Mixed messages in post-budget Newspoll and Fairfax-Ipsos


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Labor continues to hold a 51-49% two-party lead in the wake of last week’s budget. However, Malcolm Turnbull’s advantage over Bill Shorten has surged in the Newspoll published in The Australian on Monday.

But the Ipsos poll, in Fairfax papers, has Labor ahead by a much wider 54-46% margin on a two-party basis – a rise of two points for the ALP since the last Ipsos poll in early April, with a corresponding fall for the Coalition.

Post-budget opinion will soon be tested on the ground in five byelections, four of them caused by the citizenship crisis.

The Western Australian Liberals have announced they will not run in the two contests in that state, while Pauline Hanson and opposition leader Bill Shorten are trading public blows over preferences for the Queensland seat of Longman, where One Nation preferences were crucial in Labor’s win last election.

In Newspoll, Turnbull has stretched his previous three-point lead over Bill Shorten as better PM to 14 points. Turnbull jumped eight points to 46%, while Shorten fell three points to 32% in the poll, done Thursday to Sunday.

Last week Shorten was embarrassed over his previous boasts that Labor had a strong citizenship vetting process, after the High Court on Wednesday disqualified Labor senator Katy Gallagher for having dual citizenship when she nominated for the 2016 election. The court decision prompted three Labor MPs and a crossbencher to resign.

Turnbull’s satisfaction rating has risen three points to 39% in Newspoll, while Shorten’s rating went down a point to 33%. The Coalition primary vote was up a point to 39%; Labor also rose a point to 38%, since the last poll, published three weeks ago. One Nation is on 6%, the Greens are 9%.

Newspoll found 41% thought the budget good for the economy; only 26% said it would be bad. People were split on its impact for them personally: 29% said they would be better off, 27% thought it would leave them worse off.

Just over half (51%) backed the government’s tax plan, the first stage of which would give a tax cut to lower and middle income earners.

The Labor primary vote in the Fairfax-Ipsos poll was 37% (up three points). The Coalition was unchanged on 36%.

In the Ipsos poll, taken Thursday to Saturday, 38% believed they would be personally better off as a result of the budget – the highest rating in perceived personal benefit since 2006 – while 25% said they would be worse off. On the measure of fairness, 39% believed the budget was fair, while 33% said it was unfair. Ipsos found 57% would prefer the government to use extra revenue to pay off debt; 37% would prefer it to be used for tax cuts.

Turnbull’s approval rating was 51% (up four points) in the Fairfax-Ipsos poll; his disapproval was 39% (down four points). Shorten was on 39% approval (up a point) and 51% disapproval (down two points) . As preferred prime minister, Turnbull was ahead 52% (unchanged) to Shorten’s 32% (up a point).

The timing of the byelections is yet to be announced – they are expected to be on the same Saturday. Four are in Labor seats; the fifth is in Mayo, held by the Centre Alliance’s Rebekha Sharkie – the Liberals are hoping to wrest the seat back.

Braddon in Tasmania and Longman will be the two government-opposition head-to-head battles.

In Longman, on less than 1% margin, a ReachTEL poll commissioned by the left-leaning think tank The Australia Institute found the government leading the ALP 53-47% in two-party terms. It had One Nation on 15.1%. The poll was done Thursday night, of 1277 people.

As it seeks a strong candidate for Longman, the Liberal National Party is bedevilled by the dual citizenship issue that has caused the byelection in the first place. The LNP is having to ensure, before it does its preselection, that no potential candidate is a dual citizen, which can go to complicated questions of eligibility for foreign citizenship through relatives.

Labor’s Susan Lamb, who won the seat in 2016, also must renounce her dual British citizenship in time for her renomination.

Shorten at the weekend delivered a sharp response to Hanson’s demand that Labor put the Greens last.

Hanson wrote to Shorten that:

With a looming byelection in the seat of Longman and a federal election likely within the next 12 months, One Nation and its supporters are seeking an assurance from you as Leader of the Australian Labor Party that you will guarantee placing the Greens at the bottom of all Labor how-to-vote cards.

Conservative Australians do not support parties who flow their preferences to the Greens and I cannot in good conscience flow One Nation preferences to Labor if their preferences relationship continues with the Greens.

Shorten wrote back:

I know you are under a lot of pressure following your decision to support the Prime Minister’s $80 billion tax handout to multinationals and the big banks. That’s the only explanation I can think of for your letter to me, in which you appear to be attempting to direct the preferences of Longman voters voters to the LNP.

Meanwhile a row has blown up over the preselection dumping of Queensland Liberal Jane Prentice, an assistant minister in the Turnbull government. She was beaten decisively in a rank and file ballot by a Brisbane city councillor, Julian Simmonds, a former staffer of hers. Her defeat has reignited the criticism of the Liberal party for having so few women in its parliamentary ranks.

The ConversationAsked about Prentice’s loss, Treasurer Scott Morrison told the ABC that politics was “a contestable process”. Prentice had “done a great job and we thank her for her service”.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Bill Shorten outbids Turnbull’s tax cut for lower and middle income earners



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Shorten pledged to give bigger income tax cuts for 10 million taxpayers.
Lukas Coch/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Opposition leader Bill Shorten has launched a tax bidding war, promising to top the government’s tax relief for lower and middle income earners, as he prepares to fight a string of byelections in Labor seats.

The Labor alternative almost doubles the budget’s relief for these taxpayers, incorporating the early part of the government’s plan and then building on it.

Delivering his budget reply in Parliament on Thursday night, Shorten pledged to give bigger income tax cuts for 10 million taxpayers. Some four million would get A$398 a year more than the $530 under the government’s plan.

Labor’s “Working Australians Tax Refund”, would cost $5.8 billion more than the government’s plan over the forward estimates.

Labor’s alternative comes as debate intensifies about the latter stage of the government’s plan, when a flattening of the tax scale would give substantial benefit to high income earners.

The ALP hardened its position against that change as modelling cast doubt on its fairness. The opposition launched a Senate inquiry which will report mid June on the tax legislation, introduced into parliament on Wednesday.

The government says it will not split the bill, which it wants through before parliament rises for its winter break, but will be under pressure to do so including from the crossbench.

Under Shorten’s proposal, the ALP would support the government’s budget tax cut in 2018-19. Once in power, it would then deliver bigger tax cuts from July 1 2019, when it began the refund.

In Labor’s first budget “we will deliver a bigger better and fairer tax cut for 10 million working Australians. Almost double what the government offered on Tuesday”, Shorten told parliament.

