Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Today by Paddy Manning

Don’t mention the war
The Liberals can’t paper over what just happened


It is fascinating to watch the Liberal Party pretend that we can all get back to business as usual under Prime Minister Scott Morrison – “move along, nothing to see here” – when poll after poll indicates last week’s knifing of Malcolm Turnbull has all but consigned them to electoral oblivion. Even John Howard was at it over the weekend, explaining not very helpfully that leadership changes happen when the party room believes it will give them a “political advantage” at the next election. The reality of this spill, though, is that there is no political advantage.

It’s the first spill in recent decades to generate no honeymoon for the new leader – even though Morrison has cleaner hands than any previous challenger – nor a bounce for the party. Quite the opposite: voter reaction so far is angry, bordering on furious, and Labor is now at very short odds to win the next election, whenever it is held. As Barnaby Joyce admitted on RN Breakfast this morning, if an election were held now, the Coalition would be “annihilated”. Even more so now that Turnbull and his deputy Julie Bishop, two of the party’s most popular figures, are out of the picture.

Yesterday’s Newspoll [$] in The Australian was most devastating, of course, showing Labor’s advantage had blown out from 49–51 to 44–56, tied with the second-worst result, recorded in 2008 under Brendan Nelson as Opposition leader. Bill Shorten is now leading the poll as preferred prime minister. The horror figures cannot be blamed purely on the spill, as the results were consistent with the terrible Fairfax-Ipsos poll, which set the tone for last week’s drama, and had the two parties at 45–55.

An exclusive ReachTel poll conducted after the spill in three key marginals, however, was also pretty sobering stuff for the Liberals. The three seats were Dutton’s own Brisbane seat of Dickson, the Melbourne electorate of Deakin (held by his numbers man Michael Sukkar), and the Sydney seat of Reid (held by Turnbull backer Craig Laundy). Fairfax Media reported that voters in Deakin had turned on Sukkar, who would lose the heartland seat that he now holds by a 6 per cent margin. Labor’s candidate, Shireen Morris, must be rubbing her hands together. In Dickson and Reid, however, voters maintained support for Dutton and Laundy.

After Turnbull last night told his constituents that he would quit federal parliament on Friday, the Liberals face the possibility of losing their one-seat majority in the House of Representatives. As the ABC’s election analyst, Antony Green, tweeted this morning, Turnbull has built up a huge personal vote in Wentworth, “so the odds are on a big swing against the Liberals at the by-election.” It’s an unpredictable seat, which the Liberals seriously feared they could lose when Turnbull’s predecessor, Peter King, ran as an independent in 2004.

Resulting in a leadership team from New South Wales and Victoria, the spill has not helped in the battleground state of Queensland, and the state LNP branch now is in turmoil [$] following the intervention of state president Gary Spence, who backed Dutton’s challenge to the hilt.

For some, like Andrew Bolt, the Liberals were already doomed in 2019 and last week’s leadership change was all about setting the party up for the election after that, in, say, 2022. But it seems unlikely that the Liberals who helped roll Turnbull last week, many of whom now stand to lose their seats, will go happily to meet their political maker next year, in a quest for the purification soul of the party. Last week, in the lead-up to the coup, we were all being reminded that the urgers had mortgages, car loans and school fees to pay based on their $200,000-a-year salaries.

It’s a complete stuff-up. A farce.

since this morning

The AFR reports [$] that former foreign minister Julie Bishop today said she would remain in parliament, and left open the possibility of contesting the Liberal Party leadership should the Coalition lose the next election. Earlier, it was reported that Labor leader Bill Shorten had opposed plans to appoint [$] Bishop as governor-general next year.

The Guardian reports that Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton intervened to save a third au pair from deportation after the AFL chief, Gillon McLachlan, raised the young woman’s case.

Barnaby Joyce’s call to divert environmental water to drought-hit farmers has been panned by conservationists, according to the ABC.


A Guardian data-driven investigation of a decade of Indigenous deaths in custody has prompted calls for an independent detention monitor.

An ABC investigation reveals that Bernard Collaery, the lawyer who helped expose an Australian spying operation on Timor-Leste, was given a chilling warning by the federal government just months before charges were filed against him for breaches of the Intelligence Services Act.

The Australian reports [$] that radio personalities Alan Jones and Ray Hadley have both re-established contact with Scott Morrison since his elevation to the country’s top job.

Australians are underestimating the danger of popular sleeping pills and sedatives “at their peril”, as a record 142 people die every month in accidental drug overdoses, a major new report by the Penington Institute warns.

by Oscar Schwartz
Could a computer mark a NAPLAN essay?
If student assessment is automated, what might it miss?

by Lesley Hughes
What we knew when about global warming
Greenhouse gases took 200 years to become a hot topic

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Body Count: How Climate Change Is Killing Us, Inside the Greens and Born To Rule: The Unauthorised Biography of Malcolm Turnbull.


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