Since Malcolm Turnbull equalled Tony Abbott’s feat of 30 consecutive Newspoll losses, the measure Turnbull used to justify his challenge against Abbott there has been much discussion about the future of Malcolm Turnbull’s Prime Ministership.
This began last week with a letter published by the newly formed Monash Forum demanding the Turnbull Government invest $4 billion in a new coal-fired power station in the Latrobe Valley in Victoria. Then there was a Seven News report suggesting that even moderate MP’s were deserting Turnbull’s leadership.
On the day of the 30th Newspoll Tony Abbott was on the Pollie Pedal which coincidentally was riding through the Latrobe Valley, Tony Abbott kept us his media appearances throughout the day which included a new policy proposal that the Turnbull Government nationalise the Liddell Power Station in New South Wales to secure its future.
Throughout the day Turnbull Government Ministers and backbenchers stated that Turnbull would lead them to the next election. Turnbull himself rather than shying away from the media engaged in multiple media appearances and said while he regretted using the 30 Newspolls measure he had delivered on the other benchmarks he set, that he won the last election (just), he had delivered jobs and growth and restored traditional Cabinet-style government.
Despite these pledges of support the renewed leadership speculation led to other possible candidates Peter Dutton, Josh Frydenberg and Scott Morrison to state in interviews they held ambitions to be Prime Minister one day. Obviously keeping a possible leadership tilt in their back pocket in the coming months.
Of course, Tony Abbott is not the only leader who Turnbull played a part their demise. Barnaby Joyce eventually resigned as National Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister after Malcolm Turnbull publicly chastised him for his affair with former staffer Vikki Campion.
Barnaby Joyce had already signed the Monash Forum letter and appeared on Credlin on Monday night to suggest there be a new deadline for Malcolm Turnbull to turn around the deficit in the polls “Towards the end (of the year) near Christmas you’d have to start asking those around you what do they believe is the proper course of action from that point forward”.
If the Government is still behind by this time Joyce said that Turnbull should do the “honourable thing” and step down saying it would be madness for the government to go into an election this far behind “Nobody wants to go to a federal election that you know you’re going to lose, it’s like playing in a losing side”.
Many have claimed it is a bit rich of Barnaby Joyce to be giving Malcolm Turnbull leadership advice given his poor handling of the reporting of his affair with Vikki Campion and her subsquent pregnancy. Others have pointed out that given Joyce was upset about apparent Liberal Party interfernce in the National Party leadership he now cannot attempt to infere in the leadership of the Liberal Party.
But there is another flaw in Barnaby Joyce’s Christmas deadline, it may be too late by then to replace Turnbull. The next federal election where elections for the House and half the Senate can be held simultaneously can occur anytime between 4 August 2018 and 18 May 2019, that’s before Christmas 2018.
There has already been speculation that the election may be this year so it does not clash with the Victorian state election in November 2018 and the New South Wales state election in March 2019. If Turnbull is still Prime Minister during this period and believes his leadership is in imminent danger he can rush off to the Governor-General and call an election which he would still believe he can win. Turnbull would rather go to an election he risks losing rather than face the humiliation of being dumped by his own party.
A leadership change would have to take place in June this year before the winter breaking during the killing season window and before an election can be held. A change during this period would give the new leader enough of a honeymoon to go to an early election after the football finals in early October. Of course, because there is a Melbourne Cup field of leadership contenders, picking a new leader and displaying unity would be a fresh challenge.
Malcolm Turnbull at the moment is surviving by default, but unfortunately for the Liberal party room time is ticking away for them to pull the leadership trigger.