The Labor plan would give all taxpayers earning under $125,000 a year a larger tax cut than they would get under the budget plan.

In a speech heavy on the theme of fairness, Shorten said: “At the next election there will be a very clear choice on tax. Ten million Australians will pay less tax under Labor”.

He also pitched his budget reply directly at the campaign for the byelections.




Read more:
View from The Hill: ‘Super Saturday’ voters get first say on tax


“This is my challenge to the Prime Minister. If you think that your budget is fair, if you think that your sneaky cuts can survive scrutiny, put it to the test. Put it to the test in Burnie, put it to the test in Fremantle and in Perth.

“I will put my better, fairer, bigger income tax cut against yours. I’ll put my plans to rescue hospitals and fund Medicare against your cuts. I’ll put my plans to properly fund schools against your cuts and I’ll put my plan to boost wages against your plan to cut penalty rates and I’ll put my plans for 100,000 TAFE places against your cuts to apprenticeships and training and I’ll fight for the ABC against your cuts.”

In the Labor model, a teacher earning $65,000 would get tax relief of $928 a year, $398 more than the $530 offered by the government.

A married couple, with one partner earning $90,000 and the other $50,000 would receive a tax cut of $1855, making them $796 a year better off under Labor than under the government.

Shorten said Labor could afford the tax cuts it proposed because it wasn’t giving $80 billion to big business and the big four banks. Also, it had earlier made hard choices on revenue measures.




Read more:
Politics podcast: Mathias Cormann and Jim Chalmers on Budget 2018


An ALP government could deliver “the winning trifecta” – “a genuine tax cut for middle and working class Australians; proper funding for schools, hospitals and the safety net; and paying back more of Australia’s national debt faster”.

Shorten said that the Liberals were proposing to radically rewrite the tax rules in their seven year plan. Research had revealed that $6 in every $10 would go to the wealthiest 20% of Australians, he said .

“Very quickly, this is starting to look like a Mates Rates tax plan”.

“And at a time of flat wages, rising inequality and a growing sense of unfairness in the community”.

Other initiatives he announced include:

· A plan for skills, TAFE and apprentices costing $473 million over the forward estimates.

· Abolition of the cap on university places, re-instating Labor’s demand driven system, at a cost of $140 million over the forward estimates.

· Reversing cuts to hospitals and establishing a Better Hospitals Fund, seeing an extra $2.8 billion flow to public hospitals. This would cost $764 million over the budget period.

· Invest $80 million to boost the number of eligible MRI machines and approve 20 new licences – which would mean 500,000 more scans funded by Medicare over the course of a first Labor budget.

The Conversation· Provide $25m to the Commonwealth Public Prosecutor to establish a Corporate Crime Taskforce. The Taskforce would deal with recommendations for criminal prosecution from the banking royal commission.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

ReachTEL poll 52-48 to Labor as party faces Perth byelection, and strong swings to US Democrats



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Labor MP Tim Hammond’s resignation has triggered a byelection in Perth, which Labor looks likely to hold.
AAP/Rebecca Le May

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

A ReachTEL poll for Sky News, presumably conducted Monday or Tuesday from a sample of over 2,000, gave Labor a 52-48 lead, a two-point gain for the Coalition since a late March ReachTEL. Primary votes were 36% Coalition (up two), 35% Labor (down one), 10% Greens (steady) and 6% One Nation (down one).

The 13% who did not express a preference for the four stated parties almost certainly include undecided as well as Other voters. As usual, media sources have omitted these details.

ReachTEL uses respondent allocated preferences. According to analyst Kevin Bonham, this poll would be about 52.7% to Labor by 2016 election preferences.




Read more:
Poll wrap: Labor’s Newspoll lead narrows federally and in Victoria


Malcolm Turnbull led Bill Shorten by 54.5-45.5 as better PM, a two-point gain for Turnbull since late March. 48% would prefer an earlier return to surplus, while 39% would like a tax cut in the budget. By 50-30, voters supported Labor’s policy for a 90-day limit on holding asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru.

Last week’s Newspoll was 51-49 to Labor using Newspoll’s changed method (since the November 2017 Queensland election) of assigning about 60% of One Nation preferences to the Coalition, instead of the half that were assigned previously.

One Nation is a far-right party that attracts Tony Abbott supporters who believe Turnbull is too left-wing. Liberal leadership polls show the highest support for Abbott is with One Nation voters.




Read more:
Poll wrap: Newspoll not all bad news for Turnbull as Coalition’s position improves


Given the 65% preference flow from One Nation to the LNP at the Queensland election, the clear preference for Abbott over Turnbull with One Nation voters and respondent preferences being about one point better for the Coalition than 2016 preferences, Newspoll is justified in shifting its preference flow assumptions for One Nation.

Since late March, Ipsos, Newspoll and ReachTEL polls have shown a trend to the Coalition, with only Essential moving the other way. Left-wing partisans should stop complaining about Newspoll, and acknowledge that Labor’s lead is diminishing.

Labor’s Perth MP Tim Hammond resigns, causing byelection

On Wednesday, Tim Hammond resigned as the federal Labor Member for Perth. A byelection will be required to replace him.

At the 2016 election, Hammond won Perth by a 53.3-46.7 margin against the Liberals, a 1.2% swing to Labor. Primary votes were 42.3% Liberal, 37.4% Labor and 17.1% Greens. In Western Australia overall, there was a 3.6% two party swing to Labor in 2016.

The relatively small margin in Perth implies that the seat could be competitive if the Liberals field a candidate, particularly if the Liberal candidate is well-known and popular. Labor will not lose Hammond’s personal vote, as he was first elected in 2016; personal votes of sitting members usually take two elections to build.

According to The Poll Bludger’s BludgerTrack, there is currently an 8% two party swing to Labor in Western Australia since the 2016 election. If this is the case, Labor should easily hold Perth.

Defying her party, Liberal Sue Hickey wins Tasmanian Speakership

At the March 3 Tasmanian election, the Liberals won 13 of the 25 seats, Labor ten and the Greens two. On Tuesday (the first sitting day since the election), Rene Hidding, the endorsed Liberal candidate for Speaker of the lower house, was defeated by Sue Hickey, 13 votes to 12. Hickey’s votes came from Labor, the Greens and Hickey herself.

Hickey has said she will remain a Liberal, but will not attend party room meetings, and will vote independently, though she will “mostly” vote with the Liberals. The Liberals have not yet lost their majority, but if Hickey votes with Labor and the Greens on major legislation, they will lose it.

