Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Today by Paddy Manning

60 negative Newspolls
Abbott and Turnbull’s unpopularity adds up

Image of Malcolm Turnbull Cabinet 2017

The number of losing Newspolls we should all be focusing on is not 30, but 60, which is the combined effort of Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull, and which shows that the Coalition government has spent most of the last four and a half years in an election-losing position. At what point does the rot set in for good, if it has not already?

Even the commentators in the conservative-leaning The Australian can smell it. Dennis Shanahan writes [$] that Labor under Opposition leader Bill Shorten, who has tweaked policy on the franking credit refunds to exempt pensioners, has bested the government on political strategy and electoral strength. “The Prime Minister and his senior colleagues were convinced the tax grab would alienate Labor voters and give the Coalition a lift in the latest Newspoll”, Shanahan writes, “perhaps even heading off the dreaded 30th losing Newspoll survey in a row”. He concludes: “people are not listening to the Coalition.”

Elsewhere in the Oz, Victorian political editor John Ferguson writes [$] that the Newspoll, which shows the government heading for inevitable defeat, will divide the Coalition. On the one hand there will be the ambitious new guard, who might see themselves back in government, and on the other will be the old guard, who “will be looking closely to exit politics in time to craft a new career or step quietly into retirement”. His starting point is that a growing number of Coalition MPs are bewildered at education minister Simon Birmingham’s “bungling” of the politics of funding for Catholic schools.

Underlining the sense of impending doom, of course, is Tony Abbott himself. As he launched One Nation leader Pauline Hanson’s new book Pauline, In Her Own Words, Abbott did not deny reports he is considering running for the Liberal leadership after the Coalition loses. He also argued [$] for her party to be preferenced ahead of Labor and the Greens at the next election. He added that the Coalition would not have passed any legislation “but for the constructive work of Pauline Hanson”.

Abbott’s honeymoon was over by December 2013. Former senior Abbott ministers say that when MPs went back to their electorates for Christmas, the government was already on the nose. By the following May, when Abbott and the then treasurer, Joe Hockey, unveiled their promise-breaking “stinker” budget, the rot had set in for good. Fifteen months later, Abbott was gone.

Malcolm Turnbull’s whirlwind honeymoon did not last much longer: his support plunged in February 2016 when he ruled out a “tax mix switch” to a higher GST, effectively bailing out of the kind of adult conversation he had promised to conduct with Australian voters. The moderate Turnbull well known to Australians – who had campaigned for a republic and staked his job as Opposition leader on climate action – was nowhere in sight. Turnbull scraped over the line in the 2016 election, and has been behind pretty much ever since.

Newspoll only commenced in 1985 and did not introduce the two-party measure for a time, so there is limited scope for comparison. Suffice it to say that Bob Hawke spent plenty of time as less popular leader between July 1986 and August 1987, but went on to win the election in that year. Keating was deeply unpopular from 1991 until 1993, but nevertheless won the election in in that year, only to fall back behind and lose the 1996 election. Under John Howard, the Coalition was behind Labor for almost its entire first term, from 1996 until 1998, but came from behind to win. Newspoll aficionados say all governments that have been re-elected since 1961 have been elected on a rising economy. Whether Turnbull gets a win on company tax or not, it does not seem a debate that is likely to win the government votes. And when it comes to tax cuts, after its policy on franking credits, Labor now can offer and beat whatever the government offers. Turnbull’s only hope appears to be that a strengthening economy will save him. Which is not much of a strategy at all.

since this morning

Australia has expelled two Russian diplomats over the UK nerve agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal, and foreign minister Julie Bishop has flagged a potential boycott of the Russian FIFA World Cup.

More than 300,000 low-income retirees will be spared from Labor’s plan to scrap cash payments for excess franking credits after the Opposition amended the policy to exempt full and part-time pensioners, as well as every pensioner who is currently a recipient from a self-managed superannuation fund, according to the AFR [$].

Crikey reports that representatives for the family of Elijah Doughty, the Indigenous teenager run down in Kalgoorlie in 2016, are being denied access to documents from the trial of the alleged driver by the WA courts, which is “entirely at odds with what the law requires”.

in case you missed it

The AFR reports [$] that fewer than one in five of Australia’s leading chief executives say they will use the Turnbull government’s proposed company tax cut to directly increase wages or employ more staff, according to a secret survey conducted by the Business Council of Australia.

Analysis by senior Greens members leaked [$] to The Australian shows support for the party is “flatlining” and the party is on track to have just four senators from two states within eight years. Meanwhile, the ABC reports Sarah Hanson-Young faces a preselection challenge from former senator Robert Simms.

A blog in The Guardian that analyses data from the 2016 census shows the relative socioeconomic advantage and disadvantage for every region.

by Megan Davis
The Nation Reviewed
The republic is an Aboriginal issue
Recognition must be at the heart of constitutional reform

by Craig Mathieson
‘Babylon Berlin’: strangely familiar
The gripping Weimar-era police procedural feels completely in the moment

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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