Grattan on Friday: Morrison aims to make agility his prime ministerial trademark


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Strawberries and hay have provided unlikely lenses for an insight into how Scott Morrison will conduct his prime ministership from now to the election.

The needles-in-the-berries contamination has been alarming for consumers and devastating for the industry. Anyone involved deserves the full force of the quite heavy penalties available, and the public should be encouraged to eat (with due care) this delicious fruit.

But when the government rolls out the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General, the Home Affairs Minister, the Australian Federal Police chief and the Border Force Commissioner, and then rushes new legislation through parliament in a single day – well, you know a political point is being made.

A serious crime was turned into a national crisis. MPs donned aprons, grabbed knives and started slicing.

The legislation naturally received bipartisan support, with little discussion of whether the changes are actually needed. Its extremely hasty passage was despite the fact it won’t apply retrospectively to this criminal action.

As the strawberry crisis gripped the parliament, we’re reminded how rapidly a government can escalate an issue. In this case, the worst that could be said is that it’s an over-reaction with a political vibe. But you don’t need much imagination to think how a similar drama could be concocted with darker motives.

As for the hay: this was an announcement of liberalised rules for carting fodder so more could be sent faster to drought-affected farmers. Normally you’d expect a ministerial press release. Morrison turned it into a prime ministerial occasion, on Thursday being photographed climbing into a truck somewhere outside Canberra.

Earlier in the week, he’d called a “drought summit” for next month. Dealing with the drought has been one of his central themes, from his first news conference, followed by his interview on Australia All Over, and his visit to see things on the ground in Queensland.

These examples – and the very important one of the weekend announcement of a royal commission into aged care – show Morrison’s style. He will pick up and run with whatever is around – issues he sees as resonating with ordinary people.

“Scott likes to move quickly”, says a colleague. He’s not – if he can help it – going to get caught having to respond to others’ agendas. The royal commission was announced a day before the ABC’s aged care expose.

Morrison is also clearing away irritants as rapidly as possible. Thursday’s $4.6 billion decade-long package for private schools drew a line under the damaging row between the government and the vociferous Catholic sector. Negotiations have been underway for some time, but the deal’s now landed.




Read more:
Government unfurls $4.6 billion private schools package, calming Catholic critics


Morrison won’t get bogged down in process. When he recently dumped the commitment to increasing the pension age to 70, he acted before the full cabinet had ratified what was a significant policy shift.

The new PM is tactically quicker than Malcolm Turnbull, just as in his messaging he can cut through with greater sharpness. He’s more attuned to the emotional and knee-jerk drivers of today’s politics, in the age of the continuous news cycle and social media. Malcolm liked to mull over moves.

He is also freer to act than his predecessor, who was hemmed in by enemies as well as allies of convenience, like Peter Dutton, who turned into enemies.

For the Liberals, Morrison is the end of the pre-election leadership line, and that gives him a good deal of latitude to set his own course. He might be displeasing the hard right Liberals by not exiting the Paris climate agreement, but he’s able to stare them down or fob them off. They know he’s in the seat until the election.

Defining your opponent can be critical in our semi-presidential contests. “The Prime Minister is a blank canvass”, says one Labor man. “Both sides are trying to fill in the colours”.

Morrison’s brush strokes on his own portrait are designed to create the image of a leader tuned to the voters’ concerns, rather than the “Canberra bubble”. If sometimes this makes him look more like the mayor of Albury than the prime minister of Australia – well, he just hopes it works. Like the latecomer desperately working the room, he knows he has practically no time.

In his one departure from pragmatism during these first prime ministerial weeks, Morrison has flagged he’s willing to stir the hornets’ nest of religious freedom. Although unclear about the problem, he told Sky on Monday “there’s nothing wrong with a bit of preventative regulation and legislation”. Especially given the time constraints, it’s hard to see that battle is worth the likely costs.

To highlight Morrison’s agility and hyper-activity is not to overlook the government’s parlous situation, with a sour electorate, a still-shocked backbench, divisions in the ranks, all sorts of trouble over the “women problem”, and the uncertainty of the Wentworth byelection.




Read more:
View from The Hill: Morrison’s challenge with women goes beyond simple numbers


It’s rather to say, the way the game’s being played has changed. Labor is alert to this, wondering, for instance, whether Morrison will appeal to some of its male “battler” type voters.

The PM said in question time on Thursday that Bill Shorten “isn’t looking as certain as he was two weeks ago.” Despite the political bonuses being handed almost daily to Labor, this is probably true. The opposition is still seeking to get its fix on its new opponent.

However Morrison goes over coming months, this week should give the Liberals cause to reflect that they had a lucky escape when Dutton failed to get the numbers in the coup he started.

The Senate inquiry into the au pair affair, which reported on Wednesday, was dominated by Labor and the Greens, so it was always set to produce a majority report very critical of Dutton. Even allowing for that, a couple of things are clear from the facts of the two cases the inquiry examined.

In assisting these women, Dutton did go above and beyond what would normally have been expected – all stops were pulled out. And he did mislead parliament when he denied any personal connections.

In the case of the woman who landed in Brisbane, he had a past acquaintanceship (via their mutual police service) with her prospective employer.




Read more:
Dutton back in spotlight after split Senate report on au pair affair


But misleading parliament is no longer taken seriously. Morrison’s certainly not going to worry that his Home Affairs Minister – who has oversight of the independent agencies of the Australian Federal Police and ASIO – did not tell parliament the truth. Canberra bubble and all that.

Anyway, Morrison has a lot to thank Dutton for. After all, Dutton delivered him the prime ministership.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Julie Bishop goes to backbench, Marise Payne becomes new foreign minister


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After five years as foreign minister, Julie Bishop will move to the backbench.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Julie Bishop has chosen to go to the backbench, to be succeeded by Marise Payne as foreign minister, and the energy and environment portfolio has been split, in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s ministry announced Sunday.

Dan Tehan replaces Simon Birmingham in education, in a gesture to the Catholic education sector ahead of a special deal to meet its trenchant criticisms of the government’s schools policy.

Bishop, 62, who won only a handful of votes in the leadership ballot after the “stop Dutton” forces rallied behind Morrison, said in a statement she had told Morrison “I will be resigning from my cabinet position as Minister for Foreign Affairs.” She said she had made no decision about whether she would contest the election.