Hickey was the former Mayor of Hobart, and was the second of two Liberals elected from the Hobart-based seat of Denison, the most left-wing Tasmanian electorate.

According to Bonham, Hickey is the first Speaker in Tasmanian history to become Speaker immediately after being elected to Parliament.

Strong swings to US Democrats at byelections

At a byelection for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District (CD) held on March 13, the Democrat, Conor Lamb, defeated the Republican, Rick Saccone, by a 49.8-49.6 margin. Donald Trump had crushed Hillary Clinton in this district by almost 20 points at the 2016 Presidential election.

On April 24, Republicans held Arizona’s eighth CD by 52.4-47.6, but this was a 16-point difference from Trump’s 21-point margin in 2016. In December 2017, Democrats won the Alabama Senate byelection in a state Trump had won by 28 points.




Read more:
Democrat Doug Jones wins Alabama Senate byelection in stunning upset; Bennelong is tied 50-50


CNN analyst Harry Enten says the Democrats have performed an average 17 points better than expected given partisan lean at federal byelections in 2017-18.

According to Daily Kos Elections, in state and federal byelections held in 2018, Democrats have overperformed the 2016 Presidential margins by an average 15 points, and the 2012 Presidential margins by an average six points.

In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Trump has a 41.2% approve, 52.9% disapprove rating. Trump’s ratings have been very steady since early March, with a slight recent uptick, probably owing to the peace talks between North and South Korea. Trump’s approval is below all his predecessors since Harry Truman at this point in their presidencies.

Democrats hold a 46.8-39.0 lead over Republicans in the race for Congress. All 435 House seats are up for election on November 6. Owing to natural clustering of Democratic voters and Republican gerrymandering, Democrats probably need to win the House popular vote by about seven points to take control. The swing to the Democrats in national House polls is far lower than the swing in byelections.

The Conversation35 of the 100 Senate seats are also up for election on November 6, including two Senate byelections in Mississippi and Minnesota. 26 of these seats are currently held by Democrats and just nine by Republicans. Democrats will be defending five states that voted for Trump by at least 18 points. It will be very difficult for Democrats to win a Senate majority despite Republicans currently holding the Senate by just a 51-49 margin.

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Grattan on Friday: Can the Turnbull government make the election all about tax?


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Morrison says the budget will deliver tax relief for middle to lower income Australians.
Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

It’s an indication of how politically difficult the terrain is for the Coalition that Scott Morrison has faced a hard time defending the decision to drop a planned tax hike.

Morrison explains abandoning the rise in the Medicare levy – which he insisted only a year ago was vital to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme – by saying revenue is much better.

It’s relevant, of course, that the levy wasn’t going to get through the Senate in its full form.

Apart from criticism of the speed and suddenness of the backflip, stakeholders fear it means the NDIS’s funding base mightn’t be so secure in the longer term.

Still, most people aren’t going to complain about not having to pay the higher levy.

From the government’s point of view, it is especially important that it has removed a serious contradiction it had faced – on the one hand making income tax cuts a centrepiece of the May 8 budget while on the other proposing to increase the levy on July 1 next year, weeks after the expected time of the election.

The government is pinning its hopes on making this election all about tax – casting itself as champion of lower tax and Labor as signed up to what Morrison dubs the “high tax club”.

It’s shades of John Howard’s 2007 election, when he offered big income tax cuts as the Coalition tried to stave off defeat. Labor matched almost all the cuts. Howard lost the election.

Morrison says the budget will deliver “tax relief to put more money back in the pockets of middle to lower income Australians to deal with their own household and family budget pressures.”

“It is important that when we consider any plan for tax relief, middle to lower income families will come first as part of any broader plan”, he said, in a major pre-budget speech on Thursday, while notably also focusing on how much of the tax burden is borne by higher income earners. “A massive 17% of the A$186 billion collected in personal income tax for 2015-16 was paid by the top 1% of taxpayers,” he said.

Whatever the detail of the government’s income tax package – the Australian Financial Review has reported cuts would be phased in over a decade – Labor has, thanks to revenue choices it has made, the financial capacity to match it.

For the longer term, the ALP also has available money from the company tax cuts for big business. These are not through the Senate at this point but they are in the budget numbers; Bill Shorten says Labor would repeal them (saving multi-billions over time) if they are legislated.

One Labor source says: “We’re not going to let them beat us on income tax cuts. We’re not going to let income tax cuts be a contest”.

Following the government’s move, Labor has dropped its compromise proposal to increase the Medicare levy for those earning more than $87,000. Under its present policy a Labor government would, however, bring back the deficit levy for high income earners. But the “contest” there would be on ground where the ALP doesn’t have so many voters.

In painting Labor as big taxers, the government will home in on multiple fronts including the opposition’s proposed crackdown on negative gearing and the capital gains discount, its planned action on trusts, and its ending (except for pensioners) of cash refunds for franked dividends. Voters are used to the negative gearing policy from the 2016 election. By tweaking its clampdown on refunds, Labor has tried to limit the blowback.

A significant question is how much potency “tax” has in an election these days, especially if the two sides have broadly matching policies on income tax cuts (except at the higher end).

It is relevant to the cost of living issue, but only if one side offers cuts for lower and middle income earners and the other doesn’t.

This week’s Newspoll in The Australian asked voters to name from a list their top priority for the budget. Only 15% nominated cutting income tax rates, well behind reducing debt and deficit (26%) and increasing spending on health (27%).

We should probably apply a discount in interpreting these results – some people might say what they think they should say rather than their actual view.

Nevertheless, it does seem likely that tax cuts are not necessarily the vote-magnet they once might have been. In attracting voters, they can perhaps be described as necessary but not sufficient. People expect them. If they are modest and phased in, they don’t carry great punch. Also, many voters today are often more concerned about services.

While the budget’s focus will be the income tax cuts, the government is still trying to get a favourable Senate vote soon after on its business tax cuts.

How Finance Minister Mathias Cormann must be cursing that he wasn’t able to drag those last couple of crossbenchers across the line before the appalling stories started flowing in the banking royal commission! Cormann is a negotiator par excellence but his task is now tougher.

It may or may not have been encouraging for him that South Australian independent Tim Storer this week said he was looking at the company tax issue separately from what was going on at the royal commission. Storer has raised a wide range of doubts about the legislation.

The evidence at the commission must surely make Derryn Hinch, the other crossbencher who was central to the earlier negotiations, harder to win over. Even before the damning revelations, Hinch called for the banks to be excluded from receiving the cuts. After the government quickly rejected this, Hinch has talked about confining them to companies up to a $500 million annual turnover – another way to skin the bank cat. It’s difficult to see how Hinch can now move.

