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October 12th 2017 print

Ross Fitzgerald

Ten More Newspolls To Go…

After years of devious white-anting and courting the favour of the ABC as its indulgent ministerial overseer, Malcolm Turnbull knifed Tony Abbott on the premise that 30 losing polls marked him for execution. With his own tally now at 20 bad polls and growing, even he must hear the tumbril coming

turnbull selfie smallThirty Newspoll losses in a row: this is the leadership test that Malcolm Turnbull used to justify his coup against Tony Abbott. Turnbull has now lost twenty Newspolls in a row and there seems to be no light at the end of his tunnel. So what does the Prime Minister do when he fails his own leadership test? This is the question that must be haunting Turnbull. And what does the Liberal Party do when its leader fails the leadership test that he himself set? This is the key question that Liberal MPs are facing.

As Alan Jones has been reminding the Liberal faithful that listen to him every weekday morning, in ten of Abbott’s losses, the Liberals’ primary vote remained above 40 per cent. But in every one of Turnbull’s losses, the primary vote has been under 40. It’s currently stuck in the mid-30s and, with a revived Pauline Hanson party and a Cory Bernardi party competing for votes on the right, is most unlikely to shift.

It seems that Turnbull can’t be shamed into resigning and right now the Liberal Party isn’t ready to sack him. But the Turnbull era looks doomed to end in tears: either he will be removed by the party; or the party will be removed by the electorate. That’s why matters are likely to come to a head by the first quarter of next year, when the thirtieth losing Newspoll is likely.

Only extreme political necessity could justify the overthrow of a first-term, democratically elected prime minister. Turnbull tried to validate his coup on the most primal grounds: imminent electoral defeat based on polling. But he who lives by the sword dies by it also. Having made Newspoll the ultimate test of leadership, imagine the difficulty Turnbull will face once he’s failed it himself. Imagine trying to run the country when every media conference begins with the question: how can you claim to be a leader when you’ve failed your own test?

This explains the government’s manic determination to shift the polls by a flurry of announcements late in every week preceding Newspoll weekends – and its anxiety to blame others when the tactic doesn’t work. After the most recent Newspoll, government operatives were briefing that Tony Abbott had deliberately timed announcing he could cross the floor against new subsidies for renewable energy in order to sabotage Turnbull.  But the truth is that Abbott has been signalling for months that he (along with some other backbenchers) couldn’t support a Clean Energy Target grafted onto a Renewable Energy Target that was already too high.

If you listen to the PM and his boosters, nothing is ever Turnbull’s fault. A fortnight ago, it was the states that were to blame. Then the blame shifted to Alan Jones’ alleged spell over state politicians who would otherwise have permitted further gas exploration and production. Truly! If Turnbull is capable of learning, perhaps he might follow the broadcaster’s example – if not by adopting all of his policies, at least by aping Jones’ proven ability to develop a clear and cogent message and then stick to it.

The trouble is that Turnbull is a climate change warrior who’s trying to respond to the problems that the policies he supports have created. It was Turnbull who commissioned the Finkel Report and enthusiastically embraced it, even though adopting the Chief Scientist’s recommendations would mean 42% of power coming from renewables by 2030, compared to Labor’s 50% RET that conservatives have rightly been attacking.

What used to be a state responsibility has now become the federal government’s nightmare: how to keep the lights on and the air-conditioning operating this summer when it couldn’t be done last summer — even with the giant Hazelwood coal-fired power station that has since closed.  But the fact is that if Turnbull immediately started building Hazelwood 2.0, along with Snowy 2.0, it would take years to get more generation into action.

Turnbull’s past as a strong supporter of green ideas, including Kevin Rudd’s emissions trading scheme, means that his belated conversion to coal looks and sounds deeply insincere.

With the gas companies recently agreeing to maintain supplies for domestic customers and meet their export contracts from the spot market, Turnbull had a much-needed win. On the other hand, AGL looks set to defy him by insisting on the replacement of the giant Liddell coal-fired power station with a subsidised solar farm and a big battery — despite the reliability risks.

The only short-term fix to the power crisis is to get mothballed gas plants into action straight away. But that would mean immediately changing the economics of generation by freezing the RET.

The good news for sensible policy is that Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg seems to have abandoned the Clean Energy Target, which opens us the possibility of debate in the Senate and the House of Reps that could make the coalition government the party of reliable energy and Labor the party of intermittent and unreliable energy.

