Political watch with Graham Richardson


Brent and Graham talk about the Deputy Prime Minister described by Graham as a 24 carat dope, Bill Shorten is the man in the job, unions, Kelly O’Dwyer footy and more.

Listen to the podcast here

Poll message: Shorten, ditch CFMEU; Turnbull, listen to Abbott


Political Columnist

When Aristotle wrote “one swallow does not make a summer” he could well have added “but it does give some indication that things are warming up”.
That is certainly how Malcolm Turnbull and his Coalition colleagues will view Monday’s Newspoll. While celebrations for yet another loss in an increasingly embarrassing long line of losing Newspolls would not be in order, feeling some relief and giving birth to a very small bundle of hope would be appropriate.
One poll is not enough to suggest that the trajectory is not clear, but when you have lived through 18 months of the most consistently miserable polls in memory, you are entitled to feel the tiniest ray of light may be filtering its way through the long, dark tunnel.
This tightening of Labor’s lead, especialy for those those desperate for good news, will provide something of a fillip.
My Sky News colleague Ross Cameron has been saying for a year that when polling day comes Australians will baulk at putting a tick on a ballot paper for a Bill Shorten-led Labor Party.
Although I cannot accept that ¬theory, it does have a particularly worrying nuance to it. The Opposition Leader remains something of a mystery to me. His paranoia about hanging on to his position and shoring up his defences against any attack, real or imagined, has led him to get ever closer to the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union. This is a worry to many of his colleagues, but that’s a small problem when compared with what ordinary voters think of that union.
Any Labor leader is safe from internal ambush if they can maintain a healthy lead in Newspoll. The best way to make a big personal and party leap in the polls would be to disavow the CFMEU (that in recent days has been permitted to merge with the Maritime Union of Australia and the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia to become the powerful and wealthy super-union that in future will be known as the CFMMEU). The punters will not accept its bullying role on building sites.
As Australian Workers Union boss, Shorten spent much of his time undercutting the CFMEU. He could never be challenged if he reverted to the stance he had taken for most of his political life.
There does not appear to be any one reason the result improved for the Coalition. Two weeks back it was hopelessly and publicly divided over immigration, and Labor’s hit on superannuation, even when modified to exclude all pensioners, may have fed into this but that is anyone’s guess.
Before anyone gets too carried away here it would be wise to note that the full effects of the banking royal commission will be felt in the next poll. Labor will enjoy repeating quotes from the Prime Minister and Scott Morrison, who spent two years resisting Shorten’s calls for a royal commission.
At this point it is difficult to avoid mentioning the trials and tribulations of Kelly O’Dwyer. The Financial Services Minister’s appearance on the ABC’s Insidersprogram was a disaster.
Barrie Cassidy is a seasoned veteran who was never going to let O’Dwyer off the hook when she refused to acknowledge the government had anything to regret over delaying the commission so long. Looking ridiculous is no way to secure your political future, especially when you have form. This was not the first time O’Dwyer has looked way out of her depth.
Within hours of her dreadful appearance the Prime Minister and the Treasurer were talking of a “political” error. If the error was only political, what happened to the regard the government is supposed to have for all those poor bastards who faced two more years of being robbed because of the delay? It took Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, one of the best Coalition performers, to do it properly. Within 24 hours of the O’Dwyer debacle, Cormann came out and said what every Aussie knew: the government got it wrong.
Years ago I was on a Q&A panel with O’Dwyer, then a back¬bencher. After the show I rang Morrison and suggested he tell her that talking over people and shouting did not make her look tough, just rude. I am not certain Morrison passed on my advice.
Newspoll should have provided a sober warning to the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader on another subject entirely. While Greens voters no doubt comprise most of the 10 per cent who think our immigration levels are too low, it is worth considering that by a two to one margin, 56 per cent to 28 per cent of Australians thought our immigration levels were too high rather than just right.
This is an uncomfortable subject for both sides. For the government its softer underbelly would prefer to keep immigration levels where they are. This is one time when the Liberals, Tony Abbott and a few dissidents aside, are relatively united. The hard men and women want to maintain immigration numbers because without them growth will be sharply less.
On the Labor side of politics this is a much more serious issue. It is still the case that those communities that have been here for a shorter period and therefore still can be identified as ethnic (as distinct from Italians and Greeks who are now spread out and have produced several generations of Australian citizens) by and large vote Labor.
Upsetting them by reducing their opportunities — for example, to bring family members to Australia — would go down badly.
This is a real problem because many Anglo Labor voters believe the numbers are too high, so Shorten will need a pretty large tent to keep all those opposing forces within it. Yet none of the above touches on the two reasons for voter discontent. Despite the Reserve Bank and Morrison issuing optimistic statements about wages growth, there seems to be no evidence of it.
With inflation for the past quarter coming in at a miserly 0.4 per cent it is hard to see relief for workers except that interest rate increases have probably been pushed further back.
Neither side has a clue how to reduce electricity prices and, regardless of who wins the next election, most likely prices will rise.
If Turnbull really wants to win the next election he should listen to Abbott on coal and immigration. If Shorten wants to win he should jettison the CFMEU.
Given that neither is prone to accepting advice, we’ll have to wait until, as they say in the classics, the one poll that really matters takes place.

Previous ArticleNext Article