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Federal

Feb 22, 2016

What happened to all that agility? It's starting to look ragged for Turnbull

The Turnbull government is looking ragged and reactive, and an early election is no longer the certainty it used to be.

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While the Prime Minister has so far been able to skate over destabilisation, dumb ministers and departing frontbenchers, his government is starting to look ragged, and no amount of Turnbull elan can hide it.

Today’s 50-50 Newspoll might be a rogue, but it’s not significantly different to the 52-48 level of recent Essential and Fairfax-Ipsos polls. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s unpopularity doesn’t seem to be affecting Labor’s vote substantially (remember the truth revealed by Tony Abbott: you don’t have to be a popular opposition leader to win power).

And clearly, Labor’s negative gearing announcement has rattled the government. Despite his opponents entering the field with a controversial policy that powerful sectional interests and some media outlets have furiously attacked, Treasurer Scott Morrison had a shocker of a week. He delivered a universally panned Press Club address and then embarked on a media blitz where he was the one getting blitzed by hostile interviewers — even shock jock Alan Jones. This is the man who is supposed to be the key economic salesman and key economic attack dog of the government, but he did more damage to himself than anyone else.

And even Turnbull ended the week sounding exactly like Tony Abbott, warning that Labor would reduce the value of Australians’ homes, the kind of scare campaign that Turnbull expressly said he would never engage in. It also didn’t fit particularly well with Morrison’s angle of attack, that Labor’s policy would drive the price of new homes up because investors would pile into new homes and force low-income earners out of that market. So now the government’s official line is that negative gearing will both drive prices up and down.

Then came a proposed attack on compulsory super, as if the government needed more confusion and speculation on “tax reform”, or what it dresses up as tax reform but which seems more about looking after Liberal donors and giving flesh to the Liberals’ ideological obsessions.

By successfully running its own scare campaign on the GST, and successfully portraying a five-month-old government as dithering, Labor has countered a Turnbull narrative of agile, reformist government and used the very expectations stoked by Turnbull against him. Suddenly, Labor is looking agile, innovative and reformist, while the government looks befuddled and reactive. That means an early election to capitalise on Turnbull’s popularity — more likely now, given the Greens have agreed to a deal on Senate reform — is no longer quite the safe play, a lay-down misere, even, that we all thought it was.

And the issue around the asylum seeker infant Asha directly reflects that reactivity. Asha reflects what will be an increasing problem created by the Department of Immigration’s needlessly punitive detention system: many medical professionals are unlikely to be able to concur with discharging a child from their care into a deeply toxic and dangerous environment like the one we have created on Nauru. Someone within the government might have worked out that this is going to be a continuing problem while we adopt a policy that breaks minds and bodies and therefore requires taxpayer-funded treatment in Australia for its victims. So far, the only policy response from the Department is to build a bigger hospital on Nauru so injured and ill asylum seekers can be treated without any risk of them setting foot in Australia. But that’s not going to help in the short term.

Instead, yesterday Immigration Minister Peter Dutton belatedly said Asha would not yet be returning to Nauru, but would remain in community detention. He also said that had been the idea all along and that if only activists stopped creating trouble, it would make life easier for the government. It was a clear echo of Immigration secretary Mike Pezzullo’s whine at Senate estimates that people criticising offshore processing just made it harder for the department to be compassionate.

It was a dumb line from a bureaucrat, but now his minister is repeating it as a fig leaf for the government’s clumsy handling of a problem it created itself.

Bernard Keane — Politics Editor

Bernard Keane

Politics Editor

Bernard Keane is Crikey’s political editor. Before that he was Crikey’s Canberra press gallery correspondent, covering politics, national security and economics.

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20 comments

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20 thoughts on “What happened to all that agility? It’s starting to look ragged for Turnbull

  1. Eric Vigo

    @Cut Snake

    I often think the best policy on Q-Sweaters is from the Australian Nazi Party (ANP).

    No one will EVERY come to our boundless plaines to share, if they get shot in the water. The great thing about that is that they will not drown in sea, thus fixing that problem, and we must also send ‘a signal’……

    … because, obviously, since they are ALL coming for our Centrelink benefits, while taking all our jobs/being lazy and refusing to work, this will save our country the expenses on housing them on the Hilton on Manus Island, and the savings on benefits.

    Since they dont mean anything, and are different, the logic fulfills itself. So shooting can logically be automatically done. Anyone who complains is, as far as I and The Donald says, ‘a loser’.

    Seem, when I hear that only truth-teller in the world, Donald Trump (apart from Dutton, so truthy) speak about deporting 11m illegals (oooo what a word!) from Day One, I think how terrible that he won’t be able to do that. Therefore, shooting is how to solve that problem. See, if the Donald can set real policy like this, why cant we? Too scared by the loser activists I suspect!

    So, really you know its the next step. The wind is blowing, blowing hard to get more ugly about jumpers of Q. Must stay ugly! Keep going in that direction. Please don’t stop!

  2. Eric Vigo

    @Jaybouy

    Oh, I hope so. My lulz can move from the Republicans and the possibly-upcoming explosion in June for them, back to here and Abbott.

