CANBERRA, AAP – Liberal MPs are playing down the significance of Malcolm Turnbull’s 30th Newspoll loss as his deputy backs him to lead the party to the election.
The prime minister equalled the milestone he set when deposing Tony Abbott by suffering his 30th consecutive survey loss on Monday.
But deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop is standing by Mr Turnbull, expressing confidence he will lead the party to the next election.
‘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,’ she told the Nine Network.
Asked whether she would run against Mr Turnbull if her colleagues asked her, Ms Bishop said, ‘I don’t envisage those circumstances at all’.
Trotting out Howard-era poll results, Christopher Pyne said John Howard managed a seven point turnaround from a 48-52 poll result after calling the 2004 election.
‘I’m actually surprised that the polls are as good as they are,’ he said.
‘The government isn’t in massive trouble. The polls are about 50/50 – that’s not a bad position to be in.’
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the prime minister had the support of the party room.
‘It’s not unusual for incumbent governments in between elections being behind in the polls, I mean we’re not actually that far behind, truth be told,’ he told ABC radio.
Education Minister Simon Birmingham said it is possible to turn the polls around, citing the recent South Australian election.
‘If you believed the polls, Nick Xenophon was going to be premier a few months ago,’ he told ABC TV.
‘You can turn these things around through discipline, through hard work, through focusing on the key messages.’
His colleague Angus Taylor, who is joining Tony Abbott on his annual Pollie Pedal through Victoria on Monday, called for party unity.
Mr Taylor said the scoreboard that matters isn’t Newspoll, it’s jobs growth, and the voters want to see the government is delivering
‘What they don’t want is a Shorten government,’ he told Sky News.
‘People want us to succeed.’
Liberal senator Eric Abetz said the milestone was a false measure when Mr Turnbull used it, and it remains one now.
‘Jumping at shadows at the Newspoll, or indeed 30 Newspolls is never going to be the basis for good, sound government,’ he told ABC radio.
‘The one issue is the poll on election day and whilst Newspolls do give us some indication, we have had in the past substantial recovery in the polls come election time, so my view is there is no such thing as an unwinnable election.’
Abbott pushes coal on Pollie Pedal
Meanwhile, the former prime minister again urged the government to champion low power prices, by keeping coal, and higher wages, by cutting immigration.
‘That’s what I think we need to focus on today, being the best possible government with the strongest possible policies,’ Mr Abbott told reporters on his annual Pollie Pedal in Victoria on Monday.
Asked whether he feels vindicated by Mr Turnbull’s result, Mr Abbott said: ‘It’s not about me, it’s got to be about our country, what’s best for our country and how the government can best deliver that’.
He acknowledged being in government is hard. ‘Malcolm Turnbull and I know this better than anyone,’ he said.
The Newspoll released on Monday showed the government is behind Labor on a two-party preferred basis at 48 per cent to 52 per cent, under Mr Turnbull’s leadership.
Mr Abbott said the best way to be a good government was to have clear policies, a united team and to be distinct from your opponents.
‘That’s what I tried to be and to do in government and I’m sure that’s what the prime minister is trying to be and to do now.’
He denied briefing reporters off the record and called for greater ‘honesty’ in politics.
‘One of the differences between me and some of my colleagues is that if I’ve got something to say I don’t ring up a journalist and whisper poison into their ears, I say it up front openly and put my name on it,’ he said.
‘I think that is something that we need to see more of in our politics. We need to see honesty, we need to see integrity and we need to see people say what they mean and do what they say.’
Mr Abbott, who has been pushing for new coal-fired power stations, is touring the Latrobe Valley on Monday as part of his annual charity bike ride.