Coalition faces same fate as Labor in ’13

Australia

The symmetry is stunning.

Six years, two coups, a minority government trailing terribly in the polls.

The coalition is staring down the same devastating fate as the Labor government it replaced.

Kevin Rudd was in Canberra this week to launch a book about his time as prime minister and he knows a thing or two about Judgment Day at the polls.

“The palpable rage I sense in the Australian community, having just come from Queensland, towards what the Liberals have done with their third prime minister in five years, is there,” Rudd told AAP.

The coalition has 75 seats out of 150. They will need 76 of 151 to hold government once a new seat is added at the next election.

Changes to seat boundaries mean they’re already down to 74 on paper.

Malcolm Turnbull used to talk about “the iron laws of arithmetic” and maths is not on the coalition’s side.

Just like Rudd in 2013, any swing will see the coalition turfed out.

A moderate swing will see a comfortable Labor win. A swing like the one in Wentworth will hand Bill Shorten the kind of victory that Tony Abbott enjoyed.

At least Labor realised it was heading towards a huge defeat in 2013. Not everyone in the coalition appears to understand their looming beating.

“We were on track to lose 20 seats at the upcoming election, (so) we’ve changed leaders,” Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told 2GB radio on Thursday.

If the coalition was going to lose 20 seats under Turnbull it’s hard to see how it’s looking better now.

Under Malcolm Turnbull the coalition was behind 49 per cent to 51 on the two-party preferred vote.

Now the coalition is behind 47-53.

Under Malcolm Turnbull the coalition was trending upwards in the 40 most marginal seats.

Now one of the safest Liberal seats in the nation has turned independent.

Under Malcolm Turnbull the coalition was about to finally settle on an energy and climate policy after 10 mad years that sent prices skyrocketing.

Now there is no climate or energy policy.

Defeated Liberal candidate Dave Sharma made it clear how badly the latest coup hurt him in Wentworth.

“The fundamental driver of this vote was really the manner in which Malcolm left office,” Mr Sharma said after the result became clear on Saturday night.

“You heard that from every voter on the street.”

Lots of Liberals are saying the Wentworth result doesn’t mean much for the rest of the country.

That climate change, protecting gay students from discrimination, and ending political instability aren’t that important in other electorates.

They may be right – but imagine if they’re wrong.

The country is in drought, renewable energy is cheaper than ever and the coalition still has no plans for how to handle climate change or energy policy.

The government hasn’t been able to agree on law changes to stop religious schools discriminating against gay students.

A list of its planned infrastructure spending has already been leaked, robbing the coalition of some big election announcements.

And Turnbull’s sudden axing is still raw.

So how is the coalition planning to save some furniture?

Scared Nationals are talking about bringing Barnaby Joyce back to the leadership as a proven fundraiser with good cut-through in rural electorates.

But he’s also damaged goods thanks to getting his ex-staffer pregnant and his stubborn refusal to resign earlier in the year.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks but his policy cupboard is bare.

Meanwhile backbenchers are complaining about Turnbull not campaigning in Wentworth, as if his presence in front of the cameras being quizzed about his axing would have helped.

The Labor lesson is a pertinent one. Bringing back Rudd saved some seats and prevented a complete wipeout.

But at this stage it appears the decision to dump Turnbull will have the opposite effect.

It looks like some of the Liberal MPs who turfed him out will have plenty of time to reconsider their call as they spend hours on hold with Centrelink next year.

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