A new poll shows the nation still prefers Malcolm Turnbull as Coalition leader, despite Tony Abbott’s attempts to white-ant his leadership.
The Sky News-ReachTell survey of just under 2400 voters, conducted on Thursday and published Friday, found that 68.3 per cent preferred Mr Turnbull, while just 31.7 per cent preferred Mr Abbott.
Support was even stronger among Coalition voters, with 73 per cent favouring him over Mr Abbott.
The only group who preferred Mr Abbott were One Nation supporters. An overwhelming 76.6 per cent of those voters said they favoured Mr Abbott as Coalition leader.
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) June 30, 2017
Mr Abbott, a powerful voice in the Liberal’s conservative faction, has seized on a gaffe by Christopher Pyne, a prominent moderate, to issue an alternative election manifesto, which contrasted with Mr Turnbull on a range of issues, including climate policy and the government’s submarine project to climate policy.
The latest poll suggests that, if Mr Abbott is gearing up for a leadership challenge, his efforts have been wasted. His outspokenness seems only to have earned him the ire of his colleagues.
Liberal frontbencher Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, a member of Turnbull’s frontbench, warned the former PM that he risks damaging his credibility by criticising government policy and “rewriting history”.
“If now he says that he was wrong when he was prime minister, well that’s a matter for him, but he had the opportunity to do a lot of things,” the Senator said on Friday.
“But I would urge Tony not to try and rewrite history, because all it’s doing is damaging his credibility.”
Defence Minister Marise Payne, a moderate and Turnbull backer, also took a swipe at Mr Abbott, insisting there was no “I” in “team”.
“You’re either on it or you’re off it,” she told ABC radio. “We all need to be on it to make sure Australia is governed by the Coalition.”
Mr Pyne, whose leaked speech declaring his moderate faction was now in the “winner’s circle”, skated around questions about internal problems.
“This week has had its challenges … [but] politics is not about personalities, it’s about policy and it’s about outcomes for the voters,” he told the Nine Network on Friday.
The latest Sky News poll gave Labor a 52-48 two-party preferred lead over the LNP.
This was one point better for the LNP, after it scored 47-53 after the May budget, which junked many of the least-popular measures of the toxic Abbott-Hockey budget of 2014.
Labor has led in the polls consistently since the federal election 12 months ago, when the Coalition scraped into power with the slimmest of margins.
The jury is still out on the Gonski 2.0 schools funding package and the government’s Medicare Guarantee Fund as effective political “resets” as well as the more recently embraced issue of power prices.
Clouding the impact of such policies is the fact millionaires and businesses will receive a tax cut from July 1, while average workers watch their wages flatline and face a tax hike in the form of a Medicare levy rise in the near future.
In the same poll, Mr Turnbull held his lead as preferred prime minister, 54.1 per cent to Bill Shorten’s 45.9 per cent.
But only a quarter of those surveyed said the PM has performed well. Just over a third (36.5 per cent) rated his performance as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’; 35.4 per cent rated it ‘average’; and just under 27 per cent rated it ‘good’ or ‘very good’.
Asked about the internal ructions on Friday, Mr Shorten said the Liberal Party “just want to fight each other”.
“The real issue here is that it doesn’t matter if it is Tony Abbott, Peter Dutton, Julie Bishop, Christopher Pyne or Malcolm Turnbull, they just want to fight each other,” the Labor leader told reporters.
“You almost get the sense that the rest of us are an interruption in their day when they want to beat up on each other. They should all just get a big sandpit somewhere and go for it.”
– with AAP