Where Federal Politics Stands
In my experience, opinion polls can take a little time to rally. You have a burst of bad publicity and the next poll pleasantly surprises you by being relatively benign. And then a month later – bang – you see the slump. It’s almost as if the electorate takes time to absorb the rise or fall in your political fortunes.
That’s what I would be telling Julia Gillard about the last Newspoll with continuing bad news about voting intentions sitting alongside the good news for her in the leadership stakes.
The electorate is now watching the government implement a program. It looks a business-like reform agenda. Carbon tax is through the Parliament and the mining tax through the House of Representatives. I would have liked to have heard more boasting about the legislation on tobacco packaging, a substantial reform. This is something for Australia to be very proud of, a mighty fillip to the anti-smoking cause internationally. Something else to cheer about.
The problems are mounting for Abbott. In his November 21 Sydney Institute speech he said savings would come from “vastly reducing the number of consultancies”. Nothing doing. This is an old staple of oppositions and represents modest housekeeping not an heroic assault on the size of government. Cuts like that do not free up the quantum savings he needs.
He can’t abolish the carbon tax and the mining tax without delivering the biggest transformation of Australian public finances ever promised by an opposition leader, and one even bigger than that promised by Prime Minister Howard in 1998 in respect of the introduction of the GST.
Poor Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb need to be hunkered down with every former Treasury officer they can find, trying to keep pace with the broad-brush policy commitments of their boss.
You can imagine their end-of-year lamentations.