Big challenges for Shorten, Turnbull

“The challenge for us as Liberals is to come to terms with the fact that it is no longer about convincing Australians to be on our side, but to convince Australians that we are on theirs.


Treasurer Scott Morrison hit the nail on the head in his speech to the Liberal Party’s federal council in Sydney in June.

The overwhelming feeling in the electorate 12 months on from the federal election is “they just don’t get it”.

Labor has led the Liberal-Nationals coalition in the polls consistently since jMalcolm Turnbull scraped back into power with the slimmest of margins on July 2 last year.

Bill Shorten puts this down to a simple formula.

As the opposition leader said in a speech to local government representatives recently: “People want a real conversation about the things which make a difference in their lives.”

Labor’s success is recognised in polls which give it a substantial lead over the coalition on who is “best trusted” to deliver on education, health, protecting jobs and making housing more affordable.

In recent months Turnbull and Morrison have acknowledged this gap.

The May budget sought to junk the least-fair aspects of the 2014 Abbott-Hockey budget and show voters the government understood their concerns about health and education in particular.

The jury is still out on the Gonski 2.0 schools funding package and the government’s Medicare Guarantee Fund as effective political “resets” as well as the more recently embraced issue of power prices.

Clouding the impact of such policies is the fact millionaires and businesses will receive a tax cut, while average workers watch their wages flatline and face a tax hike in the form of a Medicare levy rise in the near future.

It’s difficult to get voters’ ears when the wage share of income has hit its lowest point in over 50 years, while the profit share has doubled.

It doesn’t help the prime minister that Labor keeps reminding voters of his immense wealth and proximity to corporate bigwigs.

However, former Liberal campaign director Tony Nutt says Turnbull is a positive for the government.

He puts this down to Turnbull’s standing, credibility and trustworthiness – in other words, he looks and acts like a prime minister.

In contrast, Liberal research has found Shorten’s leadership is a “net negative” for Labor, with voters seeing him and his party as weak on the key issues of budget management and soft on border protection.

Published polls show about a third of voters don’t prefer either leader and are willing to switch their vote as elections come around.

These are the voters Shorten and Turnbull will need to win over ahead of the next election, which could be held as early as August 2018.

Both major parties would do well to embrace the same theme: “We’re on your side”.

PM grapples with shaky global outlook

The whims of two unpredictable men created strategic headaches for the Turnbull government in the 12 months following its re-election.


Donald Trump’s election as US President in late 2016 caught most of the world by surprise.

So unprepared was Malcolm Turnbull for that outcome, a scrambling prime minister sought out Australian golf legend Greg Norman – a close mate of Trump’s – for the president-elect’s mobile number.

A second phone chat, after Trump’s inauguration in January, was memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Turnbull sought assurances the new administration would honour a deal Canberra struck with the Obama administration to resettle refugees being held on Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

The PM didn’t find a receptive audience.

Trump reportedly berated Turnbull, labelling their conversation the “worst call” he’d had all day.

Later he used Twitter to take aim at a “dumb deal”.

The strength of the Australia-US alliance eventually forced Trump’s hand and he begrudgingly agreed to take up to 1200 refugees but only after “extreme vetting” processes.

In May, it was time to kiss-and-make-up as the two leaders attended an event commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea aboard US aircraft carrier Intrepid in New York.

But in June Turnbull was embarrassed after footage was leaked of him sending-up Trump at parliament’s annual Mid-Winter Ball.

Trump’s temperamental personality has not been the only thing Turnbull has had to dance around.

The US President pulled the pin on American involvement in the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership – a 12 country free trade deal – virtually killing it off, much to Turnbull’s dismay.

Ditto Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the 197-nation Paris agreement on climate change action which aims to limit global warming to below two degrees, with an aspiration target of 1.5 degrees.

On the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic weapons testing program and its loose cannon dictator Kim Jong-un, Trump and Turnbull are on the same page as they urge Beijing to wield some clout with Pyongyang.

Turnbull has also walked a tightrope when it comes to security links with the US and economic ties with China.

Notably, he’s been keen to make the case for ongoing American leadership in the Asia-Pacific region to uphold the “international rules-based order” and regional security.

Counter-terrorism has been a constant focus following domestic incidents and attacks in Nice, Stockholm, Berlin, Normandy, London, Manchester, Kabul, Istanbul, Tehran, Jakarta and Baghdad.

There’s also the threat posed by foreign fighters returning home from the Middle East, and Islamic State cells forming in some south-east Asian countries, notably the Philippines.

Australia increased its military contribution to the NATO-led coalition mission in Afghanistan, bringing total personnel to 300.