Unveiling an extensive reshuffle, Morrison described his ministry as a “next generation team”. He has rewarded his supporters but also accommodated some Peter Dutton loyalists.

Energy goes to former businessman the conservative Angus Taylor, previously minister for law enforcement and cyber security, who moves into cabinet. Morrison dubbed Taylor as minister for “getting electricity prices down”.

Environment is taken by Melissa Price, previously assistant minister for the environment. The portfolio remains in cabinet.

Asked where the carve up left emissions, Morrison made clear where his priorities lay, saying the challenge in energy was reliability and dispatchable power.

Peter Dutton, the man who launched the leadership coup though failed to win the prime ministership, returns to his portfolio of home affairs. But immigration has been sliced off, going to David Coleman, previously assistant minister for finance, who becomes minister for immigration, citizenship and multicultural affairs.

This flags Morrison’s interest in the economic side of immigration. “Immigration forms part of national security policy but it also has always played an important role in economic and social policy,” he said.

Christopher Pyne becomes defence minister, achieving his long-time wish to be the senior minister in the area; his old job of defence industry goes to Steve Ciobo, who was previously in trade. Birmingham takes his place in trade.

The Morrison cabinet has six women, one extra compared with the Turnbull cabinet. They are Bridget McKenzie (Nat), Payne, Kelly O’Dwyer, Michaelia Cash, Karen Andrews, and Melissa Price.

O’Dwyer moves from revenue to jobs and industrial relations; she keeps responsibility for women. Industrial relations is back in cabinet. Michaelia Cash has gone into small and family business, skills and vocations.

Alan Tudge becomes minister for cities, urban infrastructure and population. Morrison said Tudge would be “the minister for congestion-busting”. Population has become an increasing pressure point.

Mathias Cormann remains in finance and as Senate leader, but his special minister of state job goes to Alex Hawke.

Paul Fletcher will be social services minister and moves into cabinet.

Sussan Ley and Stuart Robert, who both had to leave the ministry over controversies, are back on the frontbench. Robert is assistant treasurer; Ley is assistant minister for regional development and territories.

Michael Sukkar, previously assistant minister to the treasurer and outspoken conservative, has been dumped to the backbench.

Barnaby Joyce, still on the backbench, has been made “special envoy for drought assistance and recovery”.

Tony Abbott has not been given a job, although Morrison signalled he was open to giving him some Joyce-type role if he wanted.

Two Liberals apart from Julie Bishop, and a National, indicated they did not want to be considered for frontbench roles. The Liberals were Craig Laundy and John McVeigh, while the National was Keith Pitt, who had been assistant to Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack. Pitt said in a statement: “I will always put the national interest and the interests of my constituents above my own. I will always put reducing power prices, before Paris.”

Morrison acknowledged at the weekend that ordinary people had been “absolutely disgusted” by the events of last week.

The exit of Bishop, who had developed a high and well-respected international profile, will send a further confusing message to other countries, which have witnessed Australia’s revolving door of the prime ministership.

Bishop, who entered parliament in 1998, has been foreign minister since 2013 and deputy to every Liberal leader since 2007.

In the aftermath of the coup, the bitterness continued to flow as the machinations were revealed.

A WhatsApp chain of messages was leaked to the ABC, in which tactics to stop Dutton ultimately winning, were revealed.

Fletcher, close to Turnbull, said in the chain: “Cormann rumoured to be putting some WA votes behind Julie Bishop in round 1. Be aware that this is a ruse trying to get her ahead of Morrison so he drops out & his votes go to Dutton. Despite our hearts tugging us to Julie we need to vote with our heads for Scott in round one.”

Cormann describes the Fletcher claim as “100% incorrect”.

Birmingham, a strong Turnbull supporter, told the ABC that a “handful of individuals” had wreaked havoc.

“We had Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership confirmed and re-endorsed just last Tuesday with a clear majority, and yet those who wanted to wreak havoc continued to do so during the week. Now, that was terribly destructive and every single man and woman in the Liberal Party room needs to put that type of behaviour behind us and make sure that we do unify for the future.”

On Monday, Morrison, who has put the drought at the top of his priority list, will make a quick trip to a drought-afflicted part of Queensland. At the weekend he met Major General Stephen Day, who is coordinating drought relief and support

Drought was “the thing that I think Australians very much want the attention of their prime minister on and right now”, Morrison told the popular regional program Australia All Over. Morrison reeled off some “encouraging” weekend rainfall numbers while noting this was “nowhere near what’s obviously needed.”

Over the weekend, the new prime minister spoke with US President Donald Trump (inviting him to visit Australia), Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo, and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

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Later this week Morrison will visit Indonesia, but he will not undertake the visits to multiple regional countries that Turnbull had slotted in. Australia and Indonesia have been negotiating a free trade deal, which could be signed during the visit.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

View from The Hill: A shocker performance, even by coup standards



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Scott Morrison is sworn in as the 30th prime minister of Australia by Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

When they turn nasty, politicians can be an extraordinarily ugly lot. This week, the Liberals looked hideous – feral, self-indulgent, thuggish and contemptuous of an electorate that would like to be able to have MPs respect its choice of the country’s prime minister.

No wonder ordinary people caught by the cameras in the vox pops were disgusted. This was a shocker performance, even by coup standards.

As Malcolm Turnbull said, an “insurgency” by the conservatives brought him down. But, in a sort of perverse justice, the insurgents were punished. Their reprehensible behaviour blasted out the leader they hated but failed to deliver them the prize they desired – installing their own man in the Lodge.




Read more:
How the hard right terminated Turnbull, only to see Scott Morrison become PM


Turnbull, by delaying the ballot, and getting the Solicitor-General to give an opinion on a question mark over Dutton’s eligibility to sit in parliament, helped to thwart them.

Dutton thought his prospects better than they were; Turnbull judged his own prospects to be worse than the reality.

The spill motion was carried 45-40, a tiny margin. In other words, 40 people wanted to keep Turnbull. Yet three cabinet ministers – Mathias Cormann, Mitch Fifield and Michaelia Cash – had previously insisted to Turnbull that he had lost the party room’s support and then resigned, ensuring his political death.

