A bevy of senior ministers has hit the airwaves to back Malcolm Turnbull and call for discipline after the government, as expected, chalked up its 30th negative successive Newspoll.
Tony Abbott and Liberals loyal to him have used the occasion to make mischief. Mr Abbott has stepped up his call for the increased use of coal-fired power and for the immigration rate to be cut. He told radio 2GB that as well as building new coal fired power stations, the government should consider compulsorily acquiring the Liddell power station if operator AGL refused to sell it or keep it running for a few more years.
“This is a essential service ,” said Mr Abbott, who last year suggested the military seize control of the ageing coal-fired power station.
“There has been a lot of jawboning, perhaps it is time for strongarming.
“If a company is threatening a essential service, it is up to the government to take appropriate action.”
He said AGL chief executive officer was more interested in inflating his bonus and company profits than the public interest.
Tasmanian Liberal Senator and Abbott loyalist Eric Abetz called for Australia to dump its commitment to the Paris climate change targets,
In findings which mirror those of the Fairfax/Ipsos poll published Saturday, the Newspoll shows Labor leading the Coalition by 52 per cent to 48 per cent on a two-party preferred basis, based on how preference flowed at the 2016 election.
Mr Turnbull cited 30 negative Newspolls as one of the reasons for moving against Mr Abbott in 2015.
The Prime Minister repeated his regret for making that remark as he told reporters on Monday voters were not interested in the Newspoll.
“Australians are focused on the real contest which is the type of country you want to be,” he said.
“Do we want to be a country that has the strong revenues to fund increased child care, that has record jobs growth, that has lower taxes and more investment?
“Or do we want to be the country Bill Shorten is offering – higher taxes, less investment, lower employment, Australian jobs going overseas?
“I regret making those remarks at the time, making the remarks about 30 Newspolls at the time. But what I promised to do what to provide economic leadership and traditional cabinet government and I have done both.”
Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop said the polls were not the test for who leads the Liberal Party.
“The test is who retains the confidence of the majority of the members in the party room and that’s Malcolm Turnbull,” she said.
Polls not the test
Ms Bishop is the only other minster who the polls show rivals Mr Turnbull as a preferred Liberal leader but she dismissed any suggestions of a move.
“I don’t envisage those circumstances occurring at all,” he said.
Others who circled wagons around the Prime Minister Monday morning included Finance Minster Mathias Cormann, and Education Minster Simon Birmingham.
“Senator Birmingham noted, as has Mr Turnbull, that many reasons were cited for rolling Mr Abbott in 2015, including restoring business ands consumer confidence, growing the economy and restoring cabinet processes.
“There were things that matter much more to the Australian people”, Mr Birmingham said.
Mr Abbott started the day again urging the government to be the party of low power prices and to scale back immigration.
“That’s what I think we need to focus on today, being the best possible government with the strongest possible policies,” he said.
Senator Abetz said it was wrong to use Newspoll as an excuse for rolling Mr Abbott and it would be wrong to use the polls now as an excuse to move against Mr Turnbull.
“Jumping at shadows at the Newspoll, or indeed 30 Newspolls is never going to be the basis for good, sound government,” he told ABC radio.
‘Pensioners before Paris’
But he cited power prices as the party’s road to salvation and said it was time to “put pensioners before Paris” and axe Australia’s global commitment to reduce emissions by between 26 per cent and 28 per cent on 2005 level by 2030. These were commitments made when Mr Abbott was prime minister.
Mr Abbott defended his right to keep agitating.
”It is the right and the duty of backbench members of Parliament to speak their minds,” he said.
“That’s just our job.”
Ms Bishop said the polls could still turn.
“The public are expressing an opinion but it will come to a point where they will have to make a decision about who they trust with economic management and national security and I’m confident that that will be Malcolm Turnbull,” she said.
Senator Birmingham concurred.
“If you believed the polls, Nick Xenophon was going to be premier a few months ago,” he said.
“You can turn these things around through discipline, through hard work, through focusing on the key messages.”
His colleague Angus Taylor, who is joining Tony Abbott on his annual Pollie Pedal through Victoria on Monday, called for party unity.
Senator Cormann noted how John Howard had come from behind to win at least two elections.
“It’s not unusual for incumbent governments in between elections being behind in the polls, I mean we’re not actually that far behind, truth be told,” he said.
Labor leader Bill Shorten said the government should stop focusing on itself.
“I’m not like Mr Turnbull. I don’t define my success or, indeed, my job by what Newspoll does. I actually think the Australian people want us to focus less on polls and personalities and a lot more on what we do for the people,” he said.
“It’s Mr Turnbull who said that 30 Newspolls is a definition of success. That’s his problem. I actually think most Australians want to see politics move beyond the polls and the personalities.”
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