November 07, 2016 | Graham

Turnbull starting to move in the right direction

The latest Morgan Gallup Poll shows Malcolm Turnbull’s approval rating falling slightly, but a massive increase in the numbers preferring him as Prime Minister over Bill Shorten.

At last Turnbull is moving in the right direction. If he can maintain this he can win the next election.

What is most significant is the fall in Shorten’s support amongst Greens, Independents and non-Greens minor party voters.

Here are the figures including Morgan’s heading:

Analysis by Party – Turnbull leads among L-NP electors and Shorten well ahead with ALP electors

L-NP supporters: Turnbull 86% (unchanged) cf. Shorten 4% (down 8%). Lead to Mr. Turnbull 82% (up 8%);

ALP supporters: Turnbull 14% (down 4%) cf. Shorten 65% (down 16%). Lead to Mr. Shorten 51% (down 12%);

Greens supporters: Turnbull 22% (up 7%) cf. Shorten 54% (down 29%). Lead to Mr. Shorten 32% (down 36%);

Ind/Others supporters: Turnbull 51% (up 3%) cf. Shorten 25% (down 25%). Lead to Mr. Turnbull 26% (up 28%).

When people ask me to list the achievements of Malcolm Turnbull I reply that at least he has reset the political debate by having an election which he won, no matter how narrowly.

As a result of that election we are starting to see legislation being successfully put through the senate.

Turnbull has also taken stronger stances on refugees, and now human rights. This is going to cost him support on the left, but in the middle ground and the right it sharpens the distinction between him and Shorten, and that, as much as anything Shorten has done, is partially responsible for Shorten’s decline in the polls.

Were an election to be held tomorrow, and Turnbull to run on leadership, Shorten would lose decisively.

There also seems to have been a turn in Turnbull’s rhetoric. He is sounding stronger and more decisive. Instead of trying to be all things to all people, he is now taking some risks, and it appears to be paying off.

Listen to ABC’s AM from this morning to hear the new tone. It’s not quite three word slogans, but it is definitely not polly waffle either.

Another contributing factor could be the ABCC legislation. Voters generally give the ALP a pass on unions, in the same way they give the coalition a pass on big business, because they are both seen as core constintuencies.

Where the union issue resonates is when voters assess Bill Shorten’s character. At the back of their minds they know he did a bad deal for the workers at Cleanevent which had payoffs for him in terms of union representation in Labor forums, and ultimately support to become prime minister.

Voters don’t want to end up like the Cleanevent crew.

Yet another factor is likely to be gay marriage. If you are genuinely interested in seeing it legislated, and not using it as a political football, then you would support the government’s legislation, have the plebiscite, and have it over and done with.

Shorten is playing the issue for political advantage.

There are two constituencies that care about gay marriage, outside the LGBTIQ community. One is conservative Christians and the other is Greens/Left voters.

The Christians are not huge in numbers, but they distinguish between Shorten and Turnbull on this issue. At least Turnbull is going to give them a say in it, and if they are beaten, they can accept that.

Turnbull has held the line on this issue, and it is to his advantage with these voters. They could well desert him if he did anything else.

Those who are Greens/Left and not partisan warriors realise that a plebiscite is their best chance for at least the next three years. It must irk them that a man who three years ago was in favour of a plebiscite and against gay marriage, has now taken the opposite position, but to whose advantage? Not theirs – see Cleanevent above.

Labor is attempting to ape Tony Abbott’s oppositional tactics, but Abbott had something that Bill Shorten Labor hasn’t – he was seen as a conviction politician. He might have been brutally oppositional, and gained an advantage from it, but he believed in what he was saying, and the advantage was consequential.

Shorten comes up short on conviction, so opposition can easily be translated by voters as self-interested hypocrisy and gamesmanship. The political tide is running against that at the moment.

Turnbull however should not take this improvement for granted. The move away from Shorten hasn’t been directly to his benefit. The voters have parked themselves as “Neither/Can’t say”. If Turnbull shows any signs of stepping back from his new tougher direction, Shorten will be back in the game.

Posted by Graham at 2:32 pm | Comments (4) |

June 14, 2016 | Graham

Manchurian candidate or just a cuckoo?

I said to my good friend David Davies that I thought Australia had been invaded by the whites. He looked at me and said he was sure it was settlement. This would have been around about 1978 or 1979. He was studying law, I was studying English literature.

I had a lot of respect for David, so I thought harder about the issue and came to the conclusion that we were both right. At times it had been an invasion, but mostly it was just settlement.

