Malcolm Turnbull rapping about Waleed Aly may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it was revealing nonetheless.
The Prime Minister, who has lost 20 Newspolls in a row and faces internal division and disruption on a daily basis, couldn’t have been more relaxed when he appeared on The Project. Go figure.
When host Aly tried to ask a serious question about the same-sex marriage postal vote, Mr Turnbull interrupted.
“Why are you such a downer? We are having fun. It is Thursday night. There are two grand finals. Everyone is here in Melbourne being happy and you want to be grim and torture this issue,” the PM said.
He could have been talking to Tony Abbott.
This week, the former prime minister massively overreached.
One of the fiercest champions of free speech in the Parliament, whose whole campaign against same-sex marriage is (mischievously) based on fighting “political correctness”, suggested a Number 1 song shouldn’t be sung at the NRL grand final because it carried a message he didn’t like. (Thanks to the furore, the offending ditty by US rapper Macklemore reached number 1 in Australia again.)
Last week I was critical of Yes campaigners for having conniptions about the words “Vote No” being scrawled across the sky over Sydney, but Mr Abbot’s thin-skinned hypocrisy is next level.
The only thing more laughable this week was Cory Bernardi claiming a text message from Yes campaigners was more invasive than his robocall for the No camp.
High survey turnout good for Turnbull
The campaign has almost six weeks to run and it seems the turnout isn’t as bad as people feared.
“I think it’s going to be a very high turnout, particularly for a voluntary postal vote,” the Prime Minister said this week.
Starting next Tuesday, the Australian Bureau of Statistics will publish a weekly estimate of the running total of returned surveys. It won’t tally results, just the number of participants.
Clearly, the ABS wouldn’t be doing this if participation was low. That’s good news for Malcolm Turnbull.
A poor turnout is the biggest threat to the Yes camp, which Mr Turnbull supports. And whatever the final result, a poor turnout would have been a disaster for the Prime Minister, who has spent $122 million on the survey.
Gas companies fall into line
The PM also had good news on the energy front.
The big gas companies this week promised to help Australia, which is soon to be the world’s biggest LNG exporter, avoid a domestic gas shortage this summer.
They didn’t have much of a choice.
The threat of export restrictions did the job of actually stopping tankers from leaving Australia. Bizarrely, Labor believes we should “pull the trigger” anyway.
It doesn’t mean gas and electricity prices will fall in any serious way. But it should ensure no major price spike this summer due to scarcity of supply.
Joyce and the FJ Holden
The PM had less luck trying to strongarm AGL into selling or keeping open its Liddell coal-fired power plant.
Two weeks ago, he accused the company of having no plan to replace the 1,000 megawatts of power that would be lost when the generator closed in 2022.
“If they had a plan, they’d be able to put it on the table now,” he said.
Clearly, they did have a plan and they’re sticking to it.
On Wednesday, the company told shareholders at its AGM it would replace the electricity shortfall with a combination of large-scale batteries, gas-fired generators and an upgrade to its adjoining plant, Bayswater.
The Government remains incredulous. The Deputy Prime Minister said it was like the owner of a broken-down FJ Holden complaining about it but refusing to sell.
“If you had a Holden FJ, Leigh, I’d say, ‘If you don’t like it, sell it to me, because I’ll take it and put stripes down the side and hang some dice off the rear vision mirror and do lappies in Peel Street in Tamworth,” he told 7.30.
AGL’s plan for the site includes plugging alternative power generators into the existing infrastructure (poles and wires etc). If they sold the plant, those plans would go up in smoke.
In other words, by selling the clapped-out FJ, they’d also lose access to the garage and roads for their replacement car.
A long way to go
Regardless, politics will ensure the fight against AGL continues.
It’ll be some time before we know if AGL’s plans will work. If they don’t, the PM will say “I told you so”. If they do, he’ll claim victory for pressuring the company into action.
After a ragged two years in Government, where Labor has outclassed and ultimately led the Coalition on a range of policies, Malcolm Turnbull seems to be growing in confidence.
He’s got a long, long way to go. The next election is still Bill Shorten’s to lose.
But, if his performance on The Project is any indication, Malcolm Turnbull is comfortable.