No wonder that after the spill numbers were given to the party room, Turnbull said “what a farce”.

In choosing Scott Morrison, the Liberals went for the safest option among the three candidates on offer. Dutton was seen as too risky and hardline; Julie Bishop started too far behind.

But while Morrison was the best of the trio, his elevation just further emphasised the bizarre nature of it all.

There is no compelling evidence to suggest Morrison will be much more competitive than his predecessor at the election. With some voters – Liberals on the progressive side – he might be less attractive.

And what about the gnashing of teeth over Queensland? After Longman, the Dutton people insisted he was needed to hold up the vote, because Turnbull was so unpopular.

In the new order, Queensland remains unrepresented in the leader/deputy team. And if Morrison has an advantage over Turnbull there, it would be a matter of degree, hardly worth ripping apart the party.

One vulnerable Queensland seat is Dickson, held by Dutton on a 2% margin. His actions may – and should – cost him votes, although they won’t cost him a position on the frontbench. Morrison has flagged Dutton will be in his cabinet.

Josh Frydenberg is a good choice as deputy leader, a unifying rather than a divisive figure, who’s done some heroic work on the National Energy Guarantee, the fate of which is up in the air.

Frydenberg becomes the new treasurer. He’s diligent and competent, but it will be a steep learning curve, facing a savvy and experienced opponent in Chris Bowen.

As he crafts his ministry, Morrison has to balance the factions and wrangle with the Nationals, out to get the most they can after the turbulence. Nationals leader Michael McCormack has every incentive to fight hard – he’s seen by his critics as not standing up strongly enough to the Liberals.

On the policy front, Morrison has an immense vacuum on energy, a major issue for the public, at the cutting edge of the ideological divide, and the catalyst for this week’s calamity.

Is he going to keep or reshape the NEG? He wouldn’t be drawn at his news conference. He said he’d talk to his cabinet.

Will he be able to get any sort of sensible energy policy through the party room? And will he want to?

Will he pursue an energy policy that is relatively bipartisan, as business desperately wants, to get investment certainty, or will he decide to go down the route of maximising the differences with Labor, in the hope of an electoral advantage and under pressure from the ideologues?

The energy wars will continue, one way or another.

A changing of the guard, especially in circumstances like these, is always disruptive – the ripples are felt through the administrative structure of government. New ministers have to learn new jobs. Initiatives in the pipeline must be paused and reviewed. All that alone is advantageous to an opposition that is already well organised.

Not surprisingly, Morrison flagged he doesn’t want an early election. But given Turnbull says he will leave Parliament “before too long”, he seems likely to face a byelection in Wentworth. It’s on a whopping 17.7% margin, but Turnbull had a strong personal vote, and a big swing would be a setback for the new leader.

Tony Abbott’s sister Christine Forster is being encouraged to seek Liberal preselection. Just another twist in this saga replete with dark irony.




Read more:
Memo Scott Morrison: don’t chase the ‘base’


How the disappointed conservatives behave will determine what internal trouble Morrison faces. One thing seems clear: they won’t be satisfied unless the change of personnel produces changes in policy, notable on climate and immigration.

Abbott seems unlikely to go silent. He harbours a deep resentment towards Morrison, accusing him of disloyalty in the 2015 coup.

It will be fascinating to watch Morrison construct his post-Treasury, pre-election persona. There are multiple Morrisons. The aggressive, shouty, attack dog tearing at Labor. The lower-key, more compromising negotiator. The knock-about bloke, always talking about “the (Sutherland) Shire” and the Sharks.

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Then there is the Morrison who is ambitious to leave his mark as a reformer – who’d hoped to reshape the GST until Turnbull pulled the pin on him. Now he has his chance to set his own direction. But he will be buffeted by cross winds and has little time to plot his course.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Memo Scott Morrison: don’t chase the ‘base’



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Prime Minister-elect Scott Morrison would be mistaken if he believed his party’s salvation lay in a further lurch to the right in pursuit of an ill-defined “base”.
AAP/Sam Mooy

Tony Walker, La Trobe University

John Howard was fond of referring to the Liberal Party as a “broad church”. This included its conservative “base”.

But what has eluded those seeking to define this amorphous group of electors is exactly what is meant by this description.

What is the base? Who are its members? Where do they reside? What are their preoccupations? Where do their preferences lie?

Then there is the overarching question of exactly what the Liberal Party stands for these days. Is it a liberal party in the sense it is a centrist, socially progressive and fiscally conservative party?




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‘Balmain basket weavers’ strike again, tearing the Liberal Party apart


Is it a right-of-centre party that is socially conservative, or is it a proto-conservative party defined by a scepticism about climate change edging towards a form of denialism?

What confronts Scott Morrison, the new leader, is how to reconcile these conflicting tendencies and come up with an amalgam that would have some prospect of appealing to an elusive base that ranges from Victorian liberals in the south to Queensland conservatives in the north.

Where the fulcrum of this mythical “base” resides will represent a continuing challenge for a Liberal party that, like Humpty Dumpty, will be seeking to put all the bits and pieces back together again.

Is its home in Brisbane’s suburbs, or Queensland’s far north, or Melbourne’s south-east, or Sydney’s northern suburbs, or the Adelaide Hills, or Perth’s cluster of suburbs around the Swan, or in a Tasmanian Hobart-Launceston corridor?

The short answer is all of the above.

Among those who write convincingly about conservative politics, Greg Melleuish, has put his finger on a contradiction at the heart of Australian liberalism.

“One of the most interesting developments of the 50 years since Menzies’ retirement is that the non-Labor side of politics has become more ideological,” Melleuish wrote in The Conversation earlier this year.

“Deep fractures have emerged between those who identify as liberals and those who consider themselves to be conservatives. This has happened at a time when, in many ways, liberalism has triumphed as an ideology in Australian life.”

A lot has been assumed on behalf of the “base” by Turnbull’s critics, including a media cats’ chorus.

Among the criticism is that he proved incapable of connecting with the “base”. Indeed he was, according to his critics, anathema to the “base”, who regarded him with suspicion as a plutocrat in a caricaturist’s top hat who was far removed from everyday lives.

