Is the ‘kill Bill’ strategy working?

Last September I charactarised the politics we were getting from the major parties as Kill Bill or any distraction vs a fair go. The scribes in the Oz commenting on the latest Newspoll see Turnbull’s star rising, and the banner headline

      Shorten pays for tax debacle

In the 5-8 April poll Turnbull’s satisfaction rating was 32-57 for a net negative -25. He’s been steadily improving and is now 42-48, a mere -6.

Shorten in early April had exactly the same figures as Turnbull. Now he is back there at 32-57, having only improved by a negligible wobble in the interim.

Here’s the longer story:

Shorten has been ‘range trading’ in a consistently negative way. Turnbull is no doubt hoping for the glory days of when he first gained the keys to the kingdom:

In the second half of 2015 Shorten endured the full brunt of the royal commission into trade unions and shocking revelations on the TV program The Killing Season which at the time was thought to have rendered him unelectable in some views.

Turnbull clearly sees it as his duty to warn voters about this defective man who would wreck the economy and endanger our way of life.

Ironically Turnbull’s rating went negative early in 2016, which was back around the time he launched into the rant about the housing market being “smashed” by Labor’s negative gearing policy in the first of his scare campaigns leading up to the election in 2016.

Craig Emerson reminds us that Abbott too once pledged “a kinder, gentler” style of national politics. That was after the 2010 election – it lasted a few days.

Emerson says that Turnbull has improved on Abbott:

    Here in Australia the Prime Minister, who attacked his predecessor, Tony Abbott, for his obsession with three-word slogans, has economised, dropping out one word to describe the Opposition leader as “Shifty Shorten”, “Electricity Bill” and “Blackout Bill”.

Labor, too, he says, has travelled the low road, attacking the Prime Minister personally for being wealthy and denigrating “the big end of town” while government ministers shriek “class envy” and “class warfare” whenever Labor announces a policy to close down tax shelters utilised by the better off.

Emerson’s argument is that all this really does matter because it kills the debate on policy.

Since Shorten became leader Labor has had scads of policy. If you go here, you can download a 211-page consultation paper of Labor’s National Platform prepared for the 48th ALP National Conference which was to happen at the end of this month.

A platform is not policy as such, but an important part of the policy development process. Labor has copious amounts of policy already drafted in case of an early election, much of it already announced.

John Quiggin finds Anthony Albanese’s Whitlam Oration a garden variety effort, amounting to approximately Nothing. Much attention was given to Albo’s comments about being friendly with business, as a point of contrast with Shorten. However, the core of the speech was:

    Our national challenge is to continue to drive sustained economic growth.

    The ingredients to sustain growth are investing in education and infrastructure.

    Investing in education empowers individuals. Education is also a benefit to the entire community because it boosts national capacity.

    I cannot understand why the current Government is content with a situation in which there are 140,000 fewer apprentices today than there were under the former Labor Government.

    According to the independent Parliamentary Budget Office, infrastructure investment will halve over the next decade as a proportion of GDP from 0.4 to 0.2%.

    Investing in the right nation building projects creates jobs and economic activity in the short-term.

    But over the long term, they lift productivity, which in turn establishes a basis for higher rates of growth and job creation.

Jobs and growth, doing what governments should do rather than incentivise the well-off and hope that lifts all boats.

Albanese is above all a team player. His task in the speech was to sound vaguely inspirational, but not to rock the boat. The team, however, has been built by Shorten. Quiggin says:

    Shorten’s public image is that of a convictionless machine man, but he has taken more and bolder policy stands than any opposition leader has dared to do since the failure of John Hewson’s Fightback! Yet he nearly won the last election, and Labor remains well ahead in the polls.

Actually not well ahead. In TPP terms Newspoll has the Coalition gaining a point on last fortnight to narrow the gap to 51-49, maintaining a pattern over the past six polls of movement back and forth between 51-49 and 52-48. Given that the Coalition’s primary vote is on 39, compared to 42 at the last election, and Labor is 37 compared to 34.7, with the Greens roughly the same on 9 rather than 10, much depends on preferences from One Nation, which has moved to 6 compared to 1.2, and Other, which remains on 9 rather than 11.7.

It’s unlikely that the votes that move to determine the election will change on a consideration of policies. So there is every incentive for Turnbull to maintain his personality attack on Shorten.

7 thoughts on “Is the ‘kill Bill’ strategy working?”

  1. The media is getting seriously pissed off with Labor because they haven’t provided the excitement of a leadership challenge since Shorten became leader. Hence the desperate claims that the Albanese speech was a challenge and the repeated claims that Shorten must go if any seats are lost in the coming by-elections.
    Then there was the recent full page article in the Courier Mail on Hanson’s statement that her famous woman’s intuition that Bill couldn’t be trusted. Given the Burston departure was one of a long list of failures in Pauline’s intuition re men I took it as a vote of confidence in Pauline.
    Labor has to give the media a bit of excitement about a positive to convince them that Bill has what it takes to keep them in ajob.

  2. Brian: It is telling that one of your headings was

    Shorten pays for tax debacle

    It reflects the frothing of the media but dramatically exaggerates a decision that was reversed as soon as Bill realized that it did not have cabinet despite being supported by the group working on this policy.

  3. John

    Considering the quite small change estimated by Newspoll, the headline might have been better written:

    Shorten pays very little for tax debacle

    I haven’t checked the sample size: the change may even have been “within the margin of error” for that poll.

    (It’s well and truly overdue now, that journalists explicitly state the error margin, every time they claim to see a movement in some poll figure.)

    BTW it’s not difficult.
    Sqrt (N) gives an estimate of error in a sample of N responses. Any $6 calculator has a Sqrt key.

  4. John, I think the Oz was claiming that Shorten was paying through his personal ratings.

    I think the importance of personal ratings is overestimated. Borbage won at one stage in Qld I think with an approval rating of 13.

    However, Turnbull and co have made a decision to go for the person, and it only takes 1 or 2 in 100 to swing an election. It is a choice that the Liberals have made, which is not good for our democracy.

    I think it comes down to the fact that the Liberals do not respect the legitimacy of Labor as a party that can represent the interests of all Australians. This value position then leads to instrumental ethics. Labor must be kept out of power and any means is justified.

  5. Ambi, the question of margin of error is important. I asked Google the question “What is the margin of error for Newspoll?”

    The articles that came up suggested that the MOE is 2.4 or 2.5%.

    I thought the TPP outcome was basically square, but there might be a trend in the personal ratings – enough to encourage the LNP on their ‘kill Bill’ strategy.

    I was hoping the Essential Report would be out when writing the post. It’s there now. They have TPP steady at 52-48 to Labor, so not much going on there.

    On personal ratings, they have been kinder, especially to Turnbull, who has just broken through into positive territory.

    If you scroll down, they have an excellent appendix on Methodology, margin of error and professional standards. In short, it could be 3% or more, but if you judge by results they got it pretty spot on last election.

  6. Well, Brian

    It’s pleasing that at least one polling outfit is clear about its methods and its margin of error.


  7. Essential had lab+gr on 48% up 1% on 4 weeks ago and LNP+ON 46% vs 44%.
    The greens were up 1% to 11% while the rest dropped 5% -ON (-2%), XT(-1%) and other (-2%))
    The Green rise doesn’t surprise me given that many people spent there were more important things for the government to spend money on and with people on $20,000 p.a, getting nothing, both the LNP tax cuts failed the fairness test.
    Anyone’s guess what the changes mean and whether any of it is statistically significant.

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