Friday, 18 March 2016

Turnbull was "given the opportunity of a lifetime and in five to six months it appears he has blown it"

Amid all the election timing speculation, former Victorian Liberal premier Jeff Kennet, a strong critic of Tony Abbott, is highly critical of the current Liberal prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The Australian, 10 March 2016:

There are only seven Saturdays Malcolm Turnbull can realistically choose to send the nation to the polls.

Football grand finals, the Olympics, school holidays and constitutional reasons mean that if the Prime Minister passes on holding a double-dissolution election on July 2, the only workable dates to choose are August 27, September 3, 10, 17 or 24 and October 15.

The great prime ministerial ­advantage in an election year is having the power to name the day to face your destiny and Mr Turnbull yesterday teased journalists about the “fascinating sport” of speculation, saying: “I’m not going to give you the election date.”

Yet his options are squeezed by a unique combination of Senate consequences and a deal with the Greens on Senate voting reform that means the new rules the ­government desperately wants to use will not take effect until July 1.

While some ministers believe July 2 is “locked in”, some say Mr Turnbull is keeping open the option of a regular half-Senate poll. The first available date is August 6 but that coincides with the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics, which also makes an election for most of August problematic. Aug­ust 27 is the best option for the month after the Olympics finish.

September 3 is emerging as the favourite option if Mr Turnbull does not have a July 2 election. It is close to the anniversary of the 2013 election on September 7 and Mr Turnbull would not need to make a decision until August 1 allowing the early stages of the campaign to be during the Olympics, with a two-week blitz to polling day.

The other three Saturdays in September are a reasonable chance but there’s no possibility of an October 1 election as it clashes with the AFL grand final and the NRL grand final is the following day while October 8 risks being messy as it falls during school holidays. October 15 is the last realistic option for the Prime Minister, who would start to face claims he was afraid to face the people.

A double dissolution must be announced by May 11 for constitutional reasons but to take advantage of the new Senate rules the government needs the poll to be on July 2, meaning an official campaign period that would be 20 days longer than usual. While Assistant Science Minister Karen Andrews said yesterday a marathon seven-week-plus campaign could have “real positives” for the government and give it time to “explain what our vision for the future is”, others fear almost two months in winter could be high risk.

As Newspoll showed a slide in voter satisfaction with Mr Turnbull and the Coalition has lost its poll advantage from the start of the year to be deadlocked with Labor at 50-50 in two-party terms, Liberal elders have begun to sound the alarm. Jeff Kennett yesterday blasted Mr Turnbull, saying he was “given the opportunity of a lifetime and in five to six months it appears he has blown it”.

The former Victorian premier said Mr Turnbull had no plan for the future of the country and took over the leadership from Tony ­Abbott for “his own self-interest”. He said speculation about an early election was designed “simply to cover up their own failings”…...

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