The ConversationCormann has turned his attention to the two Centre Alliance senators (formerly the Nick Xenophon Team). So far they have firmly opposed the cuts for big business. They are waiting to see the budget before coming back to the issue. Meanwhile the indefatigable Cormann deluges them with material. “I’ve never seen text messages as long as he sends!” says Centre Alliance senator Stirling Griff.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

View from The Hill: Shorten puts heat on government over bank victim compensation, as Coalition gets better poll news


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Sometimes it’s not a bad idea to have a lie-in on Sunday morning. Financial Services Minister Kelly O’Dwyer might wish she’d done so at the weekend.

O’Dwyer should not have gone out – or been put out – on the ABC’s Insiders program with the lines she had on the banking royal commission. The interview was agony to watch, and counter-productive for the government, as she steadfastly refused to admit the Coalition had been wrong in not agreeing earlier to the inquiry, which has produced such devastating disclosures.

So often the government seems to take the public for fools. Scott Morrison’s attempts to turn everything to a discussion of Bill Shorten are ludicrous. O’Dwyer’s effort to avoid any confession of error just drew more attention to the bad call.

Remember O’Dwyer is well-versed in the financial services area. Look at her CV. She was a senior advisor to then-treasurer Peter Costello. Later she worked at the National Australia Bank. She has seen the banking system from inside as well as from her ministerial and advisory roles.

And yet, because of the government’s “admit nothing” strategy, she visibly struggled at every turn in Sunday’s interview.

Asked about her 2016 claim that “for the Labor party to propose a royal commission into banks is reckless and ill-conceived”, she could only fall back to the weak defence that “you can obsess and Labor can obsess about these issues. I’m actually obsessed about fixing the problems”. In other words, the government can be political when convenient but if brought to book, that’s just others “obsessing”.

Labor’s idea of a royal commission had been “a stunt”, she said, but then “there is no question we got it right in establishing the royal commission”. The difference is that the government did it soberly and deliberately, according to O’Dwyer. Grudgingly and belatedly would be a better description.

The alternative strategy would have been for the government to say, “Yes, in retrospect we did not move quickly enough. We were concerned about shaking confidence in the banking system. We did not appreciate how systemic the problems were. We thought we were doing enough but we weren’t”.

Everyone knows the government’s hand was forced in the end by rebel Nationals. Conceding it had been wrong would have been humiliating. But by doing so the government would have gone some way to clearing its own decks. That might have given it a fighting chance of being seen as part of the solution rather than having the attention so sharply focused on its abysmal failure.

Morrison in an interview in AFR Weekend also tried a convoluted avoidance game, as he sought to reconcile being surprised by the royal commission’s revelations with earlier arguing it wouldn’t find issues government didn’t know.

“When I say they were known to government, they were known to government agencies”, he told the newspaper.

“There is a difference between individual ministers being aware of particular things and the regulatory agencies being aware of them.”

Morrison likened his position to that of a police minister not knowing every criminal investigation underway. “I am not aware of every court case and every decision and every practice of every bank in the country any more than anyone else is – indeed than the executives in the banks and they run the things,” he said.

But the issue was not one of knowing “every practice of every bank”. It was a case of being aware of broad malfeasance – and there was plenty of evidence of that, through parliamentary inquiries and what was being said by victims, financial journalists and government backbenchers such as senator John Williams.

When politicians are unwilling to take responsibility, that just adds to the distrust and anger voters feel towards them. It’s a sign they are treating the people with disrespect, so is it any wonder they don’t get respect in return?

This bald-faced refusal to acknowledge their own inconvenient history in part comes from the politicians’ belief that if you just burnish the “spin”, you can get away with saying anything. The idea is that you brainstorm some “lines”, repeat them shamelessly, and hope they will be accepted – regardless of their disconnect from reality.

It might work for an occasional glitch when life generally is going well for a government and the public are in a good mood. These days, neither condition is present.

Meanwhile, as the government implausibly denies being out-manoeuvred over the commission, Shorten is pushing ahead again in the banking debate.

He has released a letter to Turnbull in which he says: “Given the shocking evidence that has been revealed so far, it is time the government gave serious consideration to a compensation scheme for the victims of proven wrongdoing. It’s unacceptable for people to suffer because of the misconduct of others, with no dependable access to justice.”

It will be a popular pitch out in the electorate, just as Labor’s call for a royal commission was.

POSTSCRIPT

The ConversationThe government has received some good news in Monday’s Newspoll in The Australian, with Labor now leading only by a narrow 51-49% in two-party terms. This compares with a 52-48% ALP lead in the poll a fortnight ago, when the Turnbull government passed the 30th consecutive loss landmark. The current poll is the Coalition’s best two-party preferred result since September 2016.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Tony Abbott and the revenge of the ‘delcons’


Dominic Kelly, La Trobe University

This article is the second in a five-part series on the battle for conservative hearts and minds in Australian politics. Read part one here.


When Liberal Party MPs dumped Tony Abbott for Malcolm Turnbull in September 2015, they could hardly have pleaded ignorance of the turmoil they were creating for themselves. The fact they were in government could largely be credited to the Labor Party having torn itself apart in the Kevin Rudd-Julia Gillard leadership wars.

Almost three years later, veteran political journalist Paul Kelly believes Australian conservatism is in crisis:

Conservatism is consumed by confusion over its principles and purpose. It is fragmenting in party terms – witness the Coalition bleeding votes to Hanson’s One Nation and Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives. With John Howard long gone, it is devoid of any authority figure in office able to hold the movement together and retain it within the party. Abbott remains its figurehead with the faithful but his internal standing has nosedived.

Much as Rudd did for Gillard’s entire prime ministership, Abbott continues to stalk Turnbull, using his media allies to insert himself in national debates whenever possible. This delights his supporters, but infuriates those Liberal colleagues more interested in governing than fighting internal battles.

But can Abbott and the hardline conservative base succeed in reclaiming control of the Liberal Party?


https://public.flourish.studio/story/5533/embed


The ‘delcon’ insurgency

In April 2016, conservative Daily Telegraph columnist Miranda Devine came up with the memorable term “delcon” to describe those “delusional conservatives” who remained firmly in the Abbott camp following the Turnbull coup. “The Delcon movement is tiny but viciously punitive to those it regards as heretics,” she wrote.

Devine had in mind prominent right-wing figures such as James Allan, a law professor at the University of Queensland, and John Stone, the former Treasury Secretary and National Party senator. Following the coup, both were quick to announce they would never vote for the Liberal Party “while led by Malcolm Turnbull and his fellow conspirators.”

