Make or break by-elec­tions

Herald Sun - - OPINION -

DE­CEM­BER 16 looms as a po­ten­tial make-or-break by-elec­tion for the em­bat­tled Turn­bull Gov­ern­ment. La­bor’s can­di­date, for­mer NSW premier Kristina Ke­neally, is a real chance of win­ning the seat of Ben­ne­long, de­spite a huge mar­gin of al­most 20 per cent.

Although she led La­bor to a loss in 2011 at the state elec­tion, the ALP was then on the nose, and Ms Ke­neally is a con­fi­dent com­mu­ni­ca­tor and ex­pe­ri­enced po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tor.

Lib­eral John Alexan­der is forced to re­con­test Ben­ne­long af­ter in­her­ited UK cit­i­zen­ship saw him forced from fed­eral par­lia­ment. But Mr Alexan­der, highly re­garded as a for­mer tennis player, other than work­ing on hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity has not ex­actly turned pro in pol­i­tics with ma­jor pol­icy achieve­ments.

Ben­ne­long can’t be taken for granted and it stands as a lit­mus test for the Turn­bull ad­min­is­tra­tion and the PM’s lead­er­ship. Cer­tainly, the elec­torate has been will­ing to turf in­cum­bents and par­ties, with no less than sit­ting prime min­is­ter John Howard los­ing the seat in 2007 to Max­ine McKew.

Fur­ther north in the New South Wales seat of New Eng­land, Barn­aby Joyce’s De­cem­ber 2 by-elec­tion might be a fait ac­com­pli.

But added to what is now two forced by-elec­tions in com­ing weeks due to the dual-cit­i­zen­ship circus which has wracked Canberra, at least an­other nine MPs have clouds over their heads, in­clud­ing La­bor mem­bers who only for­mally re­nounced their for­eign links af­ter they nom­i­nated for last year’s elec­tion.

And the ram­i­fi­ca­tions do not stop there. Mr Turn­bull and Op­po­si­tion Leader Bill Shorten be­lat­edly struck com­mon ground on Mon­day for a self-re­port­ing dis­clo­sure of all 150 MPs and 76 sen­a­tors to pro­vide par­lia­ment with the birth­places of par­ents and grand­par­ents.

That in­for­ma­tion, which must be pub­licly pro­vided by De­cem­ber 1, to­gether with de­tails on ef­forts to re­nounce any for­eign cit­i­zen­ship rights, could un­cover oth­ers at risk of breach­ing Section 44 of the Con­sti­tu­tion. Any additional MPs or sen­a­tors whose cit­i­zen­ship sta­tus re­mains un­der ques­tion risk then be­ing re­ferred to the High Court for ad­ju­di­ca­tion. That process will also throw a few grenades into the par­lia­men­tary cham­bers, as ar­gu­ments erupt over par­ti­san mo­ti­va­tion.

Al­ready strug­gling un­der a slim ma­jor­ity in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, with the Coali­tion re­duced from 76 seats to 73 (against La­bor’s 69), a string of ad­verse by­elec­tion re­sults, fur­ther res­ig­na­tions or losses in the High Court may yet force a gen­eral elec­tion.

With 23 neg­a­tive Newspolls be­hind him, Mr Turn­bull only has sev­eral months to turn things around be­fore he is forced to ar­gue why he shouldn’t be punted from the lead­er­ship, as he did to Tony Ab­bott af­ter 30 con­sec­u­tive poll deficits.

If the Coali­tion con­tin­ues to track as it does — with sup­port for Mr Turn­bull as pre­ferred PM slump­ing to 36 per cent — and the tide keeps go­ing out, Mr Turn­bull’s own words will come back to haunt him.

“The one thing that is clear about our cur­rent sit­u­a­tion is the tra­jec­tory. We have lost 30 Newspolls in a row. It is clear that the peo­ple have made up their mind about Mr Ab­bott’s lead­er­ship,” Mr Turn­bull said in 2015 as he rolled Mr Ab­bott.

Dur­ing com­ing weeks, Aus­tralians will judge how the PM per­forms with his back to the wall dur­ing mul­ti­ple by-elec­tion cam­paigns, as he fights to save his own lead­er­ship.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.