In the Middle East, 780 Australian military personnel continue to train Iraqi soldiers and conduct air strikes in Syria and Iraq, as coalition forces inch closer to taking IS strongholds Mosul and Raqqa.

In a few months, the government is set to release a new blueprint for Australian foreign policy.

If the past year is an indication, it could be a bit more “choose your own adventure” than business as usual.

One year on: Turnbull ramps up terror talk

Malcolm Turnbull has ramped up his rhetoric on national security and terrorism in the year since his re-election as prime minister – and he’s had good reason to talk tough.


There’s been a resurgence of attacks targeting the West, resulting in the death of four Australians.

A 12-year-old schoolgirl died in a bomb blast at a Baghdad ice-cream shop in May, the same week two young women were killed in the London Bridge attack.

A few days later a man was shot dead during a siege in the Melbourne suburb of Brighton – the fifth and latest incident on home soil since September 2014.

While the terror threat level hasn’t changed in that time, Turnbull has been trying to prepare Australians for the worst.

He’s made three statements to parliament on national security since the July 2 election – in September, November and the most recent in June.

Each has been calm, considered and comprehensive.

Turnbull has repeatedly warned of the growing threat in south-east Asia as networks of extremists galvanised and foreign fighters returned to the region.

He’s also noted the trend in lone wolf attacks and those in crowded places – both of which were hard for authorities to thwart.

The conversation of late, though, has turned to espionage, foreign interference, cyber security and online extremism.

“Very consciously, the prime minister picks out an issue or two and says ‘Here’s what we’re going to be doing about it’,” terrorism expert Jacinta Carroll told AAP.

“He’s talked specifically about the things that need to be done practically … but I don’t think that has resonated as well as it might with the community.”

Turnbull, for example, announced the development of a national strategy for mass public gatherings following a review ordered soon after the election.

But Australians have been told little about its rollout and success.

“For whatever reason, it’s not hitting the mark,” Carroll said.

The prime minister’s change in language, though, has been noticeable.

While it’s far cry from the uninhibited commentary of his predecessor Tony Abbott, it has been getting stronger.

From describing Australian foreign fighters as, essentially, the enemy, to labelling terrorism “a corruption, a disease within Islam”.

There’s also been a shift in policy focus in recent months, with Turnbull using national security as a justification for controversial changes to citizenship laws.

Other counter-terrorism measures are also on their way, as a number of reviews are finalised and consideration is given to the coroner’s report into the Lindt cafe siege.

The use of encryption by criminals and extremists is high on Turnbull’s agenda in 2017, with the prime minister calling out to tech giants for help.

“The privacy of a terrorist can never be more important than public safety. Never,” he told MPs in his June national security statement.

Golf – Lingmerth’s happy memories help him to Quicken Loans lead

The Swede, without a top 10 finish on tour this season in 17 events, missed just two fairways as he carded seven birdies and two bogeys, including one at his closing hole, the par-three ninth.


“That’s one of the main keys out here,” said Lingmerth. “It’s a course where the rough is very penalising, very gnarly. You really got to stay in the fairway to have a chance to make birdies.”

Lingmerth said it was a happy homecoming.

“Obviously, coming here is going to give me great feelings knowing I have won here on the Web,” he said. “It seems to suit my eye really well.”

Six players were bunched one shot back, including Australian Marc Leishman, Canadian Nick Taylor, South Korean Sung Kang and Americans Troy Merritt, Johnson Wagner and Daniel Summerhays, who holed out from 105 yards at the par-four 13th.

Another seven players were tied at three-under 67.

Lingmerth, showing signs of a return to form with four top-20 finishes since late April, started at the 10th and ran off three birdies in a row from 13, capping the string with an 18-foot birdie putt at the 15th.

The Swede knocked his approach inside four feet at 18 for another birdie and made the turn at four-under 31.

He added birdies at the first and fourth, where he rolled in a 20-footer from the fringe, before making bogey at the last after an errant tee shot at the par-three ninth.

Thirty-one players broke par but two of the top names in the field were not among them.

Rickie Fowler posted an even-par 70, while this season’s three-time winner Justin Thomas suffered a nightmare round.

Thomas made five birdies but signed for a four-over-par 74, fuelled by a quadruple bogey nine at the par-five 10th.

Thomas pulled his tee shot left into heavy native scrub land beyond the thick rough. He failed twice to advance the ball and finally took a penalty stroke and dropped a ball, which he sent across the fairway into more trouble.

He was tied for 93rd, nine strokes off the pace.

(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Ian Ransom)