Today’s Newspoll is ugly for the Coalition, throwing their primary vote and two-party preferred deficit back into late Malcolm Turnbull territory. Yet Scott Morrison’s approval has started heading north again, reopening the hitherto closing approval gap between Morrison and Anthony Albanese.
How to explain it? Let’s start with the PM.
In the last week, Morrison has started to do what Spectator Australia commentators have urged for months: take back control of the Covid agenda from provincialist premiers who have led Australia into her eliminationist dead end.
By making it clear that he accepts that we must learn to live with Covid, with Australians starting to see his vaccination goal of 70-80 per cent is more than aspirational, Morrison is starting to again to talk like a national leader, not the state premiers’ errand boy. While he has an unfortunate tendency to sound like a cross between Elmer Gantry and a used car salesman, Morrison now has positive proof he is more than piss and wind, and he, rather than the premiers, controls the vaccination show – and that this is a Good Thing for Australia.
Above all, Morrison has latched on to the growing lockdown fatigue around the country, as more and more people yearn to emerge from the proverbial doona. To misrepresent Albanese, for the rest of the year Morrison has one job: to get vaccine into as many people as possible, and put pressure on the premiers of vaccine-laggard states Queensland, Western Australia, and Victoria – coincidentally our most eliminationist governments – to pull out all stops to get their people jabbed.
As for the significant slip in the Coalition vote, the worry for Morrison is voters are grasping that, outside the pandemic bubble, his is a Seinfeld government, a government about nothing. It may just be flirtation at this stage rather than hardening intentions to vote the Coalition out, but assuming Newspoll’s accurate (a big ask after 2019), it is an ominous sign for an eight-year-old administration that, outside the crazy-brave 2014 budget, has shown no reforming zeal whatsoever.
Morrison, and his policy brainbox Josh Frydenberg, need to develop and market a truly Liberal election policy programme that takes Australia out of the pandemic and into the future. If they don’t, the Coalition’s bread is in the toaster, and it’s just a matter of time before they’re toast.
Terry Barnes edits our daily newsletter, the Morning Double Shot. You can sign up for your Morning Double Shot of news and comment here.
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