My long-held assessment is that the Coalition can't win the next federal election. It is only promising the reversal of pretty much everything the incumbents have done and a return to the period before they lost government last time; it's not good enough. Australia does vote conservative from time to time but never does it vote to go backwards, as though the last two elections were some sort of clerical error. The Coalition are deliberately shirking big issues affecting our country which, however imperfectly the incumbents are addressing them, must be addressed and not avoided.
Besides, people aren't going to vote for Tony Abbott, and I don't give a damn what the polls say or have said. During the election campaign people who are disappointed with the incumbents are going to change their vote to deny Abbott the Prime Ministership - in sufficient numbers and locations to give the desired effect.
Plus, as we've seen in the past week or so most poignantly, Tony Abbott is a sook. He can dish it out but can't cop it. His strategic ability is second-rate at best, and he is not exactly backed by strategic geniuses in the back rooms (neither is Gillard in hers, but in any sort of match-up she comes out ahead). The Coalition will only undertake the far-reaching changes they need to make after losing the next election, not before the prospect of doing so.
Today's target is Chris Kenny. Not having given a damn about polls I shall not deign to do so now. As I don't write for a company that has to plug its polling arm I can resist Kenny's weird urge to base a whole article on what he disdains (this dissonance is an in-house feature of Murdoch outlets: they do this with royal scandals, tut-tutting at paparazzi while slavering over their products).
The numbers in this latest poll show such a dramatic shift that you would expect some sort of correction - but we will see.Whistle, whistle, whistle past the graveyard. Kenny hopes a "correction" means an increase for the Coalition vote, but any such "correction" could just as easily go the other way. A mistake might cause the government's standing to fall, but what might cause the Coalition's to rise?
Because of the situation with Independent MPs Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor the ALP will need to do better than it did at the last election to hold government.Well, yes, and the same may equally be said for the Coalition.
... the government and its media friends launched a vicious character assault against Tony Abbott. In my view the personal attacks on Abbott won’t do much long term harm. The public know Abbott well and while those who dislike him will lap up the smear campaign, it is unlikely to sway others who are just as likely to hold it against Labor.They cement negatives about Abbott (i.e. perceptions that he's a bully) and have no upside. Abbott doesn't have the satisfaction that Craig Thomson and Julia Gillard had when they were recently subjected to "vicious character assaults" by Abbott, that they stood fast under a barrage that would have killed lesser folk and got on with the job.
Every politician has people who admire them, people who despise them and people who are unsure. After this week:
- Those who really admire Abbott have a weaker case than they might have recently enjoyed.
- Those who never liked him have a good reason to be reinforced in their belief and to expand their numbers.
- Those who aren't sure about him have reason to get off the fence and join those who oppose him.
- Those who hadn't taken much notice of him have an incentive to see what other crap lurks in the background of this man who would be Prime Minister.
The perception of Abbott's strength of character has been diminished with his sooky responses, and the Clintonesque shading of words in trying to deny what (might have) happened all those years ago.
Julia Gillard has been popular, Tony Abbott never has. Abbott has been in the public eye longer and we have had a better look at him - as a monarchist campaigner from the early '90s, as a media-friendly backbencher who was a "junkyard dog" for Howard and then as a minister - he had a high public profile, while Julia Gillard spent most of her first decade in Parliament unknown except by politics tragics. Gillard is now drawing on a well of goodwill that has been there since 2007, so long as she delivered; Abbott has nothing to draw on because he's not offering a substantial, joined-up alternative.
For a while he looked like piecing together an image of the tough guy preparing to be unpopular by cutting the budget, but budget cuts by the three biggest state governments have cruelled that pitch to the point where it's simply not a sustainable strategy for the Coalition federally. Nobody believes it and nobody will vote for it. Abbott faces the polls before Baillieu, O'Farrell or Newman will, and he is not capable of offering such a substantial and different agenda from them for him to avoid being used as their whipping-boy.
More important in the medium term were the savage budget cuts announced in Queensland and New South Wales, leading to protests and condemnation. These were seized upon by the Gillard government, and at least for a while, will create angst and resentment in the electorate.Those cuts go to services that people experience every day - like the carbon tax, but more so. You'll note Kenny has overlooked the Victorian government's cuts, which haven't simply been shrugged off. Anger in that state looks more like the increasing heat beneath the pot in which the Baillieu government looks like being boiled alive. In Kenny's home state of South Australia, the Liberal leader has gone from a sure thing to an also-ran because she let slip a plan to cut public service jobs.
Kenny has used the journo-cliche "savage" to describe those budget cuts. Actions that are "savage" are unpredictable and not based on reason or cultured sensitivity; this is a hell of a thing for a conservative commentator to say about the sort of governments he normally would be expected to support.
More interesting than analysing what is behind this poll is examining what its impact will be.Examining? More like guessing. No more whistling past the graveyard: take his hand, dear reader, and off you go on a mad frolic with Chris. See you when you get back.
