Last week we reported a special Morgan Poll, smaller than usual, that showed the Coalition under Malcolm Turnbull had failed to dent the ALP’s lead. The first full-scale Morgan poll since Turnbull’s ascension has confirmed he has failed to generate any lift for the Coalition. The poll shows an ALP lead of 10 points on the primary vote and a 2PP lead of 57.5-42.5, up 2.

In short, we’re back to the business as usual. Turnbull might rue his luck that the global financial crisis has coincided with his elevation, since the crisis has been serious enough to enable Rudd and Swan to adopt a wartime-like air of seriousness and reassurance and required the Coalition to fall in behind the Government. Both Prime Minister and Treasurer, despite the argument over whether banks should pass on the full interest rate cut, have looked on top of their brief. That’s the benefit of incumbency.

The only problem for Labor is the ongoing performance of state governments. Most of these incompetents seem to taint anything they touch. At best, they bring with them an air of small-minded foolishness, but it’s more often the stench of venality and mindless vindictiveness that wafts in when a premier enters the room. They performed badly enough when they were rolling in money during the boom years, so our looming economic difficulties promise to send them plumbing new depths of idiocy.

Yesterday’s bringing forward of the Government’s infrastructure investment plans, however sensible from the point of view of offsetting an economic downturn, looks worryingly like a cave-in to these useless types. The bringing-forward of Infrastructure Australia’s audit of major projects looks particularly strange. If it was going to be completed in the shorter timeframe, why wasn’t it brought forward earlier? Or will the new authority — which has only been up and running a matter of weeks — hand in a half-baked report that fails to submit the claims of State Governments to a proper analysis?

For that matter, perhaps Infrastructure Australia should explore ways of cutting State Government entirely out of the process of determining which major projects should be funded. They can’t be relied on for basic competence or apolitical economic judgement. This is all Commonwealth money here. Why is the Federal Government even talking to these people? The Coalition may be wrong with its “slush fund” call, but you wonder whether they may not be onto something when they complain about the Government bailing out bankrupt State Governments.

In fact, really, can’t we just take State Governments out and have them shot? Let’s stop pretending they have any value whatsoever, and get rid of them. It’d be a quick release — far better than the slow, painful death of irrelevance, insolvency and dominance by talentless party hacks. It’d be the merciful thing to do.

Peter Fray

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