilst some will accuse Turnbull of the same things, it must be noted on the record that he conducted his challenge to Tony Abbott from the front this week rather than getting behind the departed PM to lodge a blade between his shoulders as Shorten deftly did during two ALP leadership changes during its last stint in office.

This, in and of itself, might be dismissed, albeit cynically, as the mere cost of doing business in Canberra by some.

But when it is remembered that Shorten has advanced very little new policy, aside from trashing the public health system by abolishing the private health insurance rebate, in an unbelievably spiteful act of class hatred — and has compounded that debauched stance by signalling the revival of discredited policies on climate change and asylum seekers that were roundly rejected by voters in 2013 — it’s hardly adventurous to assert that little Billy Bullshit offers virtually nothing to mainstream Australia.

Labor, it must be conceded, may very well still win next year’s election irrespective of the change to the leadership arrangements in the Liberal Party this week.

But the instant evaporation of ALP support (and, more ominously, the total disintegration of Shorten’s standing as “preferred PM”) exposes the potential limits of bloody-minded opposition at all costs and the pursuit of power for its own sake.

Readers have heard me say many, many times now that Labor cares about power, not people; it should come as no surprise that the instant a fresh adversary arrives on the scene with a potential message in any way different to the unpopular Abbott’s, indications are that voters lose interest in such a vacuously naked lust for the Treasury benches.

Free of meaningful policy and led by a dubious individual of highly questionable character, Labor may well have cruised to victory against Tony Abbott — mostly on the back of the former Prime Minister’s own deficiencies, and those of the people around him who were charged with delivering better outcomes but who were simply not up to the job.

Now, Shorten and his party are going to have to come up with a new strategy — and quickly — for just as time was running out for Abbott to retrieve his position prior to this week’s events, the sands in the hourglass now begin to run against Labor.

More of the empty, pathetic drivel Shorten has become synonymous with simply won’t cut it, and to this end, his attempts this week to characterise Turnbull’s government as a “right-wing Liberal Party” deserve  to be exposed for what they are: a direct copy of the mindless rant British Labour is using to cajole the BBC — just as biased to the British Left as the ABC is to the Australian Left — to use identical terminology against David Cameron’s Conservative Party.

The problem with a virgin brain — to use the analogy from Don’s Party — is that no original thought ever penetrates it: and in this regard once again, it appears Shorten is indeed possessed of such an attribute.

Unlike Abbott, with his scripted, targeted lines that lacked spontaneity, Turnbull is a gifted debater who will tear Shorten to shreds if he persists with this kind of garbage.

Like Abbott, however, it seems Billy Bullshit knows no other way than they way he has always done things, and in this regard it will cost him heavily.

For now, the Coalition is reaping its reward from the leadership change, irrespective of whether you agreed with or supported it or not, and at the very least it returns what had become an entrenched and one-sided political climate to a contest, and one that has to favour the Coalition given the lacklustre opponent it faces and the red herring Turnbull promises to quickly expose him to be.

It should come as no surprise that rumours abound of forces aligned with Tanya Plibersek spending the parliamentary Spring recess making enquiries of her colleagues to ascertain how many of the 48 signatures that are required to trigger a leadership ballot under the ALP’s arcane new rules might be forthcoming.

Plibersek might or might not be a more formidable opponent than Shorten, but right now the utterances of the latter have gone from being delivered in smugly sanctimonious piety to sounding shrill, hysterical and panicked in the space of a mere few days.

Billy Bullshit is about to be exposed for the unelectable charlatan he is and, all other sentiments aside, the prospect of Turnbull ripping the hopeless Shorten to pieces is an inviting one indeed.