... the pleasing poll result helps to cement Ms Gillard in the leadership. It means there will be no panic in the caucus room this week and the government will be confident and unified in Parliament. The following three sitting weeks are spread over two months so a lot could change before the final sitting in late November. All the same, for now at least, this puts Kevin Rudd back in his box - which is great for Ms Gillard and, strangely enough, also good news for the Coalition.Depends what you mean "for now", really. In real politics terms, Rudd was stitched up into a chaff bag and dumped into Lake Burley Griffin back in February. It was in all the papers, Chris. Since then he has mostly been quiet but occasionally appeared in the media a bit, but then so has Malcolm Fraser. Journalists seeking to justify their own employment have chased him around Canberra, and I suppose this is all pretty recent in geological terms, but Kenny's idea of relying on the same half-dozen Rudd supporters to keep LABOR SPLIT SHOCK stories simmering is pretty feeble. Leave that crap to Philip Coorey.
The government is unified because they have something to talk about, and things to do to make them happen. The government will probably not replace a leader who gives them productive focus and the popular esteem that comes from that with someone who lacks these qualities and whose popularity will plummet once his chaotic ways reassert themselves. It's good news for the Coalition only insofar as those who insist the Tony Abbott Way have no future have further proof for their case.
On the other side of the coin, this poll could panic some of the nervous Nellies in the Coalition, and those who oppose Abbott could use it to agitate against him. Superficial analysis can be used in Liberal ranks to create leadership doubts.So could calm and in-depth analysis. Abbott is a loon and cannot provide the stability and certainty that conservatives, and the market, are looking for. There are no policies to detract from the personal shortcomings of The Leader: without any policies the Liberals are asking us to take this guy on trust (as far as strategies go, that's pretty weak).
Leadership doubts are felt in Liberal ranks but that is not where they are created. Just as workers in retail, manufacturing or state public services fear for their jobs, so too do Liberal MPs and staffers. Kenny is trying to issue a warning with no clout, a dangerous thing to do when people are nervous and so much is at stake.
... the only way the Coalition can lose the next election is through disunity and self-harm.Getting solidly behind Tony Abbott and allowing perceptions of Coalition policy to be set by his daily talking points (which change wildly when he is under pressure) is the road to defeat, and it is the road they have been on for almost three years now. Three long years, and further away from government than ever.
Kenny's assumption that the election is Abbott's to lose shows disdain for the incumbents, which is understandable from a partisan perspective up to a point. Oppositions only win when they respect the incumbents. Keating didn't hate Hewson but did hate Howard. Beazley and Latham looked down on Howard too, while Hawke and Rudd treated him with respect: look at the respective records of those Labor leaders against Howard and you'll see what I mean. The Coalition can't and won't beat a Prime Minister they fundamentally do not respect - sexism is part, but not all of it. The US Republicans hated Clinton and Obama all the more because they could not beat them. At the risk of coming over all zen, only when the Coalition concede the strengths of the government can it overcome them.
Abbott assumed his current role when Labor was in disarray and now that they are getting it together, he has run out of things to say. He has reinforced his least appealling, most revealing characteristics, and Kenny overestimates how easy it will be to turn this around.
Labor’s hardheads will know it is far too early to suggest this poll demonstrates they are back in the game. But they will know Labor’s greatest gift from Newspolls like this is the potential they have to wreak havoc on the other side.I always laugh at the fools at sporting grounds whose team is behind at about a quarter or halfway through a game, and instead of projecting an air of calm and confidence and hoping like hell, they gravely warn cheering opponents that it could all turn around. Chris Kenny has no clue at all what "Labor hardheads" may or may not know or think, and he has no business lecturing them. This is an imprecation aimed at the Liberals.
Liberals are right to question Abbott's leadership. The pro-Abbott Liberal right can't win an argument against logic and facts, so they change the subject and imagine a familiarity with The Dreaded Enemy that they simply don't have.
The Liberal right always claim to have great intelligence as to what Labor thinks, and it is one of the great perpetual lies of Australian politics. I can still remember being told by Liberal right luminaries that Bob Carr was scared of facing Kerry Chikarovski at the 1999 NSW election - so scared that he turned a slender majority into a landslide for his party. The ingredients for a repeat of such an event federally are there right now. If only Chris Kenny was able to escape the vortex where he is bound to report on polls and at the same time ignore them, he could see that a scatty, policy-free reactionary Opposition is going to be carved up by a government that only has to stay on its feet to look like geniuses by comparison.
There are few jobs in Opposition, only the prospects of better ones when your mob gets into office. The Liberals will go backwards at the next federal election and there will be fewer jobs still; but Chris Kenny will probably still have his. This time next year it will be necessary for Murdoch to get rid of all those personnel who are geared around the advent of an Abbott Government (e.g. Greg Sheridan, a prophet who can clearly see the post-Abbott future that looks apocalyptic to him, crying in the wilderness of conservative denial; Christopher Pearson and Dennis Shanahan; possibly even Darth Mitchell himself); Kenny will be sitting pretty. His fabric will be a little more frayed in the fray; however, his ability to judge the situation before him at that time, and to report on it, will be no better than it is now.