Federal Politics

ANALYSIS

Fairfax-Ipsos poll: Malcolm Turnbull needs to act after being given a wilted rose for Valentine's Day

The Australian people have sent Malcolm Turnbull a rumpled Valentine, a wilted rose.

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Malcolm Turnbull loses some sheen

Federal Labor is looking competitive again as Malcolm Turnbull's electoral honeymoon shows signs of waning. Mark Kenny explains why.

The people's ardour for him has cooled. The electorate is still with him in the honeymoon suite, but passion's first rush has passed as reality takes hold – he is not quite the man they wanted him to be. 

That's not doing much for the other suitor. Turnbull's rival, what's-his-name, the Labor bloke, is still unnoticed and unloved as he loiters hopefully outside in the hallway checking his hair and rehearsing his lines.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull looks set to push ahead with tax reform
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull looks set to push ahead with tax reform Photo: Andrew Meares

This is the picture from the latest Fairfax-Ipsos poll. The people are still with Malcolm. The election due to be held this year is still Turnbull's to lose. 

The Coalition remains in a winning position, ahead by 52 per cent to Labor's 48 on the election-deciding measure, the two-party preferred share of the vote.

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And this was Turnbull's essential promise to his party in seizing the leadership from Tony Abbott five months ago. He promised to turn the government's poll position around, and he has delivered.

And he remains a very popular leader on any measure. His approval rating of 62 per cent is double Bill Shorten's 30.

And while the Prime Minister has slipped by a significant 7 percentage points over the three months since the last Fairfax-Ipsos poll, this hasn't materially helped Shorten, who's picked up just 1 point.

This is not the picture of an electorate angry with the Prime Minister. He hasn't antagonised the people through his actions. But he has deflated the hopes of many through inaction.

Where is the Turnbull who would move quickly to legalise same sex marriage, intensify action on climate change, start work on a republic, turn a more humane face to refugees? This was the leader that most expected. He must still be there somewhere, but there's no evidence of it and hopes are fading. 

More urgently, where is the man who, in challenging Abbott, declared that Australia needed decisive economic leadership, a style of leadership that "explains these complex issues and then sets out the course of action"?

Ruling out one option - a rise in the GST - does not qualify. Other than putting his party ahead in the polls, this was Turnbull's chief promise. 

The people are with him, still listening, still hoping to be impressed. But he needs to act if he is to bring back the loving feeling.

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