But Devine’s delcon jibe did nothing to make them reconsider their positions. If anything, it hardened their resolve. Allan wore the term with pride, and re-affirmed his position that:

with Malcolm in charge it’s actually in Australia’s long-term interest to see the Coalition lose this next election, for the long-term good of party and country.

Stone preferred the term “dis-con” – claiming to be a disaffected, not delusional, conservative – and argued that voting against the Liberals was an act of principle intended to teach the party a lesson about loyalty.

Meanwhile, Stone and Allan have used every opportunity to urge the Liberal Party to restore Abbott to the leadership. They were especially emboldened by Turnbull’s disastrous election performance in 2016, which increased the power and influence of the Liberal Party’s right wing, even as it remained in the minority.




Read more:
Can the Liberal Party hold its ‘broad church’ of liberals and conservatives together?


Though other leadership options have been canvassed, Stone’s overwhelming preference is a restoration of Abbott:

Readers will know I have continued to believe the Coalition’s best chance at the next election will be by restoring Abbott as its Leader. A different choice, hailing from the party’s right (Peter Dutton?), would be enough to see many Dis-Cons stream back into the Liberal’s corner; but if the choice were Abbott, that stream would become a flood. Like him or loathe him, Abbott towers head and shoulders over anyone else in the Liberal party room, whether seen from a domestic policy viewpoint or as international statesman.

Minor party alternatives

However, while Turnbull remained in the job, disaffected conservatives were forced to consider placing their votes with other parties of the right. In the 2016 election, Stone recommended merely placing candidates from “acceptably ‘conservative’ parties” (such as Family First, the Australian Liberty Alliance, Fred Nile’s Christian Democrats and the Shooters and Fishers Party) above those Liberals who voted for Turnbull in the leadership spill.

But by April 2017, increasingly exasperated with the Liberal Party’s unwillingness to remove Turnbull, Stone was ready to abandon the party altogether:

If … nothing has been done by mid-year, we still loosely unattached Dis-Cons will need finally to make the break – to sever our former Liberal loyalties and definitively look elsewhere to lodge our votes. Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party, of course, beckons, as do the Liberal Democrats. Perhaps most attractive may be Cory Bernardi’s Conservative Party; but one way or the other, decision time approaches.

However, the recent electoral results of these alternatives have been decidedly underwhelming. One Nation seemingly came from nowhere to win four Senate seats in 2016, but performed significantly below expectations in subsequent state elections in Western Australia and Queensland.

The performance of Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives in the South Australian election in March this year was even more disappointing. Launched in April 2017 as the party for conservatives fed up with the direction of the Liberal Party under Turnbull, the party received a miserable 3% of votes in Bernardi’s home state, and has since suffered the defection of one MP to the Liberals.

Abbott’s relentless campaign

And so, an Abbott-led Liberal Party remains the goal for disaffected conservatives, and Abbott has proven more than willing to present himself as their flag-bearer. One report suggested he is preparing the ground for a return to the leadership in opposition, though Abbott publicly refuted the story.

But the former prime minister continues his relentless campaign to undermine Turnbull’s leadership. He launched Pauline Hanson’s book at Parliament House, urging the Coalition to work with the “constructive” One Nation, and mischievously suggesting that “you are always better the second time around”.




Read more:
The pro-coal ‘Monash Forum’ may do little but blacken the name of a revered Australian


Abbott is also a central figure in the Monash Forum, a loose collection of conservative Liberals and Nationals urging the government to invest in coal-fired power stations. Tellingly, the story of the group’s emergence was first broken by Peta Credlin, Abbott’s former chief of staff.

As they did in 2009, conservative MPs are exploiting internal divisions over climate and energy policy to undermine Turnbull’s leadership. The Monash Forum was slammed as “socialist” by Paul Kelly, and derided by Miranda Devine as merely “the usual suspects among the tiny delcon contingent of Liberal MPs”.

The ConversationBut though their numbers may be small, the delcons’ political impact is immense. They are determined to bring down the prime minister at any cost, including doing long-term damage to the Liberal Party.

Dominic Kelly, Honorary Research Fellow, La Trobe University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Poll wrap: Newspoll not all bad news for Turnbull as Coalition’s position improves



File 20180410 75748 1wbz2ar.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
A big difference between the losing streaks of Malcolm Turnbull and former PM Tony Abbott is that Abbott often trailed Shorten as better PM, while Turnbull has always led Shorten.
AAP/Brendan Esposito

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s Newspoll, conducted April 5-8 from a sample of 1,600, gave Labor a 52-48 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition since last fortnight. Primary votes were 38% Coalition (up one), 37% Labor (down two), 10% Greens (up one) and 7% One Nation (steady).

This was Malcolm Turnbull’s 30th successive Newspoll loss, matching Tony Abbott’s streak before Turnbull ousted him as Liberal leader and PM in September 2015. Famously, Turnbull justified moving against Abbott partly because of the Newspoll losses.

Turnbull’s ratings were 32% satisfied (down one) and 57% dissatisfied (steady), for a net approval of -25. Bill Shorten’s net approval fell five points to -25. Turnbull led Shorten by 38-36 as better PM (39-36 previously).




Read more:
Government loses 30th consecutive Newspoll, despite slight improvement


A big difference between the losing streaks of Turnbull and Abbott is that Abbott often trailed Shorten as better PM, while Turnbull has always led Shorten.

On best Liberal leader, 28% preferred Turnbull (down two since early February), 27% Julie Bishop (up one), 13% Abbott (steady) and 9% Peter Dutton (up two). Coalition voters gave Turnbull 46%, Bishop 22%, Abbott 15% and Dutton 7%. Abbott and Dutton performed best with One Nation voters.

By 55-27, voters thought the 30 Newspoll losses demonstrated a failure of Turnbull’s leadership.

On best Labor leader, 24% preferred Shorten (up two since early February), 23% Tanya Plibersek (down two) and 23% Anthony Albanese (down one). Labor voters gave Shorten 36%, Plibersek 27% and Albanese 22%. Plibersek now leads Shorten by 33-26 with Greens voters (43-18 previously).

There was little change in Turnbull’s ratings on nine leaders’ attributes since early December. Shorten’s ratings increased six points on “arrogant” and four points on “has a vision for Australia”.

By 50-41, voters supported Australia becoming a republic (51-38 in August 2017). If Prince Charles becomes King, support rises to 55-35 (55-34 previously).