The same-sex marriage issue is currently also still quite messy. If “yes” prevails, as expected, Turnbull will have to find a way to guarantee freedom of religion that satisfies conservatives without alienating activists generally opposed to Judeo-Christian values. If, in a boil-over, “no” gets up, Turnbull would be forced to justify the definition of marriage that he’s long pledged to change.

Although Turnbull’s fiercest conservative critics concede that a Shorten government would be worse, voters are unlikely to focus much on Labor until the calling of a federal election. Turnbull could try to break the poll hoodoo by calling an early election, but this has risks, as PM Teresa May’s poll-driven election in Britain demonstrated.

As long as Prime Minister Turnbull looks like he’s responding to events rather than shaping them, the polls are unlikely to improve for the PM. And after 30 losses, the time would surely be well and truly up for Turnbull. After all, that’s the standard he set.

Ross Fitzgerald AM is Emeritus Professor of History and Politics at Griffith University and the author of 39 books, including the sexual/political satire ‘Going Out Backwards: A Grafton Everest Adventure’, which was shortlisted for the 2017 Russell Prize for Humour Writing. Fitzgerald blogs at www.rossfitzgerald.com/

Comments [22]

  1. ianl says:

    > ” … he must hear the tumbril coming”

    Yes – and often enough now he can see it.

    Thanks Ross, a reasonable summary of the current state-of-play.

    Two caveats:

    1) power supply from the renewabubbles is not intermittent, it is spasmodic. Use http://anero.id/energy/ to see for yourself

    2) > ” … either he [Waffle] will be removed by the party; or the party will be removed by the electorate”. Well yes, but how does that help me, or us ?

  2. Ben says:

    It’s like a fairytale. You know the Christian ones. The ones that say that truth always shines. Kindness and courage. The stories that are filled with hope. They are mesmerizing. They are beautiful. They are prayerful.

    And here is a leader that took another’s crown by conceit. By vanity. By stealing and lying.

    We all hope that the true leader will one day regain his crown.

  3. en passant says:

    Ross,
    Firstly, “… the replacement of the giant Liddell coal-fired power station with a subsidised solar farm and a big battery — despite the reliability risks.” There are NO risks with this plan as failure of the solar and Snowy-2 plans are 100% guaranteed. It will be interesting to see what archaeologists would make of these schemes a millennium from now if they did not know their provenance.

    Secondly, “The only short-term fix to the power crisis is to get mothballed gas plants into action straight away.” Duh? Having restricted gas exploration and production the answer is to use more gas? Ace plan, Sherlock – and one that I would have thought only an Oz politician who has lost all grip on reality could have fantasised.

    Thirdly, “Turnbull could try to break the poll hoodoo by calling an early election, but this has risks …” There are NO risks with this option as the Liberal Party is now just a historical anomaly that is a;most pleading for the tumbril to arrive and end their misery – and Australia’s.

    A few decades ago I wrote a paper with the catchy title: “Why Every Revolution Made Things Worse – and Why they are Necessary”. I analysed the English Civil War, the French, Russian, the Chinese (sort of before the Japanese interfered) and their outcomes. In the short term they were bad (and in the Russian case 70-years of bad), but they broke the mould.

    A New Force is arriving, but there will be much turmoil before the New Dark Age (pun intended) is rolled back.

    Now for my prediction: three issues will arise that will bring down the government before Xmas.

  4. PT says:

    Of course he won’t quit. He’s got as much hide as Gillard, and is at least as narcissistic as Krudd (Shorten’s no slouch either). In some ways we have the worst of both worlds. He has Gillard’s “tin ear” and dodgy past (HIH anyone); and Krudd’s narcissism, mistreatment of those unfortunate enough to work for him, and inflated belief in his superior intellect (the stupid refugee deal with lame duck Obama – daring Trump for a payback).

  5. Keith Kennelly says:

    If the vote is no Turnbull will go.

    His position will be Untenable and exactly the same as Cameron’s after Brexit.

