News National Tony Abbott’s fortunes in big turnaround

Tony Abbott’s fortunes in big turnaround

The Abbott Government has drawn level with Labor Fairfax-Ipsos poll
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Tony Abbott’s government has been rewarded in the polls, and party MPs have said their much-needed boost was due to the budget.

But is this the case? The government’s strategy has changed since the spill motion nearly ended Mr Abbott’s prime ministership in February.

• Politics’ winners and losers
• ‘Everybody likes a tax break’
• Greens leader predicted spill
Tony Abbott preferred PM in latest poll

He was handed a warning then, and implored his backbench to have faith he could turn fortunes around.

Has he recovered?

Two leading opinion polls show Mr Abbott’s popularity has soared since the budget was released.

His party would take 50 per cent of votes, two-party preferred, according to the Fairfax Ipsos poll, and his standing in the preferred PM ranks has jumped six points to 44 per cent since April 11.

Newspoll has shown the Liberals’ two party preferred rank is still in an election-losing 47 per cent slump, and has been dropping since a March 20 high of 49 per cent. But Abbott is on an upward trend in the better PM rankings, topping out at 41 percent, a point above opposition leader Bill Shorten.

Importantly, the Newspoll asked about perceptions of the Federal Budget’s effect on the economy. More people said the budget was good than bad, which is the opposite of the May reaction to last year’s budget.

What’s behind the changes?

Nick Economou
Nick Economou

It’s not just the budget, but how the Government has conducted its policy negotiations, said Monash University political science senior lecturer Dr Nick Economou.

“My feeling is the strategists in the government are now thinking, look there’s no point taking on the senate in the way we did in the first 12 months because, um, we can’t win,”

He said the government has backed away from potential minefields like changes to the GST and changes to superannuation sweeteners.

“The government needs to improve or recover its standing in the eyes of its core constituencies.”

He said the government’s protection of current superannuation rules and its tax breaks for small business were appeals to its core constituencies. And the government had to switch from being a strident opposition to a government.

“When it first came to power the Abbott Government looked like a bull in a China shop,” he said.

“It had inquiries going everywhere, it had intellectuals advising them on how to slash the budget, how to raise taxes, how to do this, how to do that.”

“We haven’t had anywhere near as much of that sort of white noise in the lead up to this budget as we did in the last budget.”

But with the government’s ongoing commitment to unpopular cuts to family subsidies in the hated 2014 budget, it is facing the same troubles again.

“It’s the government’s call whether they want to make a big grandstanding issue of it in the senate or whether they want to let it eddy around.”

Does this mean he gets to keep his job?

First on Mr Abbott’s list of people he needed to convince to vote for him were members of his own party.

Their show of disaffection in February resulted in a 61-39 vote in favour of his keeping his leadership of the party. But the fact 39 per cent of MPs in the party wanted him gone was, in his words, “chastening”.

They told him clearly that he needed to change four policies which have been shelved, and the backbench appears satisfied with the direction of the government.

They are meeting to discuss the way the budget has been received in their electorates when they return to Canberra for sittings next week, said Andrew Laming, who was among a raft of backbenchers unhappy with the government’s performance.

But he says the backbenchers now appear satisfied with the new direction of the government.

“The only way back for any government from where we were in February is consecutive, competent decision making,” he said.

“I think that’s occurred.

“But it’s still a long road, so we’re still only halfway through an election term and any government would still be playing a long game.”

He said he would be looking for “green shoots” in the economy as a marker of the government’s improvement.

“You need those green shoots to germinate,” he said.

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