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September 11th 2017 print

Des Moore

Turnbull’s Head, the Best Christmas Gift

For the Coalition to have any chance of reversing its dire poll numbers and winning the next election, the Prime Minister simply has to be gone by the end of the year. That leaves just enough time for his replacement to address and remedy the big issue: our national energy crisis

guillotine IIElectoral predictions are often wrong and we can’t rely on polling to base our critiques of governments. But the latest Newspoll (4 September) shows the Coalition has a deficit of 47 to 53 after preferences and makes it almost certain that a government led by Malcolm Turnbull will lose the next election. That could be about a year away, but this is the nineteenth consecutive Newspoll in which the Turnbull government has trailed Labor in two-party terms. Importantly also, in this period a significant proportion of voters who have traditionally supported the Coalition has indicated their vote is now likely to move to “independent” parties, such as Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives. Moreover, while Newspoll shows Turnbull as favoured PM over Bill Shorten (is that difficult), the rated performance of each is way down in the cellar of the low 30s.

Electoral deficits in Newspolls would likely reach 30 next February or March, the same number of such deficits Tony Abbott  reached when Turnbull succeeded in jostling him out of PM in September, 2015. Should Liberal Party members be prepared to wait that long for a replacement this time? Turnbull shows no sign of developing the capacity to handle the so-called conservatives within the party or to improve the policy objectives he seems to have adopted. I say “seems” because many of his stated objectives, such as “jobs and growth”, have not been accompanied by back-up specifics: rather the contrary, as reflected in the cartoon published by Mark Knight in the Herald Sun.

knight malbike

 

True, there are no signs, not yet, of anyone putting up a hand for his job. But a suicidal process surely can’t be maintained for long and a replacement, whoever that might be, must be given time to present objectives and policies before the election. This requires he be replaced before Christmas, perhaps straight after Parliament finishes its present term on December 7.

If none of the possible replacements emerge from within the ranks, the only realistic approach would be to ask Abbott to have a second try. While some will say his record as PM does not warrant a reprise, others disagree. Commentator Andrew Bolt, for instance, is adamant that Abbott is Liberals’ only hope. Recent articles by Abbott in The Australian also suggest he has developed sensible policy objectives in case he gets the call. In his September 7 article, “Heaven help Australia if Shorten gets the Keys”, Abbott makes no mention of Turnbull when warning “if the polls are right, Shorten’s going to be prime minister soon”. Abbott draws attention to policy areas which have arguably either been neglected by Turnbull or not addressed at all by him.

It is not possible here to examine major policy areas which need strengthening. But a vital one that cries out for attention is energy and the alarming increase in electricity prices, mainly as a result of the emissions-reductions policies adopted by both federal and state governments, and the associated targets for inefficient and unreliable renewable. The handling — mis-handling, actually — of all this by Turnbull illustrates his inability to recognise the fundamentals and to tailor Australia’s policies to maximise our national interests.

Reflecting his ad hoc approach to policy making, Turnbull has now recognised the adverse polling effect of the increases in electricity prices and has decided to adopt a policy of keeping coal-fired generators running until 2027. How ironic that, despite his long-standing support for ceasing to use coal-fired electricity and reducing emissions of CO2, Turnbull has reversed engines, at least temporarily. That back-pedalling displays a  lack of confidence in himself and his advisers.

Instead of commissioning a report on achievable emission-reduction targets from Alan Finkel, Turnbull should have commissioned a review of climate policy and the extent to which coal-fired generators needed realistically to be reduced over the next 25 years, if at all. Such a review, now urgently needed, would not only advise on the minimisation of adverse effects domestically but would also advise on the likely extent to which other countries will be reducing their emissions. It would include experts who are known sceptics as well as those who are not.

Relevant here are the facts missing from explanations of why Australia signed up at Paris 2015 to a 26%-28% reduction in emissions by 2030 (compared to 2005) while the two biggest emitters, China and India, have no  requirements and countries such as Russia and South Korea agreed only to reductions of around 10%. Also relevant to determining our policy is the miniscule contribution Australia makes to world emissions (a little over 1%), not to mention that there has been no substantive increase in temperatures over the past 20 years or so even though the supposed drivers of temperature increases – CO2 emissions –have grown at a strong pace. Yet according to entirely credible estimates, by 2030 taxpayers are likely to be paying pay more than $60 billion in renewable energy subsidies.

