Dear Mr Turnbull, Happy 30th Newspoll Birthday

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Cartoon by Mark David / @mdavidcartoons.

John Passant pens a 30th birthday letter to Malcolm Turnbull letting him know he is still the preferred PM, 'compared to the other potential PMs growing in the sewer that is your Liberal Party'.


Happy 30th Newspoll Birthday!

Like me, I am sure you have been celebrating — did you also enjoy the anniversary cake Tony sent you?

Not to worry. We still love you. Well, to be precise, we love you compared to the other potential PMs growing in the sewer that is your Liberal Party. Prime Minister Bishop? Prime Minister Morrison? Prime Minister Dutton? 

Given the alternatives, we just prefer your political syphilis to their governmental gonorrhoea. Do us all a favour and go — and take the rest of the conservative crew with you.

But you will tough it out because you know as well as I do that changing the leadership would hasten your party’s inevitable meeting with the iceberg. The last team that changed captains mid-test series got smashed. You should ask the Australian Cricket Team (or what is left of it) how it feels.

The Monash Forum of yesterday’s men (apart from Peta Credlin driving this, where are the women?) shows how little unity there is in your team. Good. Disunity is death — and other clichés. The real aim of the Monashites (or should that be Mona shites?) is to take us back to Tony Troglodyte or someone similar. They have smothered themselves in coal dust to try and hide their agenda.

In their "disguise politics", they are a lot like you, Prime Minister. You have covered yourself in Liberal Party glitter to hide the darkness that is your reactionary Government. As you continue to mine pyrite, let’s remember Shakespeare’s words — 'all that glitters is not gold'.

And that is your problem. As I have made clear a number of times it is not just the salesman we are rejecting. It is the shit sandwich the salesman is trying to sell us. The fact that you are Tony Abbott writ small, only makes it worse.

What could your strategy be, Malcolm? Obviously, you will flat bat questions about the 30th anniversary.

All well and good, but as you so eloquently put it in deposing Tony Abbott in 2015:

‘The one thing that is clear about our current situation is the trajectory. We have lost 30 Newspolls in a row. It is clear that the people have made up their mind about Mr Abbott’s leadership.’

The qualification I would make to this statement is that what you should have said is that the people have made up their mind about the Abbott Government. They appear to have made up their mind about your Government, too, Prime Minister.

You might argue that you are the preferred Prime Minister. Yes, but that tells us little. When Opposition Leader Bill Shorten becomes PM he will be preferred over whoever your conservative coterie elects as leader of Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition. 

Preferred Prime Minister comes with being in the role and exercising power. The other interesting thing is that while Ipsos/Fairfax has you with a 17% lead over the less than stellar Mr Shorten as preferred leader, in Newspoll the margin is just 2%. Reflect on that.

What is notable if we look at trends is how far your support as preferred PM has collapsed from great heights to a less than comfortable lead over the lacklustre Bill Shorten. Oh Malcolm, how are the mighty fallen!

And yet despite all this, you and your Coalition could still win the next election. The margin is now "only" 52% to 48% two-party preferred to Labor, according to both Ipsos/Fairfax and Newspoll. (Error of margin, anyone?)

Worse, both are calculated on preference flows at the last election. If the Ipsos/Fairfax results were distributed according to the way those they polled in the last few weeks said they would direct their preferences, the result, Phillip Corey argues, is 50/50.

Corey is not alone — David Crowe says:

‘The Fairfax/Ipsos survey shows the two major parties are now neck-and-neck when voters are asked how they would allocate their preferences, producing a 50:50 result that is the strongest performance by the Coalition since the last Federal Election.’

How scary is that?

Remember, being consistently behind in the polls is not necessarily a guarantee of defeat. Former PM Paul Keating won in 1993 after then Liberal Leader John Hewson released his 650-page "Fightback!" political suicide note

That Fightback! program is pretty much today’s reality, which explains why, when we add in falling real wages, precarious employment and unaffordable housing for younger workers, so many people are so pissed off. Low paid, part-time and often precarious new jobs help explain why the Turnbull Government mantra about record jobs growth falls flat.

Former PM John Howard was behind in the polls in 1998 but won the election. The electoral distribution favoured him. He retained government with only 49% of the two-party preferred vote. In 2001, his comeback from bad polls was built on the Tampa and the demonisation of boat people. His statement that "We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they will come" is the key to understanding that victory of "othering" over self-interest.

Unlike 1998, an electoral redistribution will not help the Turnbull Government. The Australian Electoral Commission released proposed new boundaries for Victoria and the ACT on 6 April. If adopted, they effectively wipe out the Government’s majority. They notionally give Labor three extra seats.

The 2018 Budget to be handed down on 8 May will be a good guide to the Government’s thinking. My guess is that that Budget will be a real giveaway for key sections of voters, coupled with some vicious attacks on the eternal scapegoats — welfare recipients, refugees, asylum seekers and Indigenous Australians.

The rhetoric will be about securing Australia and its "values" from supposed threats, both external and internal. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton will figure extensively in this campaign. The Government will try to paint Bill Shorten and Labor – with their extremely mild tax policies and some rank and file tensions in the party over refugees and asylum seekers – as a threat to security. Nothing could be further from the truth — capitalism is safe with Bill.

There is little class or social struggle at the moment. This produces a conservative environment which naturally favours the Coalition. However, disillusionment with politicians is rife, with the Liberals’ primary vote in the latest Newspoll, at just 38% and Labor’s, only 37%.

Recently, Labor and the Greens have both feinted left as a way to break out of their respective declining voting bases. The Greens’ proposals for a people’s bank and universal basic income are both serious proposals worthy of consideration but tainted by the shadow of the centrists who run the Greens. I do wonder what Labor rank and file members and some supporters think about these proposals — even though Shorten has rejected them.

Despite the rhetoric, a radicalisation of society is clearly not on the mind of the leaders of the ALP or the Greens. It should be on our minds if we want to smash the revolving door of neoliberalism in Australian politics.

Read more by John Passant on his website En Passant or follow him on Twitter @JohnPassantSigned copies of John's first book of poetry, Songs for the Band Unformed (Ginninderra Press 2016), are available for purchase from the IA store HERE.

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