Malcolm Turnbull:

He seemed to spend most of his time talking about China. Now he’s not a roving ambassador for the People’s Republic of China — he’s the Prime Minister of Australia and he has to put our national interest first.

Joe Hockey:

Kevin Rudd received free trips when he was in opposition from Chinese interests. Wayne Swan the treasurer received these trips, Tony Burke the agriculture minister. Now we hear about the defence minister receiving free trips from China … what’s going on?

I think we all know what’s going on Joe — the politics is as transparent as it is grotesque. For the first time since immediately after the 2007 election, the federal Coalition has gone backwards in their longer term public support. If we track the largest polling aggregation in Australia — the quarterly Newspoll release — and use that data to estimate the numbers of seats the Coalition have made up or lost over each three month period, we get a far more realistic version of Yellow Peril.

The Coalition started with 65 seats after the election. In the usual polling slump immediately following defeat, Newspoll came in showing that if the polling results for the first quarter of 2008 were to be repeated at an election, the Coalition would be reduced to a rump of 30 seats. From that nadir — using Monte Carlo simulations to turn the demographic data contained in the quarterly Newspoll release into an estimate of seats that would be won or lost were the results to be repeated at an election — the Coalition improved their net seat position for every quarter since, gaining five seats in their net seat position for the 2nd quarter of 2008, gaining an additional 13 seats for the 3rd quarter of 2008, then gaining an additional two seats in the final quarter of 2008. The Rudd government has been dominant, but the Coalition have been slowly but surely clawing ground back over the last 18 months. That was the case until recently.

In the first quarter of 2009 — for the first time since the election — the Coalition have lost ground, losing six seats from their 4th quarter position in 2008. Combine that with Turnbull’s declining net satisfaction rating in Newspoll, which today Nielsen reinforces by estimating that Turnbull’s approval is already inverted (where more people disapprove of Turnbull’s performance than approve) and the politics of Yellow Peril reeks of the political desperation it is.

Yet this latest tactic surely misses the real point of Coalition weakness — Turnbull is weak with women voters.

Newspoll estimates that the 2007 election had 44% of females giving their primary vote to the Coalition, a figure which has now dropped to an abysmal 34% — it is the Coalition’s single largest demographic political failure. Unless the female population of Australia transformed overnight in secret to become a rampaging mass of Margaret Thatcher clones, this latest political tactic will be counterproductive. Polling suggests that women voters not only see through political games more than men, but are more likely to revolt against such games.

The single road back to political competitiveness for the Coalition leads right through the middle of the modern female vote — not 1960’s cultural cul-de-sacs filled with rehashed fantasies of Yellow Peril and Manchurian Candidates.

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