Relevant here is that Abbott has sceptical views and in early October will be addressing a UK think tank on the approach that should be adopted in deciding a climate policy in Australia’s interests. He originally used the threat of a bipartisan carbon tax to persuade parliamentary Liberals to replace Turnbull. A second try?

Comments [24]

  1. Peter says:

    The problem with this as I see it is getting rid of Turnbull would still leave a majority of climate wets among Liberal politicians. What do you do about that? Unfortunately, there seems just no possibility of reversing course. Changes around the edges perhaps; that’s about it.

  2. Doubting Thomas says:

    Clearly, the Gramscian Long March has reached and overtaken the Liberal Party. I think the damage done in the last 10-15 years is, like the most virulent cancers, irreversible, untreatable and terminal.

    Whoever forms a new conservative party should meticulously quarantine it from any individual who is known to have been complicit in the knifing of Tony Abbott’s (and the non-preselection General Molam.

  3. Bill Martin says:

    The notion of “saving” the liberal Party is hopeless wishful thinking. Terrifying as that is, Labour will get at least one go at governing, possibly more. The only realistic, yet faint hope is that Australia will not have been turned into an irredeemable banana republic before the Labour Party will also disintegrate and we end up with a multiparty system and with governments of coalitions of several parties.

  4. ArthurB says:

    I can’t remember a time when there was such a poor choice for the voter, between a Liberal party which doesn’t stand for anything, and a Labor party which is controlled by a bunch of union hacks whose policies will reduce us to being the Venezuela of the South Pacific. I would be reluctant to vote for Abbott, he is a decent man but he supports constitutional recognition for Aborigines, which would only accelerate the balkanisation of the nation.

    I suspect that in the next election the major parties will record their lowest ever share of the vote, out of despair many people will vote for the minor and fringe parties. I would vote for Bernardi and the Australian Conservatives, if they do not contest the election I am likely to vote for One Nation.

    • Lawrie Ayres says:

      The recognition Abbott envisaged was a statement to say the aborigines were here before white settlement. He did not envisage separate parliaments as is being promoted now. Abbotts Warringah motion would I believe rid the Liberals of many of the wets as the rank and file are not as stupid as the Photios group. It will take time to unravel the mess caused by Turnbull and his co-assassins. Abbott is the only choice if the Liberals are to survive the next election.

      I am surprised that the Nationals are not using their obvious lever to change the Turnbull direction. I am disappointed that Barnaby is still captive to the AGW bull even though his party knows it is crap. Loyalty is fine but someone should stop Turnbull taking the government off the cliff.

  5. Jody says:

    As Ross Cameron said on “PML Live”, it was Tony Abbott that signed us up to all the renewables/energy targets rubbish.

    • Doubting Thomas says:

      I don’t know whether you follow any of the skeptical climate change née global warming blogs of which there are a supersufficiency. One of the best is Jennifer Marohasy’s of which a sample below.

      http://jennifermarohasy.us8.list-manage.com/track/click?u=15700aee80d95c10a7ba48daa&id=881c08048f&e=459f9b41c6

      Tony Abbott’s problem back then was that in the context of the time it was a political impossibility to ignore the fact that an overwhelming majority of the media and other prominent opinion-makers were totally convinced that everything the extremists said about “carbon pollution”, and the role of fossil fuels in destroying “the planet”. That 93% of that was just highly refined bovine excreta was ignored by the mainstream media that happily piled on seeking to destroy the professional reputations of the courageous minority, eg Jennifer Marohasy, Bjorn Lomberg and the others who demonstrated conclusively that noble cause corruption was endemic in the Australian scientific community as it was almost everywhere else in the western world.

      The government has to take the advice of the “official” scientific advisors. The Australian Academy of Science has drunk the Kool-Aid, just has the Royal Society in the UK. The ABC is riddled with true believers, as is the Fairfax Media. The Murdoch press is ambivalent.

      As you well know, Jody, politics is the art of the possible and, back in Abbott’s time as PM, not signing up to the ridiculous energy targets was political suicide.

    • pgang says:

      Wasn’t it Little Johnny who started it in an attempt to save his own bacon? The genius who took us into Ganstan and Irake? Who massively expanded welfare and swept it under the rug of an expanding economy?