Other than the 30 Newspoll losses, this was not a good poll for Labor. Labor’s primary vote was down two points, and the total Labor/Greens vote fell back one point to 47%, after breaking out of a long run of 47% support last fortnight.

The Coalition has tended to do better under Turnbull when Parliament is not sitting. The fading of the Barnaby Joyce scandal and the big company tax cuts as issues may explain the Coalition’s gains.

Former Nielsen pollster John Stirton wrote in the Fairfax papers that the new Newspoll, which is conducted by Galaxy Research and uses online and robopolling methods, is far less volatile than the old Newspoll, a landline-based live phone poll. The new Newspoll started in mid-2015, and the Coalition’s chances of getting a tie by luck have been greatly reduced.

However, it is not just Newspoll that has the Coalition continuously behind. Until a 50-50 tie in Ipsos’ respondent-allocated preferencing method (see below), the Coalition had trailed in every poll conducted since September 2016, apart from a short-lived YouGov series that published polls in the second half of 2017.

Although both left-wing and far-right partisans would like to see Turnbull dumped, Turnbull has led Abbott by an overwhelming margin in every poll in which voters are asked to compare the two. In a June 2017 ReachTEL poll, voters favoured Turnbull over Abbott as Liberal leader by a 68-32 margin.

Ipsos: 52-48 to Labor

A Fairfax Ipsos poll, conducted April 3-5 from a sample of 1,166, gave Labor a 52-48 lead, a one-point gain for the Coalition since early December 2017. Primary votes were 36% Coalition (up two), 34% Labor (up one), 12% Greens (down one) and 8% One Nation.

Ipsos is the only live phone pollster left in Australia; all other polls use robopolling or online methods. Ipsos gives the Greens higher support than other polls, at the expense of Labor.

Turnbull’s ratings were 47% approve (up five), and 43% disapprove (steady). Ipsos gives Turnbull better ratings than other pollsters, particularly Newspoll. Shorten’s net approval was -15, down one point. Turnbull led Shorten by 52-31 as better PM (48-31 previously). By 62-28, voters thought Turnbull should remain Liberal leader.

By 49-40, voters supported cutting the company tax rate from 30% to 25% over the next ten years. Two weeks ago, ReachTEL had voters opposed to tax cuts for big companies by 56-29.




Read more:
Poll wrap: Labor maintains its lead as voters reject company tax cuts; wins on redrawn boundaries


In March 2017, tax cuts were passed for companies with turnover of up to $50 million a year. The government is now trying to pass cuts for companies with more than $50 million in turnover. Since these are big companies, I think ReachTEL’s question is better than Ipsos’.

Essential: 53-47 to Labor

This week’s Essential poll, conducted April 5-8 from a sample of 1,033, gave Labor a 53-47 lead, a one-point gain for Labor since last fortnight. Primary votes were 38% Coalition (steady), 37% Labor (up one), 10% Greens (up one) and 7% One Nation (down one).

Primary votes in Essential are the same as in Newspoll, but Newspoll’s two party result is better for the Coalition. Newspoll is now assuming that One Nation preferences flow to the Coalition at about a 65% rate, consistent with the November 2017 Queensland election. Essential continues to assume the Coalition will win just half of One Nation’s preferences.

Turnbul’s net approval in Essential was -3, down one point since March. Shorten’s net approval was -8, also down one point. Turnbull led Shorten by 41-26 as better PM, unchanged since March.

Shorten’s ratings on being a capable leader and good in a crisis increased five points since June 2017, and he had four-point increases on “visionary” and “more honest than most politicians”. Turnbull’s ratings dropped four points on “arrogant” and “aggressive”.

There were two double digit differences between the two leaders: Turnbull led by 15 points on “intelligent” and by 13 points on “out of touch”.

On best Liberal leader, Turnbull had 24% (up three since December), Bishop 17% (down two), Abbott 11% (up one) and Dutton just 3% (down one). Among Coalition voters, Turnbull had 45%, Abbott 17%, Bishop 13% and Dutton 4%.

37% thought the government should prioritise renewable energy over coal, 13% thought they should prioritise coal over renewable energy, and 35% thought the government should treat both industries equally.

Far-right Hungarian government re-elected in landslide

The Hungarian election was held on Sunday. There were a total of 199 seats, with 106 elected using first past the post, and the remaining 93 by proportional representation.

Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán’s far-right Fidesz won 48.5% of the vote, and 134 of the 199 seats. Another far-right party, Jobbik, was second with 19.5% and 25 seats, while the social-democratic MSZP won just 12.3% and 20 seats – their worst result since 1990.

The ConversationFidesz’s vote was up 3.2% since the 2014 election, and they won 91 of the 106 first past the post seats.

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

View from the hill: An ugly set of numbers triggers havoc in the Turnbull government


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Barnaby Joyce, a National, hasn’t a vote for the Liberal leadership. But he’s a man of opinions and now he’s on the backbench there are no restraints on his expressing them.

On Monday night, amid the feeding frenzy over Newspoll, Joyce declared that if, as Christmas approached, polling indicated Turnbull was heading to electoral defeat, he should call it quits. There was an obligation “not to drive your party or the government off a cliff,” he told Sky.

A new unhelpful spot fire erupted into flame.

With the fateful 30th Newspoll finally out there, the government on Monday descended into an orgy of destructive self-indulgence. It was a collective performance made up of individual bitterness, tactical misjudgement, and plain ill-discipline. Just the sort of thing to further disgust a public already turned off by the shambles of Canberra.

For Abbott, Monday was the occasion for the primal scream. It might be two-and-a-half years since Turnbull seized his job, but the former prime minister’s pain hasn’t abated a jot, nor his sense of what he sees as the injustice delivered to him.

As he pedalled through the Latrobe Valley, Abbott told 2GB it was for Turnbull to explain why the 30 lost Newspolls measure that he invoked in his 2015 challenge “applied to me but shouldn’t apply now.”

And then there were the other points Turnbull had raised back then – about the need to restore cabinet government, and the lack of an economic narrative.

“Well, I ran a perfectly orthodox cabinet government”, Abbott insisted; as
for having no clear economic narrative, “I completely reject that. There was a very, very clear economic narrative under my government.” For good measure, he threw in a defence of the 2014 budget – which in fact began his political demise.

On the policy front, he topped his call for the government to build a coal-fired power station by suggesting it should nationalise the Liddell power plant, owned by AGL, which is resisting selling to another company despite sustained bullying from the government.

Given everyone knew Abbott would be grabbing the spotlight after Monday’s Newspoll, the government had to make a tactical judgement about how best to counter.

