Having squandered one significant policy differentiator against Labor, in totally screwing up the energy cost and reliability debate, is it possible that the Coalition might have the intestinal fortitude to harness their one remaining and unarguable advantage in campaigning in Longman and Braddon? I’m talking, of course, about border protection.
Current polls have the Coalition in a position to achieve something that has not been done since 1911, viz as a sitting Government, steal a seat from the Opposition in a by-election – and not just one but two in this case.
And as reported in today’s Australian, another poll shows 60% support in both these electorates for the Government’s border protection.
And as if that weren’t enough, as Troy Bramston also reports in that same august journal:
Labor is facing a grassroots revolt over refugee policy, with city and country branches calling for sweeping changes to the largely bipartisan border protection and offshore processing regime ahead of the NSW Labor annual conference.
Could the stars have aligned any more propitiously for the Government? I think not.
So will we see the same understated, non-confrontational, dispassionate arguing of the case that has hitherto failed so spectacularly for Malcolm Turnbull? Or will we see them take a leaf out of the ALP Mediscare campaign book and go for the ALP throat, in a strident daily campaign on this one issue until 30th of July. If Abbott were in charge there is no doubt what the answer to that question would be.
If Turnbull gives Peter Dutton, the obvious candidate to prosecute this message, free rein, maybe they can pull it off but don’t hold your breath waiting for our dithering PM to unleash the best attack dog he has. Why would he give his most obvious rival the chance to make a hero of himself by pulling off a historic win and possibly saving the government?
And so far the signs are not good. According to a later story in The Australian Scott Morrison has used these polls to try to stir up leadership speculation in the Labor Party. Yes, Scott, that should do the trick – it’s a real game changer among the general populace.