Number 30. It has been the most anticipated number in recent Australian politics and finally, it’s with us – it’s the thirtieth consecutive losing Newspoll for the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull – or, conversely, 30 consecutive winning Newspolls for Labor leader, Bill Shorten. And the words that have got us to this point? There’s only eight of them and they seemed innocuous at the time in September 2015 but now, they’ve become critically lethal – “We have lost 30 Newspolls in a row” – the words used by Turnbull the day before he toppled former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.
In the latest Newspoll, released late tonight, it shows the Liberal–National Party at 48 per cent of the two-party preferred vote, trailing the Labor Party at 52 per cent.
If this result is carried through to the next election, it will result in a loss of 12 Liberal–National held electorates, or 15 electorates, when taking into account the recent electoral redistributions in Victoria and South Australia, proposed by the Australian Electoral Commission – a clear election loss for the LNP.
Although this is the thirtieth consecutive Newspoll loss for the LNP under Malcolm Turnbull, going all the way back to August 2016, the overall figures are much worse. In all polls, except for two polls in 2017 from the untested and inconsistent YouGov, the LNP has been behind in 111 consecutive polls, including Newspoll, Essential, Roy Morgan, Ipsos and ReachTEL.
Nothing is certain in politics and many changes in the course of events can turn consistently negative numbers around. Labor leader Paul Keating managed to do this in the 1993 federal election, turning around almost two years of poor polling into a victory in the final week of the election campaign. Liberal leader John Howard also managed to do this twice, in the 1998 and 2001 elections, although his figures were nowhere near as consistently poor as Turnbull’s. And it’s hard to imagine this now, but at one point, Newspoll fell as low as 37 per cent in the two-party preferred vote for John Howard.
But in those recoveries for Keating and Howard, they both had united teams behind them, and Turnbull leads a Liberal Party that contains clear fault lines between the conservative rump, led by the recently announced Monash Forum, and the moderate wing. In addition, Turnbull has shown that he neither has the political skill to unite his party, or the ability to improve the electoral fortunes of his government.
On a few occasions, the Australian electorate can be forgiving, and they can be fair, if they see potential in a leader. After the debacle of Tony Abbott as Prime Minister during 2013–2015, the electorate forgave or forgot about Turnbull’s own debacles as Opposition leader between 2008–2009, but after being provided with almost three years to redeem himself since he became Prime Minister in September 2015, it has reached a point where the electorate has already decided the fate of this government, and there’s very little that can be done to change this.
Malcolm Turnbull is simply not the man the media has made him out to be and the electorate has worked this out for themselves.