      • Colin says:

        I have never been able to understand why John Howard is rated so highly as a Prime Minister. In my view he laid the foundations for the mess the Liberals are in. Had he retired gracefully and given Peter Costello a fair chance the party might have been more stable. Instead he failed to implement a sensible succession plan and we saw the Nelson/Turnbull/Abbott/Turnbull debacles. Not only that I have heard that when Turnbull was defeated by Abbott, Howard persuaded Turnbull to remain in Parliament. I hope that history will assess Howard’s legacy with more rigour than so far.

  6. Keith Kennelly says:

    Tony also said Global Warming was crap.

    And he was crucified for that.

  7. Guido Negraszus says:

    I agree with Andrew Bolt. Tony Abbott could turn it all around. He has done it before PLUS Bill Shorten is beatable. Just imagine if the SSM survey is won by the NO campaign. What a gift for the coalition that would be because Shorten already stated that he will ignore the will of the people. Now imagine Abbott would run the next election campaign with two main themes: 1) Electricity Bill Shorten and 2) anti-democratic Shorten. It’s a win in my books!Turnbull couldn’t do the same. He is just a hopeless campaigner.

    • Jody says:

      The Liberal Party is absolutely stony broke; you know that don’t you!!? The war chest for Labor is union funds of 1.6 Billion dollars. And they pay no tax on any of the income from this because it is a union fund!!!!

      • Doc S says:

        I think you’ve hit on one of the major reasons for ‘why Turnbull?’ – his donations have repeatedly replenished the Liberal Party’s meagre coffers and, I would hazard a guess, kept them from near-insolvency on more than one occasion!

  8. Keith Kennelly says:

    The results of a survey today.
    61% will vote yes if there are sufficient religious freedom protections. 17% will vote yes regardles.
    I guess that means 22 % will vote no regardless

    On the basis of that I’d put money on an overwhelming No result.

    Not you Jody. When it comes to putting money in place of your mouth.

    History shows you shut up quick.

  9. whitelaughter says:

    Labor was punished by the electorate for revolving door PMs – so what does the Liberal party do? Exactly the same, with the same result. Problem is, if they turf Turnbull, they look even *more* like Labor.

    However, the obvious solution is if the Liberals have *no* leader then Barnaby Joyce leads the Coalition to the next election; given the massive National resurgence at the last election, that might save their bacon.

  10. Keith Kennelly says:

    The difference of course is the differenc between Abbott and Rudd: chalk and cheese, honesty and deceit, decency and egotist, truth and lies Etc etc

    Turnbull and Gillard? Both useless and both with the blood of first term PM’s on their hands.

  11. Doc S says:

    “Instead of commissioning a report on achievable emission-reduction targets from Alan Finkel, Turnbull should have commissioned a review of climate policy and the extent to which coal-fired generators needed realistically to be reduced over the next 25 years, if at all. ” – finally someone who has given voice to exactly what needs to happen if the government are to extricate themselves from the present debacle. The risks of an unrealistic RET (or whatever you want to label it) appear obvious to me. I’m no scientist or even a climate change believer but the need to transition to renewables seemed obvious – its the ‘how’ where we have come unstuck. Insane RET’s like Labor’s 50% by 2030 aside, did the government really base theirs on what was actually do-able, without threatening the base-load power supply? At the very least they appear not to have risk-managed that one in their equally insane rush to comply with the Paris Accords (non-binding of course!) Now of course they’re telling those green energy gougers AGL to keep Liddel open because – surprise, surprise – closing it in five years time will leave a ‘gap’ in base-load power that renewables cannot replace! WTF? How was this one missed up until just now? Well it was – all those energy brainboxes in government missed it completely (Finkel report? – pffft!) – even in the face of the energy disasters in South Australia and the similar issues Victoria faces with the closure of Hazelwood. Un-bloody-believable. Turnbull’s kack-handling of this issue threatens his government more than any other (as we all watch our most-expensive-energy-in-the-world power bills continue to climb!) We can only pray for an outbreak of common sense as suggested in the above quote. Bit like nuclear power – we can only pray quietly for its deliverance – giving voice to such heresies (like the REALISTIC reduction – if any – of coal-fired power) will still get you crucified.