Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Today by Paddy Manning

The government gets panicky
Dire polling, minority status, eligibility issues … all are taking their toll


Today’s Guardian Essential poll shows Labor leading the Coalition 54–46, and voter disapproval of Scott Morrison jumping sharply, by nine points in a month. The dire polling compounds excoriating commentary around Morrison’s ockerism [$] and his daggy dad routine. When combined with this morning’s reports (albeit immediately hosed down) that separate Senate and House of Representatives elections could be held next year to give the government more time to recover in the polls, the overall impression is of a federal government that is growing more desperate by the day.

As one Liberal MP explained it to me, Morrison is trying to emulate the popular appeal of former NSW premier Mike Baird. “Morrison has folksy dad about him, and you’ve seen it now that’s exactly what he’s chocking … in the same way that Baird’s folksy dad schtick played well, and who did it play well with? Women voters. Who do we need to win elections as a Liberal Party? Women voters, particularly women, with children, aged 35 to 55. They love folksy dad.”

If that’s the strategy, then, going by today’s Essential poll, it is not working. Among all voters, Morrison has almost completely lost any personal advantage over Bill Shorten, with his net approval rating dropping from +15 to +4, while the Labor leader has improved from -12 to -6. By gender, men were +7 in favour of the job Morrison is doing, while women were equally split, meaning net approval is zero.

Fairfax Media reported this morning that the government was considering holding two federal elections next year, splitting the Senate and lower house, under a drastic option being canvassed within the Morrison government to gain more time to restore community support and defeat Labor. The idea didn’t last the morning, with The Australian reporting [$] that the prime minister’s office had shot it down immediately. “The government has no plans for a dual election. The election is due next year,” a spokesperson for Morrison said. Labor’s reaction was predictably scathing, with manager of Opposition business Tony Burke asking “why is it good for the public to vote twice? To pay for two elections? It’s a ridiculous proposal.”

The government is looking panicky and weak. Reports yesterday that crossbencher Bob Katter had done an about-face and was threatening to support a referral of Coalition MPs including Chris Crewther to the High Court, to finally determine their eligibility to sit in the parliament, suggest the maverick Queenslander has woken up to the reality that he holds the fate of this exceedingly vulnerable government in his hands and can extract a price. “I’m not saying that they can deal with their seven or eight life and death issues in North Queensland in this short period” before the election, Katter told The Guardian, “but they are not dealing with any of them.” Katter says Morrison’s current pork barreling in Queensland is not working.

Labor has countered the Coalition’s pitch to business yesterday. Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen scoffed at the treasurer’s claim that only the Coalition has business-friendly policies, telling [$] Ticky Fullerton: “Why would business bother with this government? This is the third Treasurer I’ve faced. I’ve talked to business a lot and they say, ‘Well, of course we have our policy preferences, but what we crave the most is stability.’”

Stability, of course, is nowhere in sight.

since this morning

Scott Morrison has lashed out [$] at Victorian premier Daniel Andrews for signing a secret infrastructure deal with China as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.

The prime minister has defended [$] using a VIP jet to travel around Queensland, despite his much-vaunted “ScoMo Express” bus being on hand.

The My Health Record telephone opt-out service has overloaded and crashed as Australians rush to opt out of the controversial e-health system before the November 15 deadline.

A serving police officer who made a threatening phone call to the office of senator Sarah Hanson-Young has offered to meet with the politician and apologise, a court has been told.

in case you missed it

The Australian reports [$] that in a letter to AGL Energy, Origin Energy and Energy Australia, Energy Minister Angus Taylor widened tomorrow’s industry meeting from a focus on price cuts to include a debate over the government’s contentious underwriting proposal for “fair dinkum” power plants.

The Morrison government’s own threatened species experts say Australia is failing in its plan to save wildlife from extinction.

The heads of Australia’s biggest banks will be interrogated by Kenneth Hayne at the banking royal commission this month.

The ABC’s Four Corners program went on patrol with Victoria Police in Melbourne’s north-west.

In The Guardian, Samantha Maiden looks at how the Catholic schools sector outplayed the Coalition, and writes that the Turnbull government was unprepared for the war that ensued when it announced its new school funding system.

by Craig Mathieson
Orson Welles’s ‘The Other Side of the Wind’ and Morgan Neville’s ‘They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead’
The auteur’s messy mockumentary and the documentary that seeks to explain it are imperfect but better together

by Don Watson
The Kings and I
Horse racing’s inegalitarian streak

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is also the author of three books, including a recently updated unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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