Arguments on behalf of the two principal candidates to replace Turnbull as leader of the Liberal Party rested significantly on their ability to relate to rank-and-file voters.

In a contest to be regarded as an Australian everyman, the son of a New South Wales cop in Scott Morrison took on the son of a Queensland brickie in Peter Dutton.

Both men could hardly be more different from Turnbull, in their political trajectory and in background. A lot of nonsense has been written about Turnbull’s “deprived” childhood and his ascent to the privileges of a Point Piper residence.

He was educated at Sydney Grammar and was the beneficiary of a useful inheritance when his father died. His mother may have deserted the family when Turnbull was a child, but this is not the story of a council flat to The Lodge – far from it.

What Morrison now faces – apart from seeking to bind gaping wounds in the parliamentary party between his own supporters and those of the conservative Dutton – is to persuade a broader Australian electorate beyond the so-called “base” that his Coalition actually does represent a broader church.

On the evidence, Morrison confronts a considerable task convincing Australians a party riven between its moderate and conservative wings and beholden to its mythical base is capable of binding its wounds.

Judith Brett addressed what will be an essential question for the new leader in his efforts to embrace a broad church. “Where is this heart and soul, and how strong is it?” Brett asked.

“Let’s be clear – the continually appealed-to ‘base’ is not very many people. At a generous estimate there are about 50,000 party members spread across 150 electorates.”

These numbers hardly a constitute a sustainable base.

Brett makes the good point that, of the almost 80% of Australians who voted in the same-sex marriage plebiscite, 61.6% voted “yes” to 38.4% who voted “no”.




Read more:
What kind of prime minister will Scott Morrison be?


This result does not suggest the electorate’s sweet spot is as conservative as Dutton and his supporters, including Tony Abbott, would have you believe.

Morrison would be mistaken if he believed his party’s salvation lay in a further lurch to the right in pursuit of an ill-defined “base”. Rather, he would be well advised to tack back to the sensible centre on issues such as climate, energy policy, fiscal responsibility and immigration.

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Morrison needs to bury the three word slogans of the right, and fast. In other words, he should speak plainly about the challenges facing the country, and remedies that might put an end to the drift. He doesn’t have a lot of time.

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

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

With a new prime minister nominated, the Nationals have a rare chance to assert themselves



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It is often forgotten that the Liberals cannot govern without the support of the Nationals, and this has been the case for almost 100 years.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Gregory Melleuish, University of Wollongong

So, Scott Morrison, MP for The Shire, has won the leadership of the Liberal Party. One must wonder what role external factors played in his victory, including the vague threat by some National Party members that they would sit on the crossbenches had Dutton been victorious.

With all the focus on the various ructions in the Liberal Party, it is too often forgotten that the current government is a coalition of the Liberal Party and the National Party. The Liberals cannot govern without the support of the Nationals. This has been the case for almost 100 years, with the first coalition government being that of the Nationalists led by Stanley Bruce and the Country Party led by Earle Page.

The Liberals have rarely had enough seats in the House of Representatives to rule in their own right when in government and so have always governed together with their Country/National Party colleagues. This has always given the National Party considerable leverage with regard to the Coalition. This has included the capacity to veto possible Liberal Prime Ministers, as happened in 1968, when then leader John McEwen said he would not countenance Bill McMahon as Prime Minister.




Read more:
How the hard right terminated Turnbull, only to see Scott Morrison become PM


It has also enabled the National Party to influence which ministerial portfolios will be allocated to them. In earlier times, the National Party leader was Treasurer in a Coalition government. McEwen changed this when he held the important portfolio of Trade and Industry from 1956 to 1971.

The National Party has declined in importance over the past 50 years, as the proportion of the population living in rural areas has declined, not least because of the mechanisation of Australian agriculture. Over the past 20 years, their representation in the House of Representatives has been in the range of ten to 16 seats. Over that same period, the Liberal Party has had a minimum of 50 seats and a maximum of 74.

Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that after the 2016 election, the National Party has been in its strongest position in terms of the Liberals for some time. Whereas after the 2013 election, it held 15 seats to the Liberals’ 74, after 2016 it held 16 seats to the Liberals’ 60.

As the government holds office by the barest of majorities, this places the Nationals in a position of strength regarding the formation of a new Coalition government. While there has been no indication the leadership of the Nationals wishes to act as a King (or Queen) maker, there have been rumblings from other members of the party.

Prior to the leadership vote, it was reported that National MPs Darren Chester, Kevin Hogan and Damian Drum could go to the crossbench if Peter Dutton were elected leader. Both Drum and Chester are from Victoria, while Hogan holds the marginal seat of Page in northern New South Wales, which includes the hippy capital of Australia, Nimbin.

We will never know know how serious these reports were. They may have been no more than an updated attempt by the Nationals, unofficially, to get the Liberal leader of their choice. It may also reflect the fact rural Victoria is more “liberal” than outback New South Wales and Queensland.

Certainly, their defection would have created a minority government, but one wonders how it would affect their preselection. Maybe they think they could win their seats as independents.

The key point is the current situation places the National Party in a position of strength with regard to their Liberal colleagues. Having undergone “trial by Barnaby” they can now move on and make the most of the situation.

Assuming the government runs for another eight months, they have an opportunity to pursue policies that will benefit their rural constituencies, thereby aiding their chances of re-election in 2019. With the progressive Turnbull, whose interests more or less aligned with those of urban Australia, out of the way, they could well have a window of opportunity to place more focus on rural Australia.




Read more:
The Turnbull government is all but finished, and the Liberals will now need to work out who they are


One thing which will be of particular interest will be the portfolios which the Nationals will seek. Could they possibly want energy, given the importance of the cost of power?

It’s certainly the case that the events of the past few days have weakened the authority of the Liberal Party in terms of its capacity to provide good government for the country. They’re now seen as behaving like a group of fractious and difficult school children.

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Under these circumstances, it seems to me, the National Party is presented with an opportunity to use its role within the Coalition to exercise its influence on behalf of rural Australia. It remains to be seen the extent to which it will make the most of this opportunity.

