My favourite moment in fifties sci-fi and monster films was when the hero futilely emptied his revolver into an oncoming threat and then, out of ammunition, would hurl the gun at it, as if, although resistant to bullets, it would be brought to a halt by lobbing a kilo of metal at it.
Malcolm Turnbull is now at the chucking-the-gun stage of proceedings against Kevin Rudd. Everything it has fired at him has bounced off. Even boat people aren’t having any effect. The spike in boat arrivals and greater media focus on asylum seekers has only seen an increase in Labor’s 2PP vote which, according to Newspoll, is now 59-41.
They’re the sort of numbers other polls have been producing for a while. Newspoll has approached them before, but looked like a rogue result when it has done so. Today’s numbers are on the back of two previous polls of the same order of magnitude.
Essential Research produced a 58-42 poll and, more damningly, a set of responses showing significant, and growing, endorsement of the Government’s economic management and an understanding that interest rate rises reflected the recovery rather than the myth of a too-prolonged stimulus. Less than a quarter of respondents saw any connection between interest rate rises and the stimulus, and less than a quarter believed the stimulus package wasn’t necessary. In any event, 64% of respondents thought interest rates rises would have no (36%) or little (28%) effect on them.
Forget 58-42 or 59-41, these are killer numbers because they show the entire Coalition economic narrative has failed. In fact , they’re not even convincing the decreasing number of Australians who support them.
Part of Turnbull’s strategy on climate change has been to get it off the agenda because the Coalition can’t win on it and it is sucking oxygen from his attempts to exploit other issues. But it looks like economic issues are developing the same toxicity as climate change and other issues that Labor owns, meaning if he does manage to get that precious “clear air”, his preferred message is being rejected by voters.
That’s on the basis that voters are even paying attention to him, and one wonders if that’s the case.
The Liberals badly need a reboot of their economic strategy because the one they’ve got might actually be harming them.
Their Coalition colleagues shouldn’t take any heart from recent events. The Nationals have remained stuck at 4% for months in Newspoll. They argue, perhaps correctly, that the polls inevitably understate their vote. But it’s not so long since we were hearing about some sort of Coalition resurgence in regional Australia on the back of opposition to the CPRS. The numbers show nothing except polling results stuck well below its 5.5% vote in 2007.
From such a strong polling position, you’d think it would embolden the Government to chance its arm on reform issues, but that’s not Kevin Rudd. The bigger his lead, the safer he plays, looking to hang on to every possible advantage he’s got. Thus far it’s working a treat, because no leader has ever managed such an extraordinary run in the polls – and remember Bob Hawke had the Howard-Peacock feud and Joh-for-PM working for him.
The only emboldening will probably occur on the CPRS negotiations, where the Government will reckon the threat of an apocalyptic double dissolution outcome will have the Coalition in deep disarray.
After looking at the Coalition’s amendments yesterday, I thought that the chances of a CPRS deal were good. Given the CPRS itself will accomplish little in the way of reducing carbon emissions, boosting compensation to industry and coal mining as urged by the Coalition would hardly reduce its environmental benefits. The only problem would be ensuring the scheme didn’t draw on the Budget, given the Government is keen to get on a clear track back to surplus.
But with such a strong position, they may figure they’ll get their CPRS through after a double dissolution with minimal risk, so why bother coming to terms with an Opposition so patently and profoundly out of favour with voters?