  6. Warty says:

    I loved the story about the idiots doing a study on Zebras, who observed that these strange animals were unlike the antelope whose camouflage would allow them to merge back into the landscape, or the lions, whose colouring would allow them to creep up unnoticed; until they realise that having selected a zebra for closer scrutiny, they were unable to identify the animal unless they painted a red daub on the unfortunate creature. Having done so, they noticed the daubed zebras were readily picked off by predators, the stain causing them to stand out from the rest of the herd. The researchers belatedly realised the stripes were indeed a form of camouflage, albeit operating quite differently to the other animals.
    The NSW state Liberals and their Federal counterparts are not unlike the zebras, albeit more like striped wabbits, nervously clustering around their leader, your Paynes and Pynes, Sinidososes and Brandises and Bishops, huddling in ever closer, not wanting to pluck out the big goose of a wabbit from their midst, as they all have the same red stuff on their hands, yet knowing that 21 polls in a row indicate the knell of parting day.
    Fear does remarkable things when conservatives, turned sycophants, offer movie tickets to those sufficiently cross-eyed to switch their air conditioners off during Canberra induced heat-waves. Fear causes those passengers falling into the icy waters to cling to themselves rather than the proffered life raft, in the form of Tony Abbott energy policies (like pulling out of Paris Climate Accords, or scrapping RETs). This same life raft chose to float in amongst the drowning passengers, and as with all Greek tragedies, we the audience recognise their plight, yet they are incapable of reaching out to the raft to save themselves. Worse still one of our respected female readers doesn’t even acknowledge he’s a raft. Pax Jody.
    En Passant predicts there will be three issues to bring down the government before Christmas: incontinence is one (otherwise known as bedwetting); the energy crisis is another; and a collective ‘where-the-fug-ga-wee’ the third.

  7. ianl says:

    Cassandra is still in business.

    I posted the aneroid website link above, here again:

    http://anero.id/energy/

    The data this site uses comes from the AEMO and hour by hour graphs power usage and supply source across the Aus continent. It is known by the engineering term *base load* and you will instantly see that the demand never falls below 18000MWh (18GWh) and is mostly on the 22000MWh (22GWh) bench.

    The ABC (doh!, a surprise) is now running a propaganda campaign to convince enough of the general populace that “base load” is just a fairy tale. So, supermarket freezers, air con ventilation for every tall building (windows don’t open), hospitals, night shift activities, smelters, street lights, home heaters and air con, water heaters, petrol pumps, water and sewage pumps, manufacturing and services, and … endless – these requirements are all unneeded fairy tales.

    Cassandra lives.

    Removing Waffle, or not, will make no difference here. The enormous amounts of blood and treasure spent building the country over the past 200+ years has succumbed to the Vanities without the Bonfire. Such a so very stupid country.

    • Jody says:

      The propagandists for the Greens et al remind me of the advocates for the NBN. I always knew the technology would soon render the NBN redundant, only it has happened faster than even I imagined (the NBN is slow and useless; wireless is still better). The same for ‘climate change’. Technology will solve ‘the problem’ much more effectively than nations destroying their economies. My son tells me the Japanese have invented a ‘gadget’ (sorry, don’t know much about it) which converts carbon into something benign. So, hysteria is the WORST place to start change.

      • en passant says:

        Jody,
        “… the Japanese have invented a ‘gadget’ which converts carbon into something benign.”

        Umm, could you let the world know what is not benign about Carbon?

        You can eat the element without harm.
        It is a constituent in just about everything in our food chain
        We live by converting oxygen into a harmless, non-toxic by-product of carbon (which is a plant food that provides growth for our food)
        And of course, the clincher is that carbon is part of one of the wonderful gases that gently warms the world and makes it more liveable (I am visiting family in Victoria in October and today it is a miserable 14C so a few degrees more would be appreciated).

        Yes, NBN was only the fourth ‘brightest’ [read 'worst'] idea our treasonous politicians came up with to destroy and ‘globalise’ Oz, so give credit where credit is due. I have finally been connected to the internet by NBN 22-months after applying. It works fine and almost as well as my 3rd world connection in Vietnam. Almost.

        So, to reiterate: why did you think Carbon was not benign?

  8. Keith Kennelly says:

    Not a stupid country … only a country stipidly divided by stupid elitist managers and their individual stupid hates and stupid self-interest.

    Turnbull, Pyne, Bushop, Morrison, Frudenberg, Brandis, Shorten, Bowen, Wong, Xenophon, any Green Andrews, Weatherill, Pyzacheales … tell me which one isn’t stupid and self interested?

    • Jody says:

      Father Jack Hackett: the western world has the problem of NO BRAND DIFFERENTIATION. Australia is not alone. Most major democracies have seen a convergence of thinking and a leftist style hegemony emerging. I’m afraid it has to happen and the people will pay: that’s fair. Make your own plans and put your cash in a safe place (as it were).

      • Keith Kennelly says:

        Jody
        Some of us won’t follow your script. We will support the likes of Abbott and Trump.

