The Turnbull government is in real trouble, with desperation setting in. The latest attempt to blackmail the Senate cross-bench is not about getting legislation through, it is about forcing an election as soon as possible... before their chances of re-election sink any lower.
Just about every poll has the government at a 50-50 chance of winning the next election with the Morgan poll recently joining the pack. And Newspoll has Turnbull's satisfaction entering negative territory. It's a very big fall from the heady heights of only a few months ago.
Malcolm has said he welcomes a 15 week election campaign because it will shine a light on the opposition. But it will also shine a light on the shambles that Turnbull leads. And that shambles extends to Malcolm himself. As a trained Lawyer and a very experienced debater, Turnbull is used to arguing for things he doesn't actually believe in. But sadly, for the government's aspirations. he isn't very good at it.
Case in point... his appearance on ABC's 7.30 program Monday night.
He began strongly by suggesting that a multi-layered approach to reform and economic transition was required. He then went on to suggest that the government was implementing IR reform (I don't believe they have yet), Tax reform (maybe... but we all have to wait until the budget), competition law reform (commentary on 'the effects test' suggest it is a potential mess but only time will tell), Innovation (lets all get excited like Malcolm wants), Defense spending (how... when most of the contracts will go offshore.. to Japan, the US, Germany), reformed bankruptcy law (assuming the system isn't rorted... which it likely will be by some).
As usual, Malcolm spends some time saying next to nothing. Many have compared Turnbull to Rudd... all talk and no action. That appears to be a valid criticism.
Tony Abbott's great strength as leader was that he knew when to walk away and shut his mouth, before his foot ended up where it didn't belong. Turnbull doesn't have that insight.... as the Leigh Sales interview proved.
The next excerpt from the interview is a marvelous example of Malcolm talking around in circles, in a very long winded way, hoping he would lose people along the way.
His argument goes like this - tax policy is about competing priorities and shifting taxes and benefits to suit different sectors of the economy, it drives investment decisions, negative gearing is such a vehicle for investment in property.
Leigh Sales then asks why a government dedicated to the free market would support market distorting policies like negative gearing to which Malcolm responds - negative gearing is not a tax concession, it is a tax principle that has been in place forever (although it was introduced in the 1960's to stimulate new construction), and a tax deduction is not an incentive to invest.
Malcolm has just argued that black is white. But he keeps going...
He suggests that changes to negative gearing are irresponsible. These are changes supported by long standing Greens policy:
Turnbull is opposed to changes (recently proposed by Labor) as they will affect investment decisions (black is now black again) - investors will be competing with new home buyers in the outer suburbs driving them out of the market. In the inner city where there is a lot of rental stock investors will only be able to sell to owner occupiers (which is not true), this will drive down rental availability and drive up rents while driving down resale prices for apartments as well as drive down inner city construction..
It's an argument built on a number of crazy assumptions - that renters can never become buyers, that people only want to rent in the inner city and buy in the outer suburbs, that investors won't want to invest in new inner city construction (which can still be negatively geared) and that some investors won't see the merit in buying old rental housing stock.
It's confusing I know, which is the whole purpose of Malcolm's argument. The election campaign hasn't even started and Turnbull is out of the blocks with a long interview in which he contradicts himself several times. If Malcolm is the great communicator of this government... they are in serious trouble.
Malcolm is the kind of man who when he finds himself in a hole... he dig faster and deeper and more elaborate tools. It's difficult to watch, like a slow motion train wreck
For some real clarity and some light relief on Malcolm Turnbull and the government he leads we can only turn to a cartoonist.... First Dog on the Moon.
The Townsville Greens will publish blogs considered to be of merit. The opinions expressed are those of the Author.