Remember the good old days when politicians were accused of being poll-driven or focus-group-driven. These were also the days when political leaders who were behind in the polls said, there’s only one poll that counts, imagining that in the time left before the next election they could turn things around.
If only this Coalition Government were poll-driven or focus-group driven, the past week’s idiocy, indeed, the past four-years’ idiocy, would not have happened.
These days, there is only one poll that counts, and that is the poll for leadership within the party room.
If Turnbull had led his government rather than let the right-wing of his party lead him, the vote on marriage-equality this week could easily have gone the other way, approving a conscience vote without a plebiscite, whether at polling stations or by post.
Look at the numbers. There are 28 ministers and 12 parliamentary secretaries in the Parliament. Six of them are Nationals, leaving 34 members of the 81 members of the Liberal partyroom in the Government. Add to them the seven so-called defectors and you have 41 votes in the partyroom. That is a bare majority, but once many of the others had seen the way the vote was going, they, too, would have voted for a conscience vote without a plebiscite.
Turnbull could have easily argued that the election promise of a plebiscite has been met by the Coalition, but defeated by the Senate so out of the Coalition’s control. He could have further argued that Coalition Prime Minister at the time of the formulation of the plebiscite policy during the previous term, Tony Abbott, had said that that parliament would be the last one in which marriage equality would not be a conscience vote. Turnbull could have argued that that promise should be honoured.
With a bit of effort, the…