Under Malcolm Turnbull’s Prime Ministership the Coalition has now lost 28 Newspolls in a row. When announcing his challenge to Tony Abbott for the Liberal leadership in September 2015 Turnbull gave as one of his justifications ‘We have lost 30 Newspolls in a row. It is clear that the people have made up their mind about Mr Abbott’s leadership’.
It is all but certain in three weeks time Malcolm Turnbull will lose Newspoll number 30. Many in the media have already made the point that when Turnbull does reach 30 losses and continues to lose further Newspolls then why is it justifiable for him to remain Prime Minister when 30 losses meant that Tony Abbott had to go?
Tony Abbott has already commented on this pending event when he appeared on 2GB last week “It was the Prime Minister that set the test, if he fails the test it will be the Prime Minister who has to explain why the test was right for one and not right for the other. It will be up to him to tell us all why the test doesn’t apply in his case”.
Now Malcolm Turnbull has been asked about his comment directly in an interview with Leigh Sales on 7.30 on Monday night. She put to him “When you challenged Tony Abbott for that prime ministership, one of the reasons you cited was he lost 30 Newspolls in a row.” She then played Tony Abbott’s remarks then asked “That’s a valid question, isn’t it?”
Turnbull then gave a typical politician’s answer by stating “Well, the only test that determines whether you lead the Liberal Party or not is having the support of the party room. That’s the test”. Sales tried to get him to answer the question but he repeated again “Well, the reality is that the party room determines who leads the Liberal Party”.
Sales then put a number of options for Turnbull when he hit 30 Newspoll losses “If you don’t intend – so, for example, if you don’t intend to step down or open a leadership spill when you hit the 30, what do you intend to do? Because you set that standard”.
Turnbull then claimed that the Newspoll observation was only a minor part of his challenge justification “Well, Leigh, when I challenged Tony Abbott, I identified a number of things. The most important point I made was that the country needed – the Government needed – new economic leadership, right? And it needed a return to traditional Cabinet government. I have delivered both”.
Turnbull also stated during his challenge announcement that Australia needed “A style of leadership that respects the people’s intelligence, that explains these complex issues and then sets out the course of action we believe we should take and makes a case for it. We need advocacy, not slogans”. Yet Turnbull delivered us the slogans ‘jobs and growth’ and ‘innovative and agile’.
Turnbull is not going to resign when he reaches 30 Newspoll losses but it will certainly be an awkward time in his Prime Ministership. One thing he can do bring the elephant in the nation to ahead is call a leadership spill as there was when Tony Abbott lost 30 Newspolls. It would allow a challenger to put forward their own leadership manifesto and allow the opportunity for the Liberal Partyroom to make their critical assessment of Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership.
Turnbull would most likely win an hypothetical leadership spill. Most of his colleagues are all in behind him despite the dire state of the polls. But calling a spill would be an important gesture that Turnbull is applying the same standard to his leadership that he applied to Tony Abbott. Is a leadership spill the circuit breaker needed to deal with the 30 Newspoll losses? Have your say in the poll below.