        When this war is over and the forces behind the attitudes reflected by Abbot and Trump are victorious we will reject the attempts of those like you who will emerge from hiding in the bottoms of the trenches, fox holes and cellars. You lot will be castigated for your undermining of our democracy and leadership.

      • en passant says:

        Jody,
        I took your advice three years ago. Five years ago I sniffed the Oz economic breeze and smelt death and decay. I sold two of my businesses and my house and moved overseas (see my post below). Another went two years ago.

        I have three major investments left in Oz, but two will be ‘resolved’ this year, but as I have all the money I need overseas already the problem of what to do with the next tranche of cash inflow is exercising my mind.
        I will not EVAAA be investing again in the industrial and economic carcase that is Oz nor the brain-dead basket case once known as South Australia. Singapore is an option, but so is 2-years sailing the world on the Queen Mary and blogging on Quadrant …

  9. en passant says:

    Keith et al.
    My apologies for the length of the following extract of an article that will be published next month in a obscure journal (no, not Quadrant!):
    “Could we live as well in Australia as we do in Vietnam? Almost, but not quite as the cost of living differential would limit some activities. My electricity bill in Melbourne was $800 for the 2016 winter quarter (and would no doubt top $1,000 in 2017). Here it is $180 for the same period, yet we are all-electric and run three air conditioners constantly. At night we light the place up like Luna Park for the passing ships to navigate by. Did I mention that my cheap electricity is because the Vietnamese built the world’s 11th largest coal-fired power station.
    I have spent an average of $65/day for luxury living {which includes a maid who takes care of the mundane stuff}. This is less than Oz$24K per year) The interest on my bank deposits are not taxed in Vietnam, so I am actually becoming wealthier. The Government asked me what they can do to encourage me to reopen my business in Viet Nam, whereas over-regulated Oz has become a nightmare in which to be an entrepreneur. After my most recent 2-year bureaucratic investment nightmare I will NEVER EVAAAAAA! invest in Australia again.
    The people are genuinely exuberant, positive, confident, ‘unified’, polite and enthusiastically pleasant. They believe in their country and its future, something I find has rubbed off on me. I believe in them too and that they will succeed.
    The region is strongly Catholic with 17 churches within a 10km radius. They are filled to capacity every Sunday (and sometimes during the week too!). There are also some very large Buddhist Temples located almost side by side. The two religions live together harmoniously and sometimes families go to both the Church and the Temple. You can never be too careful …
    There is almost no crime, no violence and no danger at all. Viet Nam sounds like the Australia I emigrated to in the 1960’s and thought I knew until the sunset of ‘Strength through Diversity’ and the treasonous political elites ushered in the new Dark Age.”

    Without a Trump arising, Oz and the West is lost. At any moment the Resident Troll will demonstrate your point about stupidity by parroting some pap about my cheap electricity killing the planet … He (or it) is beyond mockery or parody, but it is not funny watching a whole country decline and die by its own hand. I now know more people who are retired (by choice or otherwise), unemployed, redundant, surplus to requirements or wasted talent. They have all held middle to senior positions, but many are now in personal decline in step with Oz. Moving overseas saved my sanity, but for those of you remaining to save the planet by not taking to a lifeboat, I also said in the article:
    “I not only buy through the local economy, but purchase halal certified things like Australian sugar and Bega cheese from a French Supermarket. A touching reminder (that brings a tear to my eyes) that the Oz asylum is run by lunatics …”.
    Of course, living in Viet Nam has several major downside issues.

    Umm, if and when I find any, I will get back and let you know … but don’t wait up.

  10. Real Oz says:

    spasmodic
    spazˈmɒdɪk/
    adjective
    adjective: spasmodic

    1.
    occurring or done in brief, irregular bursts.
    “spasmodic fighting continued”
    synonyms: intermittent, fitful, irregular, sporadic, erratic, occasional, infrequent, scattered, patchy, isolated, odd, uneven, periodic, periodical, recurring, recurrent, on and off
    “spasmodic fighting continued”

  11. Keith Kennelly says:

    See Jody

    I knew you didn’t have the self discipline not to read what I have to say.

    Tell me does no brand differentiation include, Trump, Abbott, Bernardi, and Hanson?

    Really you should think before you start bashing away on your comp keys

  12. Doubting Thomas says:

    Nine!

  13. Keith Kennelly says:

    Jody

    I just checked your Hackett reference.

    It really shows the level you sink too.

    Fancy you watching such base rubbish.

    Mind you if the truth be known, it probably suits your level of intelligence.

  14. en passant says:

    Nine polls left (or is it Left?) and counting …