Gregory Melleuish, Professor, School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, University of Wollongong

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

How the hard right terminated Turnbull, only to see Scott Morrison become PM



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Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

After a week of vicious internal party politics, Malcolm Turnbull has been deposed as prime minister and replaced not by Peter Dutton, but Scott Morrison. In today’s party room vote, Morrison, who was supported by Turnbull, defeated Peter Dutton by 45 votes to 40 in the final count. In the first round vote, Dutton had 38 votes, Morrison 36, and Julie Bishop was eliminated with just 11 votes. Turnbull had lost a motion to spill the leadership, 45 votes to 40.

Hard right media commentators have detested Turnbull since he offered bipartisan support to the then Rudd Labor government’s carbon emissions reductions policy. Partly as a result, Turnbull lost the opposition leader’s position to Tony Abbott in December 2009, 42 votes to 41.

In September 2015, Turnbull defeated Abbott, 54 votes to 44, to become PM. This spill occurred due to 30 successive Newspoll losses for the Coalition under Abbott, during which he had often trailed Bill Shorten as better PM. Turnbull was far more popular than Abbott in the polls, and the Coalition initially surged to clear leads over Labor.




Read more:
Turnbull’s increased popularity gives Coalition a clear lead


While most Australians were happy with Turnbull in late 2015, hard-right media commentators were incensed that a moderate had deposed one of their own (Abbott). The front cover of The Spectator Australia edition following Abbott’s ousting tells the story.

The Spectator Australia edition on the ascension of Malcolm Turnbull to prime minister.

Since Turnbull became PM, hard-right commentators have campaigned against him. There were two catalysts for his fall. First, at the July 28 Longman byelection, the LNP won less than 30% of the primary vote on a swing of over 9% against, a much worse result than expected by the media.

Second, Turnbull’s support for the National Energy Guarantee infuriated both right-wing MPs and media commentators who saw it as similar to his support for Rudd’s emissions reductions.




Read more:
Poll wrap: Turnbull’s Newspoll ratings slump; Labor leads in Victoria; Longman preferences helped LNP


Turnbull’s downfall did not make electoral sense. The polls below show he was still easily the preferred Liberal leader among all voters and Liberal voters. Unlike Abbott, he always won the better PM measure against Shorten in every poll I can recall. In the few months before the Super Saturday byelections, the Coalition had closed in on Labor, and may have just missed a 50-50 Newspoll.

The incentive for dumping Turnbull was to recover the One Nation vote. As I said in Monday’s article, the Coalition would have been likely to lose its moderate voters had Dutton won.




Read more:
Poll wrap: Coalition slumps to 55-45 deficit in Ipsos, and large swing to federal Labor in Queensland


I believe the main reason for Turnbull’s downfall was the right-wing media’s hatred of him, and its influence on Liberal MPs. Although Turnbull buckled to the right on issues such as climate change, they demanded a real conservative, not someone they thought of as a “leftie”.

Morrison had not been thought of as a leadership contender, with the polling below focused on Turnbull and Dutton. A ReachTEL poll gave Morrison just 9% support for best Liberal leader, and a Morgan SMS poll had him trailing Shorten by 50.5-49.5 as better PM.

Morrison’s first Cabinet position was as Abbott’s hardline immigration minister after the 2013 election. But he broadened his appeal, first as Abbott’s social services minister and then as Turnbull’s treasurer. He is likely to have some appeal to both conservatives and moderates, and he will not be blamed for the internal warfare in the way Dutton was.

Morrison is unlikely to be as bad for the Coalition’s vote as Dutton, but many moderate Liberals liked Turnbull, and it will be difficult for Morrison to attract their votes.

Turnbull has confirmed he will quit parliament soon, forcing a byelection in his seat of Wentworth. Turnbull won Wentworth by 68-32 against Labor in 2016, but he has a large personal vote, and it is an inner metropolitan seat that is unlikely to respond well to a more right-wing Liberal party.

ReachTEL and Morgan polls

A ReachTEL poll for GetUp!, conducted August 20 – the day before the first spill which Turnbull won 48-35 – from a sample of 2,260, gave Labor just a 51-49 lead, in contrast to last week’s Ipsos that had Labor ahead by 55-45. No primary votes for this ReachTEL poll have been provided; it is possible the relatively good result for the Coalition is due to a strong flow of respondent allocated preferences.

As best Liberal leader among all voters, Turnbull had 36%, Abbott and Julie Bishop both had 14% and Dutton 12%. Turnbull had 59% among Liberal voters. Turnbull led Dutton by 62-38 in a forced choice head to head question.

More likely/less likely to support given a hypothetical are not useful questions. For what it is worth, 50% said they would be less likely to vote for the Coalition under Dutton, and 28% more likely. 50% of Liberal voters said they were less likely to vote for the Coalition, while 65% of One Nation voters said they were more likely.

A ReachTEL poll for the CFMEU, conducted August 22 from a sample of 2,430, gave Labor a 53-47 lead by respondent preferences. Primary votes, after a forced choice question for undecided voters, were 36.1% Coalition, 35.0% Labor, 10.8% Greens and 9.0% One Nation.

55.5% said they were less likely to vote Coalition with Dutton and 23% were more likely. 50% of current Liberal voters were less likely to vote Coalition.

Turnbull had 38% as best leader among all voters, Bishop 29%, Abbott 14%, Dutton 10% and Morrison 9%. Turnbull had 55% with Liberal voters, with Abbott second at just 14%.

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A Morgan SMS poll, conducted August 23 from a sample of 2,000, had no voting intentions. Bishop led Shorten 64-36 as better PM, Turnbull led Shorten 54-46, Shorten led Morrison 50.5-49.5 and Shorten led Dutton 62-38. I do not trust Morgan’s SMS polls as they may be prone to opt-in bias.

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

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

Turnbull’s problem was that he was a politician for another era


Geoffrey Robinson, Deakin University

Malcolm Turnbull has endured a humiliating end to a prime ministership that seemed to promise much. Like all political deaths, there are multiple causes, but one thing is certain: his leadership represents the crisis of liberal-conservatism in Australia at the moment.

The old liberal-conservative politics exemplified by Robert Menzies has been undercut by the failures of a liberal economy, the challenges to identity posed by mass migration and the rise of China, and the dissolution of the old middle-class base of moderate-right politics. Turnbull may be the last of his people.