It could keep a low profile, with minimal prime ministerial and ministerial appearances. While that would give maximum room to Abbott, it would also avoid further fanning the poll story. Or Turnbull and his ministers could confront the bad poll day full on. That was the course chosen – and it was hard to see the sense of it.

Ministers were out everywhere, backing Turnbull. That just gave the impression that his leadership was in need of protection, despite there being no challenge.

In a round of media appearances, Turnbull said (for the umpteenth time) that he regretted citing Newspoll, declared he had the backing of his colleagues, and submitted himself to some humiliation.

On 2GB, Ben Fordham announced he had invited listeners to say what he should ask Turnbull. “I hate to tell you PM: the overriding response was, ‘when will you resign?’” Fordham told his guest, with the cameras looking on.

“Oh really,” Turnbull said. “Well, well the answer is I’m not, I am not. I am going to go to the next election and win it”.

Then there was Wayne on the talkback line. “I’m a rusted on Liberal and you’ve taken the party – you nearly lost the unlosable election. I find you politically inept, and basically you’ve taken the party in my view too far to the left and I think you should do the honourable thing and resign, put it to a party vote because quite frankly if we go to an election with you we are doomed as a party”.

“Well thanks Wayne for the advice,” said the PM. “I don’t propose to take it, however.” Turnbull then went on to invite Wayne to tell him how he had taken the party to the left, and argue the toss with him.

Now one can say it’s admirable that a leader gets out and deals with criticisms. But Monday didn’t seem the day for maximum exposure.

Or for canvassing long-term leadership ambitions, as did Peter Dutton. “I think people are best to be honest about their ambitions”, the Home Affairs minister told 3AW. His comments were in the context of reaffirming his loyalty to Turnbull and were not new, but such candour just set off another spot fire of questioning, that soon reached Josh Frydenberg and Scott Morrison, both of whom acknowledged the batons in their knapsacks.

The ConversationThe 30th Newspoll was destined to be difficult. Abbott was determined to make it so. Joyce is a loose cannon. But the strategy adopted by Turnbull – for he and his ministers to try to control the story by swarming all over it – simply made him a bigger target. It displayed a lack of political nous but also suggested he is feeling more than a little rattled by the situation in which he finds himself.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Government loses 30th consecutive Newspoll, despite slight improvement


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

As widely anticipated, the government has lost its 30th Newspoll in a row, although it slightly reduced Labor’s two-party lead.

The Coalition trails 48-52%, compared with 47-53% a fortnight ago. The Australian reports it is only the second time since April last year that the government has come within this striking distance.

Given a universal expectation of a bad poll, the Coalition will breathe a sigh of relief at the numbers overall, especially after last week’s controversial push by dissident Coalition backbenchers on energy policy which created bad media.

Despite its continued lead, the poll contains some disappointments for Labor. The ALP’s primary vote fell 2 points to 37%, while the Coalition vote rose a point to 38%. The Greens are on 10%, and One Nation stayed at 7% in the poll, taken Thursday to Sunday.

Bill Shorten is only 2 points behind Malcolm Turnbull as better prime minister, an improvement of a point. But Shorten’s satisfaction rating fell 2 points to 32% and his dissatisfaction rose 3 points to 57%, to equal Turnbull on both measures. Turnbull’s ratings were largely unchanged.

Turnbull can also be grateful for the competitive instinct of newspapers. Before the Newspoll, Fairfax Media – which polls only intermittently – had a “spoiler” out in its Saturday papers that suggested the government’s position mightn’t be as dire as it had been painted.

The Fairfax-Ipsos poll had the Coalition trailing 48-52% on the two-party vote, when preferences were distributed, as is usual, on the basis of the last election. But distributing preferences according to how people said they would allocate them brought the result to 50-50%.

Even more encouraging for Turnbull, 62% said the Liberal party should stay with him as leader, rising to 74% among Coalition supporters.

The Fairfax poll formed a useful bit of inoculation for Turnbull, who was also out in the media ahead of Newspoll with a round of interviews.

When he was informed of the Newspoll, he told The Australian the “electoral contest is very close and the election is there to be won”.

Turnbull had ensured that if his government had a 30th consecutive Newspoll defeat it would turn into a faux crisis because he used the Abbott government’s 30 lost Newspolls as one of his grounds for challenging the former prime minister.

Since then he has to contend with a disruptive Abbott who on Monday is
“pollie pedalling” in the Latrobe Valley, making sure he is best placed to exploit simultaneously Turnbull’s pain over the Newspoll and his difficulty with the energy issue.

Abbott, who has been stirring since he was ousted, declared on Sunday: “the last thing I want to see is instability in government”.

Interestingly, “Newspoll” has been rather different in Turnbull’s time than it was in Abbott’s, as former Nielsen pollster John Stirton wrote at the weekend.

In mid 2015 the Newspoll organisation closed and Galaxy was commissioned to do the poll, which retained its name but has undergone some changes in methodology. “When Tony Abbott lost his 30 Newspolls they were almost entirely the old Newspoll which tended to bounce around a bit, as polls do,” wrote Stirton on Sunday. “The new Newspoll is a very different poll. Turnbull’s 29 losses have all been the new Newspoll, which doesn’t move around much at all”.

“Everything else being equal, Turnbull was always more likely to lose (or for that matter win) 30 polls in a row than previous prime ministers because the new Newspoll simply doesn’t move around as much as the old one.”

Stirton stressed he was not suggesting there is anything wrong with the poll results. “Newspoll is a very good poll and there is no suggestion that the individual poll numbers are in some way wrong. It’s just that the poll is much less variable than it used to be and short-term changes in sentiment are less likely to show up”.

The climactic hype around this poll reflects the degree to which polling has been driving political judgements and media analysis, often to the detriment of both.

The plethora of polls, which now never let up between elections, has made “leading” harder. When things are going poorly for a government, the followers are endlessly and quantitatively reminded of looming disaster, increasing their agitation. And polls are easy stories for the media, falling on especially fertile ground in the 24-hour news cycle.

This Newspoll confirms what seems to be a constant message – that it is more likely than not Turnbull will lose next year’s election. So inevitably, the previews have been accompanied by leadership speculation.

But there is no sign of any move against Turnbull, and the Fairfax poll shows why any such a move would be ill-judged.

Even if Liberal MPs believe they are heading into opposition – and the Coalition received another blow last week when the proposed redistributions in Victoria and the ACT helped Labor – they would need to face the question: who would be best to save the furniture?