    Goody goody go….oh Mr Abbott, please take over. It’s your DESTINY!!! The sooner you do it, the quicker the 50s come. Hurry hurry, Australia pays attention to time moving forwards aka science. it’s a tttttthhhhhhrrrrreeeeeaaattttt!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Eric Vigo

    “He seems very gutless to take on the misfits in his own party.”

    I guess once people make the link (he just replaced Abbott, but what really happens is behind the PM, and that has not changed, so Abbott continues in a new form

    Or am I overestimating people’s abilites?

  4. Venise Alstergren

    XOANON: Good call. Can’t think why I didn’t make the connection. Good one.

    —– —–

    Perhaps the agility mentioned here refers to the amount of times the coalition can rise off the tarmac and bucket the opposition in a given day?

  5. pritu

    Watch out for the war drums and the flags. That’s all that’s left of the Abbott armoury that Malcolm has to reach for. Plus more refugee bashing.

  6. Cut Snake

    So to sum up this recycled claptrap then.,

    Property market correction is bad for some – see 60 minutes last night.

    Investors already piled into new homes years ago when we had the $7k/$14k incentive, and/or building costs rose by exactly that much, stuffing up first home buyers dreams again.

    The boats were stopped. Unfortunately queue jumpers have no rights. Isnt this what was happening before Kruddy decided he knew better?

    So it is a serious suggestion to return to the alp border protection policy?

    And another complete lack of comprehension of ng?

    Bernard you are usually on the money, but this is sub par for you.

  7. Jaybuoy

    I wonder when the flags will reappear..?

  8. AR

    This collection of leftovers, reboots & ratbags posing as a government can’t even keep their lies straight which shows how highly they regard the electorate to imagine their obfuscatory mendacity will convince anyone with functioning synapses.
    Talcum probably regrets entering Parliament, when he could be sunning himself in the Caymans, spending more time with his (many) wallets.
    He will be happy to call an election, lose and bid sayonara.

  9. Dog's Breakfast

    I suspect that Malcolm’s effort to drum up a fear campaign about negative gearing may well be the moment where a lot of people realised that he is reverting to LNP type, rather than setting a new agenda.

    I reckon it was his worst day since gaining the PM’ship. It was an appalling display of lack of leadership, based on political rather than economic or social imperatives.

  10. Xoanon

    And to add something more to what Jaybuoy said above – that “virtual second term feeling” was actually what the Coalition government in Victoria inspired by 2014.

    Too many dramas, too many sordid deals, too much of the wrong sort of excitement. People were happy to see the back of them.

    I’d add that Turnbull is also somewhat resembling Rudd’s second coming, ie “Is that all there is?”

  11. Xoanon

    From my POV here in Melbourne, the Turnbull government is starting to uncannily resemble the state Coalition government of Victoria which was turfed out of power after just one term in 2014.

    It too had replaced its leader halfway through, and for all its four years looked dithering and lacking in direction, often outsourcing policy to corporate interests.

    In the end the voters weren’t out with proverbial baseball bats, just weary of an outfit that seemed to have no philosophy other than looking after its mates and holding onto power. Turnbull may go the same way.

  12. Jaybuoy

    The experts might be correct about first term federal Governments not being booted out…but the Australian voter now sees these morons as a second term Govt….Abbott and Hockey fubared de-luxe and now Turnbull and Morrison are on rinse and repeat. People already feel like they’ve have 2 terms worth of horribleness from this shambolic crew.

  13. Jaybuoy

    There is rumour around the house that Clownshoes is doing the numbers..can a suppository be inserted twice..sounds stonkingly messy..

  14. Wayne Cusick

    Agility?

    How can the economy be agile when much of the wealthy in Australia rely on their influence over government for their wealth?

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-26/frijters-foster-battlers-and-plutocrats/6725118

  15. Kathy McHugh

    Yes, finally voters are seeing Talcum Turnoff for what he really is, ie full of wind. He seems very gutless to take on the misfits in his own party. Even if he does manage to win the next election, he will still be held to account by the right wing nutters in his party. Talcum needs his own party, but such a situation wouldn’t allow him to be a Prime Minister

  16. CML

    @ sang froid…what a ridiculous comment!
    Obviously 50% of the voting public now prefer a Labour government lead by Bill Shorten, and his very good team including Chris Bowen. (Seems to have escaped your notice that the Labor party led the polls for two years, with Shorten as leader before Talcum became PM).
    Thank doG for that…at last people are beginning to see through our useless PM.

    @ Bob’s Uncle…I must have missed it too! Just a media excuse for Talcum Malcum…sounds better if ‘his’ government has only had five months, rather than two years and five months, to come up with a few policies. The MSM (and Crikey on this occasion) must think we are all as dumb as they are!!

  17. Bob's Uncle

    This is a 5 month old government? Did I miss the 2015 election?

  18. Keto Vodda

    It has seemed to me for some time that governments lacking in intellectual depth prefer to leave policy formation to the market place.

    And those that trust markets tend to vote Liberal.

  19. sang froid

    I don’t think anyone takes Shorten seriously, but Bowen is certainly setting the agenda.

  20. The hood

    I think Turnbull should go to the election as early as possible. He needs another three years to do absolutely nothing!

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