The significance of this ideology has been downplayed by left-liberal intellectuals, but it has shaped Australian politics for more than a century. Now, however, this political belief system looks rather like European communism in 1989: an unhappy ghost begging to be laid to rest.




Read more:
The Turnbull government is all but finished, and the Liberals will now need to work out who they are


The Liberal Party is often described in terms of a coalition of liberals and conservatives. The durability of the party suggests, however, that it is more than a coalition of adherents of two competing ideologies, rather conservatism and liberalism have been fused together into a single ideology, even if it retains internal tensions.

The dominant strand in Australian liberal-conservatism has been a liberalism of the right, driven by strong utilitarian focus, in which many traditionally conservative concepts, such as inequality and tradition, are defended to guarantee security, prosperity and happiness.

This is an old tradition of centre-right politics. Edmund Burke, the founding figure of Anglo-Saxon conservatism, was a Whig. He justified his turn towards the right at the time of the French Revolution not on grounds of religion or revelation, but on pragmatic arguments.

Happier days: Turnbull after announcing his challenge to Tony Abbott for the party leadership in 2015.
AAP/Sam Mooy

Menzies admired Burke. The philosophy of liberal-conservatism has been that of a conservative means towards liberal ends: ordered individual liberty and security.

In Australia, these ends reflected the experience of a clearly defined social strata. This is what Judith Brett referred to in her analysis of Menzies as the moral middle class of small businessmen, office workers and professionals.

Menzies was a member of the elite, but he shared their aspirations and style. For him, society was a meritocracy in which those who had demonstrated ability were entitled to lead and be rewarded, but retained responsibilities to those less successful.

The post-Menzies political world

One of Turnbull’s problems is that this middle class has largely dissolved. Much of the old middle class has merged into an anxious middling mass, along with much of the old working class, whilst a portion has joined the super-rich and is disengaged from politics.

A more downcast Turnbull during this week’s leadership spill.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Liberal membership has collapsed. Liberal MPs no longer talk of members, it’s now the obscure Americanism of “the base”. Media celebrities and non-party members like Andrew Bolt have as much power as MPs.

Turnbull’s policies were compatible with a traditional liberal-conservatism, but the challenge he faced was that the world has changed since Menzies.

Turnbull brought a Menzian style to his leadership – both men had a faith in expertise. They relied on public servants such as Nugget Coombs and Martin Parkinson, whom hard-core conservatives disparaged as “Labor friendly”.




Read more:
Fractured Liberals need a new brand – ‘broad church’ is no longer working


Turnbull sent climate policy off to the public service (just like Kevin Rudd before him). The result was a typically bureaucratic compromise like the National Energy Guarantee, which enthused nobody.

Turnbull, like Menzies, was also perfectly willing to placate conservatives in the party, as evidenced by his refusal to allow a parliamentary vote on same-sex marriage. Eventually, the same-sex marriage plebiscite produced the result he wanted. Same-sex marriage was a classically liberal-conservative vision.

Turnbull championed conservative policies in other areas, too, such as border protection and income management. However, these were justified on pragmatic, utilitarian grounds. Border protection, in particular, was described as necessary to prevent deaths at sea and maintain public confidence in an economically beneficial immigration program. Here, Turnbull shared common ground with Labor.

Robert Menzies (left) with US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in 1964.
Wikicommons

But immigration posed a challenge for Turnbull. Menzies had presided over a mass immigration program at a time of Anglo-Saxon complacency. Turnbull faced an age of Anglo-Saxon anxiety: cultural change at home and the rise of China inspired fear among nostalgic voters.

There was a strong demand from the right for a leader who would articulate these identity fears. But Turnbull’s default setting was to defend liberal multiculturalism: beneath the surface difference of dress and ritual, he believed all Australians shared similar aspirations. But for many on the right, Australia was under threat from within.




Read more:
Turnbull is right to link the Liberals with the centre – but is the centre where it used to be?


Indigenous affairs provided another example of Turnbull’s disinterest in identity politics. Tony Abbott had an identity policy agenda in Indigenous constitutional recognition. Turnbull’s dismissal of the Uluru Statement appalled many on the liberal left. It revealed a belief that he found Indigenous affairs frustrating and ill-suited to his managerialist style of politics.

A party will frequently tolerate leaders out of sympathy with much of their base, so long as they win elections. Tony Blair in the UK is an example. Turnbull’s greatest problem was that social change undercut the basis for his economic liberalism.

The policy item that evoked the most enthusiasm for him among voters was the agenda of individual and corporate tax cuts. Turnbull’s ability to navigate income tax cuts through the Senate revealed him to be good transactional politician, again like Gillard.

Yet, although voters credited Turnbull’s economic management in the abstract, they were unhappy with income stagnation. The liberal economy forged by Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and John Howard now disappointed the electorate. At the 2016 election, voter anxiety on this issue led to a disappointing outcome for Turnbull. The sequence of opinion polls soon revealed that Labor’s surprise performance in the election was not an aberration. Turnbull’s days have been numbered ever since.

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For all of Turnbull’s rhetoric of disruption and innovation, he was a politician out of his time. His style recalled an older era of elite consensus and orderly democracy.

Geoffrey Robinson, Senior Lecturer, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Deakin University

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

What kind of prime minister will Scott Morrison be?


Rob Manwaring, Flinders University

Scott Morrison remains an intriguing, and polarising, figure on the Liberal Party front-bench. Morrison has been described as relentless, ambitious, and hard-line, although these labels only give us some clues to his personal politics, and ultimately his political agenda.

Morrison entered parliament in 2007. He has both witnessed close-up the leadership instability in the country and been an active participant in it.

Within a year of winning the seat of Cook in Sydney’s south-eastern suburbs, Morrison was quickly promoted to the shadow ministry by Malcolm Turnbull. In 2013, this time under Tony Abbott’s leadership, Morrison became immigration minister before being handed the social services portfolio in 2014.

Since then, under Turnbull, Morrison has handed down three federal budgets.

What then of Morrison’s politics?

In part, Morrison’s conservative politics are informed by his faith – he has been a long-standing member of the Pentecostal church. Generally speaking, Morrison is economically liberal and socially conservative. He was just one of ten Liberal MPs, alongside Abbott and Barnaby Joyce, to abstain from the same-sex marriage vote.