Two hundred years ago the world was quite different. There was a lot of spare land around, and the might is right model of international governance still held sway.

When the English turned-up in Australia in 1788 the continent was underutilised and there was little governance. Aboriginal tribes had areas that they tended to visit and live in from time to time, but there was no idea of title in the modern sense.

When the strangers turned-up the evidence is that the Aborigines tended to disperse to accommodate them. It wasn’t much different to what happens on Fraser Island in the summertime. People camped, and as long as it didn’t create too much trouble everyone was happy.

But what happens when the newcomers start putting in infrastructure and invite their mates over?

The camping model doesn’t work so well after a while. Tensions arise, and fights break out. Were these wars? Some might have been, but most were skirmishes.

One might just as well call the movements of refugees around the world today invasions, as to call what happened in Australia between 1788 and the twentieth century, one.

The end result might be dispossession, but it is much more a consequence of demography than it is military might.

I doubt whether the Anglo Saxon and then Danish settlements of England were much different. There was certainly more pillaging and looting, but most of it must have been poor families from Europe looking for a better life and finding plenty of spare land in England in 400-800 AD.

The idea that Australia was conquered is a political tool used by the opponents of current Australian society to deligitimise that society. As an English Literature student I was exposed to that culture in a way that a law student (at least at that time) wasn’t.

I wasn’t across the reality of what actually happened and was fair game for a fantasy version of how it worked out. Except that when confronted with a conflicting point of view I was capable of examining the facts anew.

Malcolm Turnbull is a law graduate. He has the tools to understand the reality of the settlement of Australia. What is he on about when he says it is an “invasion”, and more, that Australia is still “Aboriginal land”?

I do not know.

What I do know is that week by week this election is drifting away from him.

His position on this issue will further alienate him from the Liberal base, and from the minor party voters whose preferences he needs to win.

I’ve been poring over my polling, and he is not now winning votes in the middle and on the left, despite his early success, because they want him to go much further than he is on this and other issues like climate change.

So he loses preferences from minor party voters, because they see him as a less sympathetic politician than Bill Shorten, but one who has a similar political position, so where is the reason to vote for him over Shorten?

The end result, if this continues and the Liberal campaign fails to find an authentic voice which appeals to minor party voters, will be the first Shorten government.

If this happens it will be because Malcolm Turnbull was not a contemporary Liberal in the first place, so the campaign never had an authentic voice to start with.

Some people will suggest Turnbull was always on the other side, and others that he had  no idea in the first place.

Posted by Graham at 10:41 pm | Comments (4) |

September 14, 2015 | Graham

Turnbull will have to redefine Liberal constituency

If Malcolm Turnbull wins the ballot against Tony Abbott, and whoever else might put their hand up, he will need to redefine the Liberal constituency in order to win an election.

Every time I have tested Turnbull as leader against Abbott in one of our polls he has been preferred leader, but by Labor and Greens voters, not Liberal voters.

When he was then put up against the ALP Prime Minister, it was a case of “Thanks, but no thanks, we already have someone to vote for.”

I haven’t tested him against Shorten yet, but my suspicion is it will be the same result.

Turnbull is a centrist and pragmatist, which means he will struggle to carry the hearts, although he may capture the votes, of the grass roots of the Liberal Party.

He is also a plutocrat, and that gives him problems with the non-Green minor party voters, who have demonstrated that while they might loathe Green Labor, they are prepared to give them their preferences, after first preferencing the latest maverick like Palmer or Katter.

Of course some of them have already voted for a plutocrat in Palmer, but Palmer is untidy and the class buffoon, while Malcolm is dux. That creates an entirely different dynamic.

At the moment it is these voters’ preferences that are determining most elections in Australia, and it has been that way almost as long as I can remember. They were Howard’s battlers, and Menzies “forgotten people”.

So if Turnbull is not to be wedged from the right and the left he is going to have to expand the centre.

Is that possible when Shorten has retreated from the left, allowing the Greens to keep that flank for him, and has expanded into the popularist centre right with campaigns against virtually everything?

I doubt it, but am happy to be proved wrong. If Turnbull wins the leadership ballot, time may tell.

He may be our John Key, who seems to have a centrist appeal (but I haven’t polled NZ so could be entirely wrong on that).

The trick for him won’t be polling well in the beltway, it will be out in Western Sydney, the outer suburbs of Brisbane and Melbourne, and further out in the regions, under the Milky Way.

The risk is that having been seduced into wresting the prize for himself he may find the elite electorate’s embrace fleeting and cold.

Posted by Graham at 5:33 pm | Comments (1) |