Further trouble for the Turnbull government: Monash and the AEC take aim

malcolm-turnbull

Today was the day the Turnbull government lost its majority and plunged into minority government… well, not exactly, but due to a redistribution of electorates in Victoria and the ACT announced by the Australian Electoral Commission, the Australian Labor Party has nominally acquired three seats, while the Liberal Party has nominally lost two seats.

 

Unless objections are successfully raised against this redistribution, this means that going into the next federal election, the nominal seat allocations will be:

  • Liberal–National Party: 74 seats
  • Labor Party: 72 seats
  • Australian Greens: 1 seat
  • Xenophon Team: 1 seat
  • Katter’s Australia: 1 seat
  • Independents: 2 seats

The net result of the redistribution will be two new electorates, one in Victoria and another in the ACT, and the AEC will next week announce one seat in South Australia will be deleted due to falling population numbers in the state, bringing the total number of federal seats to 151.

While objections can be made to the redistribution, it’s likely that aside from possible tinkering, these will be the final boundary changes, which will be officially announced in July 2018.

It means that the task for the Liberal–National Party to hold government at the next election will become even more difficult – it will need to win two seats just to maintain its current position, while most polls are currently suggesting a landslide loss of around 16 seats for the Coalition.

And what are the chances of the LNP winning an additional two seats, just to hold on to their slender one-seat minority? This is a government that needs everything to go right for it to achieve this but, so far, it’s a government where everything it touches turns to mush and calamity follows it around every corner.

The latest chapter in this is the recent formation of the “Monash Forum”, a conservative alliance that includes Tony Abbott, Kevin Andrews, Eric Abetz, Craig Kelly, Barnaby Joyce, George Christensen and the virtually unknown Ian Goodenough, from Western Australia. Predictably, there are no women in the Monash Forum.

Among the many acts created by this conservative rump to cause embarrassment to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, this is the most cynical. This rump has been meeting informally for many years, but decided to formalise their partnership, undoubtedly to coincide with the expected 30th negative Newspoll next week. Ostensibly, the purpose of the Forum is to ramp up the LNP’s commitment to coal-powered, just like the Luddite commitment to the mallets used to smash machinery during the industrial revolution in the 1700s, but it’s primarily to focus all the attention of Turnbull’s fateful poll.

All of the members, except for Christensen, are from very safely held electorates – Andrews holds his seat of Menzies by 10.5 per cent; Abbott holds Warringah by 11.0 per cent; Kelly holds Hughes by 9.3 per cent; Joyce holds New England by 16.4 per cent; Goodenough holds Moore by 11.0 per cent; and Abetz is the perennial holder of the first position of the Senate ticket in Tasmania.

These are the members of parliament that are essentially wasting public time and resources on ideological pursuits and payback for the overthrow of Abbott as Prime Minister in September 2015. They’re the spear throwers and warriors for forgotten causes and irrelevant conservative manifestos. And for as long as this cabal continues in this unedifying pursuit of Turnbull, politics will be poorer for it.

There have also been murmurings of an immediate impending spill for the Liberal Party leadership, but people are forgetting that this can only happen, for practical reasons, when MPs and Senators sit in Canberra, and the next sitting for Parliament will be for the release of the Budget on 8 May – four weeks away.

In the meantime, if Newspoll keeps to its current schedule, there will be three more polls before the Budget, including one to be released on 7 May, just in time for the next sitting of Parliament and, in all likelihood, will bring up the 32nd consecutive Newspoll loss for Malcolm Turnbull. The fireworks might not be released on that day, but I’m sure that another stack of pyrotechnics will be added to the already growing stash. All it needs is for one member of the Monash Forum to ignite the fuse but my feeling is this group will wait a little bit longer to inflict more pain upon Malcolm Turnbull.

The military hero their Forum is named after, John Monash, was a civil engineer and an Australian military commander during the First World War, perhaps Australia’s finest. However, these contemporary conservative MPs wouldn’t even be worthy of the bootlaces of Monash, and it’s an insight into their hubris and arrogance that they’ve named their rag-tag collective of right-wing tomfoolery after Australia’s greatest military figure.

Monash’s greatest achievement was in August 1918, in the Battle of Amiens where he led Australian troops into a series of victories against the German armies. The Monash Forum has a sense of importance that is far greater than their collective talents but their hubris will dictate that they’ll try something foolish to coincide with this 100-year anniversary.

August might be the time that we see a new Australian Prime Minister. We previously speculated who the contenders might be in the case of a leadership spill but there’s a very strong chance that it’s not going to make that much difference to the final verdict at the next federal election.

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Eddy Jokovich

Eddy Jokovich is a Sydney-based journalist and producer of many books, magazines and handbooks and has worked as a war correspondent, journalist, lecturer in media studies and production.