Moreover, he signalled a clear willingness to ensure greater religious freedoms during this debate.

Yet, Morrison’s faith plays a secondary role to his political antenna. As he once argued, “The Bible is not a policy handbook, and I get very worried when people try to treat it like one”.




Read more:
In Conversation with Scott Morrison: full transcript


This conservative politics, especially on social policy, might likely appeal to the right- and far-right wing of the party (and parts of the wider electorate).

Morrison was a particularly strident and truculent immigration minister. He was notably forced to backtrack on his “insensitive” comments about questioning the funeral costs after the deaths of up to 50 refugees off Christmas Island in 2010.

His voting record solidly fits the pattern of economically liberal and socially conservative. Morrison has consistently voted against tobacco plain packaging, a price on carbon, and increasing Aboriginal land rights. Morrison has also supported other key conservative flagship issues, such as decreasing funding to the SBS and the ABC.

Morrison can be conservative and hard line. But he is arguably far more flexible than, say, Peter Dutton or Tony Abbott.

As social services minister, it is striking that Morrison did some work to soften the infamous 2014 Hockey Budget. What caught some off-guard was a willingness to work with those in the community services sector around superannuation reform. As
Nick Bryant, author of The Rise and Fall of Australia, notes of Morrison, he refused to be “typecast”.




Read more:
The big winner in Abbott’s reshuffle is the ambitious Scott Morrison


If Morrison is conservative on much social policy, then he remains far more wedded to a neo-liberal economic agenda. As political scientist Carol Johnson has noted, the Liberals have had ongoing troubles in selling a neo-liberal agenda to the public.

Morrison’s two budgets as treasurer give a strong indication of his neo-liberal proclivities. What is most striking has been the determined and strident effort to dismantle Australia’s long-standing progressive income tax system.

If Morrison gets his way, then the third part of his ambitious tax plan will see the middle income tax bracket totally removed by 2024. To date, there had been bi-partisan support (albeit tepid in some quarters) for the centre-piece of Australia’s so-called “fair go” principle. Morrison’s tax reform would radically remake Australia’s economy and politics.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Scott Morrison struggles to stay afloat as he treads water on tax


On other measures, Morrison remains wedded to a small-state, low-tax agenda, even if his proposed corporate tax cuts do not materialise. He is also the latest in a long line of treasurers refusing to increase the welfare safety net, leaving Newstart untouched for 20 years.

Yet, Morrison’s first budget also reminds us that, despite promoting a neo-liberal agenda, he can be flexible within this over-arching setting. His 2017 budget contained the major levy on banks – a remarkable manoeuvre from a centre-right politician, done in part in a failed effort to stave off the Royal Commission.

Morrison leaving a meeting with Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe earlier this year.
AAP/Dan Himbrechts

In his efforts to de-toxify the Liberals from Hockey’s 2014 budget, Morrison also moved at the 2017 budget, counter to his instincts, to raise the Medicare levy to safeguard NDIS spending.

Even in the 2018 budget, Morrison pledged to spend a striking AU$1.6bn for the aged-care sector. Cynically, this might be to shore up support from a key part of the liberal support base, but again, this shows some flexibility for state action, rather than just a purely reductivist, small-state agenda.

Morrison then is a conservative, and an economic liberal, working away within neo-liberal settings. But he is not an inflexible or unreflexive one. He apparently thought he could win the case to increase the GST with the Australian public.

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His manoeuvrings in the lead-up the current leadership crisis also show a deft hand at balancing politics with his own ambition. In this regard, he might well emulate the past master of this brand of politics, who left parliament at exactly the same moment he entered it – John Howard.

Rob Manwaring, Senior Lecturer, Politics and Public Policy, Flinders University

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

Scott Morrison is the new Prime Minister after Peter Dutton’s giant miscalculation


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Scott Morrison is Australia’s new prime minister, beating Peter Dutton by 45-40 votes after a week in which the government imploded and the Liberal party tore itself apart.

The third contender, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, was eliminated in the first round, reportedly receiving only a handful of votes.

The new deputy is the Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, 47, from Victoria, who won overwhelmingly, from fellow Victorian Greg Hunt and Queenslander Steve Ciobo.

At a news conference after the ballot Turnbull lashed out at the “determined insurgency from a number of people both in the party room and backed by voices, powerful voices, in the media” that brought him down.

“Peter Dutton and Tony Abbott and others, who chose to deliberately attack the government from within – they did so because they wanted to bring the government down, they wanted to bring my prime ministership down.”

Turnbull confirmed he will leave parliament “before too long”, which would prompt a byelection.

The motion for a spill of the leadership was carried 45-40, an unexpectedly close margin and an indication that Malcolm Turnbull retained substantial support even amid the chaos. Turnbull, prime minister since he deposed Tony Abbott in 2015, had promised not to contest the subsequent ballot if the spill was carried.

This was the second vote on the leadership this week – Turnbull beat Dutton 38-45 on Tuesday.

The meeting was delayed by some 20 minutes after Turnbull insisted on seeing the petition for the special meeting, and then having the government whip verify the signatures. Turnbull’s delaying tactics helped Morrison gather the numbers.

The result is a massive rebuff for Peter Dutton and his conservative backers who have consistently undermined Turnbull’s leadership.

As he left the meeting, Dutton pledged his “absolute loyalty” to Morrison.

Abbott, who backed Dutton and believes Morrison betrayed him in the 2015 leadership coup, declared: “We have lost the Prime Minister, there is a government to save.”

Morrison, 50, from NSW, has been Treasurer since 2015, and in parliament since 2007. He is a former state director of the Liberal party in NSW. He is socially conservative but is regarded as pragmatic in ideological terms. As immigration minister in the Abbott government he oversaw stopping the boats.

The vote is seen as meaning the government can be expected to continue current economic policies. Business will be relieved; Morrison is a familiar figure in business circles and would have been regarded by far the most preferred of the three candidates.

Dutton’s floating of ideas like taking the GST off electricity bills may have counted against him, on the grounds of economic irresponsibility.

Also a somewhat equivocal opinion from the Solicitor-General about Dutton’s eligibility to sit in parliament may have been unhelpful. This was released shortly before the vote.

