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Fairfax-Ipsos poll: Malcolm Turnbull's recovery still possible but survival comes first

Malcolm Turnbull is within sight of the summer respite. Small mercies.

His government's majority hangs on the Bennelong byelection but either way it goes, the Coalition trails Labor in the polls. Perennially. Killing season notwithstanding, the Prime Minister will finish the year bloodied, but standing.

Like a boxer on the ropes, he will welcome the bell, aware however that the next round looms.

Only Mr Turnbull's own colleagues can technically knock him out, but Labor's Bill Shorten is on track for a unanimous points decision.

Coalitionists bitterly resent Shorten's success, whom they insist is unworthy of the title, yet fail to see how they're handing it to him.

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Turnbull is the preferred prime minister, which is not nothing. But his government trails on the main indices that count and Mr Turnbull is not even the most favoured Liberal leader among ordinary voters. That goes to Julie Bishop.

After a torrid year, politics is at a disturbingly-low ebb.

Both parties languish on depressingly-low primary votes in the mid 30s. Labor remains ahead on two-party-preferred but the gap may be narrowing.

After the shenanigans of the past few months, that fact alone may be surprising. But then, the country's just had a major morale boost, courtesy of the huge endorsement of legal and social equality for same-sex couples.

This was progress in spite of politicians rather than because of them.

Nonetheless, Turnbull delivered this mechanism, flawed and uncomfortable as it was. And he stands to be the presiding prime minister when it comes to pass. That, too, is not nothing.

But the rate of dysfunction and political miscalculation must change if the Coalition is not to slide from office in  ignominy.

Trust with the electorate will take some rebuilding. Even within the show, goodwill has evaporated. Not only are renegade Nats displaying an amateurish indulgence not worthy of national office, but the most senior ministers do not trust each other.

While the banking royal commission was a popular initiative, the government royally flushed its own chances of getting any credit for the concession.

A tight group of economic ministers knew about the backflip days before it occurred - Turnbull, Bishop, Scott Morrison, Kelly O'Dwyer, and Mathias Cormann. 

Yet it didn't leak. Why, because certain other key ministers did not find out until it went to an emergency cabinet meeting. Deliberately.