Melbourne, Australia – Malcolm Turnbull’s coalition government has lost a 30th straight opinion poll that has increased pressure on the Australian prime minister after he used the same milestone to remove his predecessor in 2015.
The latest influential Newspoll survey, published in The Australian on Monday, showed Turnbull’s Liberal Party-led coalition trailing the centre-left Labor Party 52-48.
In the poll, 55 percent of voters said the result could be seen as a failure of leadership despite Turnbull remaining narrowly favoured as prime minister in a head-to-head comparison with Labor leader Bill Shorten.
Two and a half years ago, Turnbull sensationally challenged then leader Tony Abbot for the top job following the government’s defeat in 30 consecutive biweekly opinion polls.
Although the election remains a year away, the poll milestone set off a flurry of speculation about Turnbull’s future.
Turnbull, who led his party to a narrow win at the 2016 election, was forced to downplay the significance of the survey.
“Australians are focused on the real contest which is the type of country you want to be,” Turnbull told Sky News Monday.
“Do we want to be a country that has the strong revenues to fund increased child care, that has record jobs growth, that has lower taxes and more investment?”
Abbott, a regular critic of Turnbull’s agenda since moving to the backbench, said the prime minister should have to explain why the polls were no longer important.
“It is really something for Malcolm to explain, why it applied to me but shouldn’t apply now,” the former prime minister told Sydney radio station 2GB.
A survey carried out in 2016 said 40 percent of Australians were not satisfied with the country’s democracy, the lowest level since the 1970s.
At the same time, the proportion of Australians who believe the government could be trusted to do the right thing dropped from 31 percent in 2007 to 24 percent in 2017, a period that saw five changes in the prime minister’s chair.
Australia has avoided recession for over a quarter of a century. But private sector wage growth declined by more than half between 2012 and 2017, according to the Australia Bureau of Statistics, only ticking up slightly late last year.
“The government has had good news in terms of job creation, but wage growth is less than inflation,” said Graeme Orr, a political analyst at the University of Queensland.
“These are the kind of structural things that are, I guess, slowly starting to bite in Australia.”
Turnbull took over from the staunchly conservative Abbott amid high expectations he would bring stability, vision and a moderate touch to the government.
Since then, hope has given way to widespread disappointment.
“He was given a mandate by the electorate to put the right in its place and provide us with a moderate government,” said Jamie Radford, a self-employed handyman in New South Wales who once considered himself a Turnbull supporter.
“Instead, he has caved into the right on almost every occasion and delivered unpopular and at times destructive policies.”
But despite the poll results, Turnbull appears to lack an immediate challenger within his party.
On Monday, senior colleagues, including Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop, Minister for Finance Mathias Cormann and Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne, lined up to stress party unity and pledge support for Turnbull.
“The public are expressing an opinion, but it will come to a point where they will have to make a decision about who they trust with economic management and national security and I’m confident that that will be Malcolm Turnbull,” said Bishop.
Despite the assurance, Turnbull’s respite could be short-lived without a turnaround in public perception.
“Unless there’s a major shock, the assumption is that the government is heading toward a modest, but clear, defeat,” said Orr.