Correlation is not causation. The scientific method instructs us that events which may often occur simultaneously or in close succession are not necessarily connected, let alone actually resulting in one another.  

So it is probably no more than coincidence that Newspoll usually seems to improve for the government when parliament is not sitting, and to get better still when Malcolm Turnbull is out of the country.

After all, we are constantly assured that our current Prime Minister is the last, best hope for the coalition so it would seem logical to display him as frequently as possible in the most media-friendly circumstances, and nothing attracts the commentariat like question time in the House of Representatives.

And yet a disillusioned and dysfunctional backbench is increasingly coming to the conclusion that Turnbull is in fact part of the problem; that the voters have simply stopped listening to him. They fear that the punters feel positive relief when their leader shuts up, when the confected outrage, the bullshit and bluster, the schoolboy taunts about Bill Shorten cease for a couple of weeks while they take stock.

And when they do, the news is not too horrible: wages are still down in the cesspool, but there are signs that things might finally improve, and that no thanks to the politicians, the increase in commodity profits and hence company taxes means that there will be tax relief for some real people as opposed to the corporate geniuses who are bringing us the Royal Commission.

Thus Scott Morrison can make a virtue out of his latest backflip, and claim that the universal Medicare levy rise to pay for the NDIS is really not needed after all and can instead be tossed into the basket of goodies he is preparing for the budget.

In some ways this looks more like desperation than serious policy; the Medicare levy needs to be raised as a more or less politically painless measure, not just to secure the NDIS but to help fund the ballooning cost of our health system over all. Of course nominating a tax rise for a designated purpose is always a con; all tax goes into consolidated revenue for Morrison and his apparatchiks to dole out wherever and whenever they feel inclined.

However that has not stopped Morrison, Turnbull and many of their lesser acolytes saying  that the new tax was absolutely necessary to save the NDIS from the penury from which Julia Gillard’s government had consigned it and that Shorten was leaving the blind, the crippled, the halt and the lame to die in misery if  it did not endorse it.

We now know that this was not true, that the funding was always a matter of priorities, and given that the levy had no hope of passing the senate in its original form, it was sensible politics to dump it. There are enough distractions already, as the daily horror stories from the Royal Commission continue to unfold, and will likely to so right up to the election.

And on this front Turnbull is doing the best he can, but frankly it isn’t all that much. His fallback position seems to be that he initially resisted the inquiry because he wanted to put other reforms in place first; thus the forgettable tweaking of ASIC, APRA, and the lectures to the banking executives, all proving in the end to have been completely ineffectual.

But the point is that if Turnbull was determined to push ahead with them, there was nothing to stop him from starting up the Royal Commission at the same time. Only last week Morrison introduced serious legislation while the Commission was sitting.  There was no suggestion that he should have to wait until it produced its findings. And during the previous Royal Commission into the unions, the government was celebrating the new laws it was introducing with no restraint at all.

Turnbull has at last admitted that delaying it, mainly because it was the idea of the Greens, then adopted by Labor, was a mistake, but it seems that he is still unsure what to do next. For starters, who is to pay and for what.

It is now being argued by the remaining supporters of the wayward banks that inflicting drastic penalties on them would be  a form of overkill: either they would simply pass on the costs to their hapless customers or they would have to reduce their dividends to their innocent shareholders. But hang on, are the shareholders really so innocent?

Presumably they knew the banks were bastards – everyone else did – when they invested their hard earned savings. But they hoped for rewards, and for a long time they got them. But now, as it has emerged  the banks were involved in fraud, theft, perjury and heaven know what other shenanigans.It appears that at least some of those welcome dividends were the proceeds of crime –the shareholders were the receivers of stolen goods.

No one is seriously suggesting that shareholders should give them back, but perhaps they could be persuaded to accept a small haircut in the immediate aftermath.