Labor’s changing back to Kevin Rudd before the 2013 election was about furniture-saving – and he did indeed do that. The switch was rational and benefitted Bill Shorten in the 2016 election.

But how many Liberals would think Peter Dutton or Julie Bishop would attract more voters than Turnbull? There is nothing to suggest that Dutton could improve the Coalition vote, and Bishop would be an almighty gamble in a role that would throw her into the rigours of a tough economic debate.

The ConversationTurnbull remains the Coalition’s best bet, whether to give it a chance of pulling off a victory or limiting its loss.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

After 30 Newspoll losses, Turnbull is down, but certainly not out



File 20180409 149360 1j9tjhl.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
If Malcolm Turnbull is to draw any comfort from a self-inflicted wound, he might consider the history of leaders who have endured bad polling and prevailed.
AAP/Darren England

Tony Walker, La Trobe University

Live by the polls, die by the polls – or, just maybe, be given a reprieve by the polls.

With his ill-advised reference back in 2015 to “30 losing Newspolls” in his successful challenge to Tony Abbott, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull made himself a hostage to fortune.

Foolishly, he tempted fate, and is now living with the consequences.

However, if Turnbull is to draw any comfort from a self-inflicted wound, he might consider the history of leaders who have endured bad polling and prevailed.

Fickle polls and election results

Newspoll didn’t exist in Robert Menzies’ day. But if it had, the founder of the party Turnbull leads might have been on course in election year 1954 for 50 losing Newspolls.

Menzies prevailed in that year thanks to the Labor “split” and the Petrov Affair, which involved the defection of a Russian spy at the height of the Cold War and on the eve of the 1954 poll.

Turnbull might also draw on Paul Keating’s example in the lead-up to the “unlosable” March 1993 election.




Read more:
Government loses 30th consecutive Newspoll, despite slight improvement


People forget the extent to which voters disliked Keating and the Labor Party after he became leader in December 1991 at the expense of the popular Bob Hawke. After the Keating takeover, the ALP’s primary vote was down in the mid-30s, compared with the Coalition‘s low 50s.

In an election-eve poll in 1993, Newspoll recorded Keating’s net approval rating at minus 25. Yet he prevailed for what he described as a victory for the “true believers”. This was after running the mother of all scare campaigns against John Hewson’s austerity “Fightback!” package.

In more recent memory, John Howard was deemed to be on political death row in the lead-up to the 2001 election. Labor under Kim Beazley led the Coalition 60-40 in its absolute trough in mid-2000, according to the Roy Morgan polling organisation.

After losing the formerly safe Liberal seat of Ryan in Queensland in a March 2001 byelection, Howard’s obituaries were being written. But by mid-2001, he had prevailed in a byelection in the Melbourne suburban seat of Aston. He went on to exploit the “Tampa affair”, in which he refused entry to refugees rescued at sea by a Norwegian freighter. He benefited politically from terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001.

Two months later, Howard fought a “khaki election”, in which Australia had joined the US in Afghanistan in combat against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. He won 82 seats to Labor’s 65. Under Beazley, Labor recorded its lowest primary vote since 1934.

The turnaround in the Coalition’s fortunes attests to the fickleness of public opinion polls taken mid-term, when real choices between parties and candidates are more snapshots than a definitive reading of the electorate’s mood.

Turnbull might give himself pause, however, if he reflects on more recently polling episodes. Julia Gillard’s ousting of Kevin Rudd in 2010 came on the back of polling that showed a slide in approval for Rudd himself.

But sometimes neglected is that Labor under Rudd was still leading the Coalition 52-48.

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Gillard went on to lead Labor to a deadlocked election against Tony Abbott in August 2010. She formed a government with the support of independents.

Turnbull will have the recent bad memory of squandering a 14-seat margin, gained by Abbott in 2013, in last year’s federal election. This will long be regarded in conservative circles as an unnecessarily long and poorly-executed campaign.

Turnbull ended up retaining a one-seat majority. This resulted in a further diminution of his authority within his own party.

Where to now for Turnbull?

This brings us to the latest Newspoll and its lessons for Turnbull and poll-watchers in this next phase leading up to an election due by mid-2019.

If there is a lesson for Turnbull in the examples of his predecessors, it reinforces the point made above that polling between elections is an imprecise science.

On the basis of the latest Newspoll and a Fairfax/Ipsos poll at the weekend, the outlook for the prime minister is not all doom and gloom.

Both Newspoll and Ipsos reflected a slight improvement for the government. According to both polls, Labor is leading 52-48. This is close to the mean for polling over much of the past two years since the 2016 election, although better for the Coalition than recent polls.

For Turnbull, the Fairfax/Ipsos poll had some encouraging news on two separate fronts.

First, this poll found that when voters were asked to allocate preferences, the Coalition and Labor were running neck and neck, 50-50.

Second, voters overwhelmingly want Turnbull to remain leader. Some 74% of Coalition voters – and 62% of all voters – told the Fairfax/Ipsos survey they believed the Liberals should keep Turnbull.

These two elements should provide a modicum of encouragement for a beleaguered prime minister.

On the other hand, Turnbull can draw little satisfaction from the precipitous drop in his own approval ratings. When he ousted Abbott, he was sitting on a plus-38 approval: he is now down to the minus-mid-20s.

This is an astounding collapse in public esteem, and one that reflects a pervasive level of disappointment among voters in Turnbull’s leadership.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Coal fires Tony Abbott’s pre-Newspoll play


In an interesting sidebar to The Australian’s reporting of the latest Newspoll, a majority of focus group participants felt that Turnbull was “out of touch” with the electorate compared with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. Shorten is comfortably leading in this important polling category.

Conversely, Shorten lags on leadership qualities of trustworthiness, decisiveness, experience and likeability.

You can be sure that in the run-up to the forthcoming election, the Coalition will launch the mother of all campaigns against Shorten in its efforts to further drive up his negative polling.

Whether this will work will depend on a range of imponderables. These include Turnbull’s own performance, the budget’s reception, and an end to damaging internal tensions in the Liberal Party itself. These and other events such as fallout from the actions of an unpredictable American presidency are all impossible to predict.

Turnbull is down, but he is not out, even if a slow drip-drip of negative polls will continue for the foreseeable future. He will now face a tiresome fortnightly reckoning with Newspoll beyond the current 30 negative polls benchmark.

The ConversationTo paraphrase a former Liberal leader, life for Malcolm Turnbull is unlikely to become much easier.

Tony Walker, Adjunct Professor, School of Communications, La Trobe University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.