Morrison has ahead of him the immense challenge of uniting a fractured party. A lot will depend on whether the conservatives undermine him or accept their rout quietly.

The conservatives were furious at Turnbull’s hardball delaying tactics and his emphasis on getting the opinion about Dutton’s constitutional eligibility.

Given the closeness of the numbers, scrutiny came on Mathias Cormann, Mitch Fifield and Michaelia Cash whose dramatic resignations from the ministry, declaring Turnbull had lost party support, were the killer blow for him.

Arthur Sinodinos, close to Turnbull, who is on long term sick leave, came to Canberra for the vote.

While the Longman byelection was one of the spurs for the challenge, Queensland remains unrepresented in the leadership team.

In his farewell news conference Turnbull went through the achievements of his “progressive government”.

“I have been a reforming Liberal Prime Minister,” he said, citing the delivery of marriage equality.

Asked about his concessions to the conservatives, he said: “What I have done always is to try to keep the party together. And that has meant that from time to time I have had to compromise and make concessions.

“It’s something I learnt from my first time as leader that you have to work so hard to keep the show together. There are – and that’s the bottom line.”

He said “the truth is that the coalition finds it very hard to get agreement on anything to do with emissions”, he said. He said the National Energy Guarantee “was or is a vital piece of economic reform. It remains the government’s policy, of course”.

Senator Eric Abetz, from the Dutton camp, said: “Today must mark a clean start for the parliamentary Liberal party and having worked with Mr Morrison well over a number of years, I am certain that he will lead a more consultative parliamentary party, be more responsive to issues raised with him and actively seek to bring back together our broad church”.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten tweeted: “Liberals: more division, more chaos, more cuts. Labor: stable, united, 100% focused on delivering for you and your family.”

UPDATE

In his news conference, Morrison declared himself and Frydenberg as “the new generation of Liberal leadership”.
Frydenberg will become Treasurer in the Morrison government.

Morrison flagged that Dutton would be in his cabinet, and that he was not looking to have an early election.

His first priority was to review drought policy, he said.

On energy policy Morrison reaffirmed the government’s announced plans to crack down on power companies’ behaviour, but left vague how the rest of the policy might be changed, saying he would consult with his cabinet.

In terms of other priorities, he said that in healthcare “I am distressed by the challenge of chronic illness in this country”.

In comments on values, Morrison said: “If you have a go in this country, you will get a go. There is a fair go for those who have a go. That is what fairness in Australia means.”

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“We believe that the best form of welfare is a job. That is what releases people out of poverty. That is what releases people out of hardship. The dignity of work, the ability to go and have choices as a result of the efforts you make regardless of your level of ability.”

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

Solicitor-General’s advice on Dutton’s eligibility to come before Friday Liberal vote


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will invite a leadership “spill” motion at midday Friday, once a majority of Liberals formally ask for a party meeting.

He will not contest the subsequent ballot if – as anticipated – the spill is carried, Turnbull announced to a lunchtime Thursday news conference.

Before the meeting, the Solicitor-General on Friday will provide an opinion on the constitutional eligibility to sit in parliament of challenger Peter Dutton.

Early Thursday afternoon, the final signatures for the party meeting request were being gathered.

The delay and the early provision of the Solicitor-General’s advice give Treasurer Scott Morrison extra opportunity to build support for his own bid for the leadership as an alternative to Dutton.

After a morning of chaos and multiple ministerial resignations, including that of Senate leader Mathias Cormann, Turnbull told his news conference that if he is ousted he will quit parliament – increasing the prospect of an early election.

He said he had “made it very clear that I believe former prime ministers are best out of the parliament”.

The government has a one seat of majority and his seat of Wentworth, although it has a strong margin, would be vulnerable in a byelection because Turnbull is personally very popular there. A byelection would not be needed if there were an early election.

Turnbull said that assuming the spill was carried, the new prime minister would “have to obviously satisfy the Governor-General that they can command a majority on the floor of the House of Representatives.

“In the case of Mr Dutton, I think he’ll have to establish that he is eligible to sit in the Parliament.”

Turnbull delivered a swingeing attack on those who have undermined him.

“A minority in the party room, supported by others outside the parliament, have sought to bully, intimidate others into making this change of leadership that they’re seeking.

“It’s been described by many people, including those who feel they cannot resist it as a form of madness,” he said.

“It is remarkable we’re at this point, where only a month ago we were [in the public polling] just little bit behind Labor and in our own polls a little bit ahead – but in any view thoroughly competitive.”

Turnbull has been under consistent assault not only from Tony Abbott and other Liberal critics over a range of issues, especially energy policy and immigration, but also from commentators in the Newscorp media, especially on Sky, and from shock jocks on 2GB.

Turnbull said that what was happening was “a very deliberate effort to pull the Liberal party further to the right.”

Stressing how vital it was to resolve the issue of Dutton’s eligibility, he said: “This is a very, very significant point. As we all know, section 44 has been a companion of this 45th parliament.

“I cannot underline too much how important it is that anyone who seeks to be prime minister of Australia is eligible to be a member of parliament – because a minister, let alone a prime minister, who is not eligible to sit in the House is not capable of validly being a minister or exercising any of the powers of a minister.”

Legal experts suggest Dutton could be ineligible under the constitution’s section 44 provision on pecuniary interests. This says a person is incapable of sitting if they have “any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with the Public Service of the Commonwealth”.

Dutton through a family trust has an interest in child care centres that receive Commonwealth funding. The key question is whether this involves an agreement with the public service.

Dutton’s legal advice is that he has no constitutional problem, and on Thursday he issued updated legal advice.

The government shut down the House of Representatives but does not command the numbers in the Senate so had to endure question time with senior ministers who had resigned on the backbench.

3:15pm

UPDATE: JULIE BISHOP JOINS THE RACE

Liberal deputy and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will throw her hat into the leadership ring.

Bishop, from Western Australia, has been deputy Liberal leader since 2007 under multiple leaders. She is a moderate, rates well in the opinion polls, and has a high profile internationally as well as locally. She is in much demand from backbenchers to visit their seats and is a good fund raiser.

But she will go into the ballot with the disadvantage of having made many enemies in a long political history.

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Her entry into the field complicates the situation and makes the outcome even less certain.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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