Similarly, the apologists want to separate the Commission from Morrison’s cherished corporate tax cuts. We should not, they tell us sternly, think of imposing some kind of morality tax. Well actually almost all our laws are based on morality – or at least we thought they were; their aim is to protect the public from harm in various forms. That is why we put ordinary criminals (but seldom corporate ones) in jail.

So the withdrawal of a  huge tax bonanza could be seen as a hefty fine for misconduct, which seems entirely legitimate. And this dilemma will remain at  the heart of the budget. Can Turnbull afford to give the impression that he is rewarding the banks? Next week’s budget will tell the story – and also the next Newspoll.

And the debate that follows will show us whether the glimmers of hope that appeared while Turnbull was overseas will translate into a genuine recovery. And if the past is any guide, the mob will not be impressed if Turnbull reverts to form and uses parliament as a platform for his Kill Bill strategy.

If he does, and the following Newspolls mark him down, then the backbenchers may decide that he is unable to change by himself, so perhaps they will will reluctantly have to act in sheer self preservation.

Correlation is not causation, but there are definitely times when absence makes the heart grow fonder. And, it can appear, make Newspoll kinder.


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6 Responses to MUNGO MacCALLUM.

  1. John Doyle says:

    Sorry, Mungo, all tax does NOT go into consolidated revenue. It is simply destroyed. What the federal government creates [currency] it can also destroy [tax]. That in a nutshell is what happens. You pay your tax, the entry records it but then it’s simply written out of existence, deleted.
    I agree with most everything else though. The LNP is a rogue organization.

  2. Jackie Deacon says:

    Newspoll did a poll when Turnbull away, parliament not sitting. And deceitfully, secretly change the methodology! Preferences previously as per 2016, now changed to what voter intends to do this time. Plus rounding made result rounding favoured them. Not impressed.

  3. Bob Mills says:

    All of which would be fine were it not for the fact that the ‘glimmers of hope’ in the last Newspoll seem to have reflected changes in the methodology of allocating PHON preferences, rather than any shift in voting intentions. If so, the implication may be that Newspoll has consistently overstated Labor’s share of the TPPF vote and therefore many of the assumptions of electoral dynamics are wrong. Maybe time for those who want change to stop congratulating themselves that the tide flows with them and start to row like hell.

  4. ian Hawkins says:

    I almost always agree with you Mungo, however I fear that we both will be disappointed whoever is our next P.M. Both Labor and liberal parties have little understanding of democracy as for the others including the so called National Party, they will always be a problem for the smooth running of government. The Greens do appear to have some democratic processes for policies and preselection but not enough acceptable policies and the wherewithal to make it to government. Labor is a closed shop, only union members can join and there are not too many of those about now. As for Liberal Party membership it`s open to all but you`d better be a church goer and there`s a declining number of those too.
    Turnbull could have been our best P.M. if he had wanted the job for the right reasons. For all Australians not for the glory of office. Had he not agreed to Joyce`s 9 point list of demands to stay within the coalition, called his bluff the Parliamentary Liberal Party would have broken up. Turnbull would have been off to see the Governor General. I think he would have survived running a minority government of small “l” Liberals with a few not so disaffected right wing Liberals. He was very popular at the time and Labor could not have governed in their own right. If so they too would have busted up once the union heavies got started on weak kneed Shorten. The more centre minded among Labor members would not stand idly by and see Australia destroyed.
    Turnbull`s biggest problem is he lacks political nous. Am I dreaming?

  5. Max Bourke AM says:

    Mungo correlation is certainly not causation but perhaps what these sorry episodes prove is Einstein’s description of quantum theory “spooky mechanics” when objects not connected to each other respond to somne other vital force?

  6. Barry Reynolds says:

    Undoubtedly there are some shocking things coming out of the RC and I hope every bit of shite dug up and thrown at Trumble, Scooter and their brethren by the opposition well and truly sticks. Hopefully there will be an election before the end of the year (even if I am sick of the sight of polling booths) but Labor and its supporters shouldn’t consider it in the bag as Australians for some unfathomable seem to vote against their own best interests.

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