Abbott’s warning after Super Saturday disaster

TONY Abbott says Malcolm Turnbull shouldn't be dumped as Prime Minister but is calling for radical policy change after the Coalition's disastrous result in the Super Saturday by-elections.

The former prime minister is urging his party to withdraw from the Paris agreement on climate change and to drastically cut the nation's immigration rate after the party's horrendous result in Queensland on Saturday.

"When the voters send you a message, you've got to listen. Listening doesn't involve playing politics, listening involves doing something," Mr Abbott told 2GB radio this morning.

Prime Minister Turnbull is also facing calls to axe his controversial company tax cuts plan from other Coalition MPs concerned about the party's primary vote in Longman dropping a whopping 9.42 per cent on Saturday.

And former Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has also called on Mr Turnbull to "fall on his sword" over the bleak result.

Mr Turnbull maintained his lead over opposition leader Bill Shorten as the nation’s preferred prime minister but the Coalition didn’t do as well. Picture: Jenny Evans
Mr Turnbull maintained his lead over opposition leader Bill Shorten as the nation’s preferred prime minister but the Coalition didn’t do as well. Picture: Jenny Evans

Mr Abbott did not outright critise Mr Turnbull's leadership this morning, but said: "I don't think you can blame the candidate."

"I think Trevor Ruthenberg is a good bloke, he worked hard. Ditto, Brett Whiteley, a good bloke, worked hard in Braddon. I think Georgina Downer is an outstanding political talent and I hope some day she goes into Parliament."

He also rejected calls for the party to dump Mr Turnbull.

"I don't want to change the leader, I want to change the policy," he told 2GB.

"If you change the leader without changing the policy, you just jump out of the frying pan into the fire."

Mr Abbott added that Mr Turnbull should never have set up the Super Saturday by-elections as contest between him and Opposition leader Bill Shorten.

"One of the things you learn as a leader over the years is don't set yourself up to fail, don't set tests for yourself that are going to be very hard to pass," he said.

"I guess 30 Newspolls was another one."

The former PM has previously argued for the government to cut the nation's immigration rate amid concerns about pressure on the country's major cities.

He has also previously warned the government to withdraw from the Paris Accord, which he signed as Prime Minister in 2015, arguing it was necessary to put concerns about power prices ahead of the international agreement to reduce greeenhouse gases.

On company tax cuts, Mr Abbott said there was a "strong economic case" for them but there were "no votes" for the Coalition.

"I certainly accept the economic case for company tax cuts, but there are no votes in company tax cuts, because what the public want is money in their pocket directly, not indirectly," he said.

"I absolutely accept that there's a strong economic case for tax cuts, but what we want if they're worth doing, there's no point saying let's have tax cuts in six years' time."

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott playing a game of club rugby for Forest Rugby Club at the weekend. Picture: David Swift.
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott playing a game of club rugby for Forest Rugby Club at the weekend. Picture: David Swift.

Prime Minister Turnbull remains Australia's preferred prime minister over rival Mr Shorten but after the Coalition's disastrous Super Saturday by-election result.

An exclusive Newspoll taken for The Australian shows Mr Turnbull is still winning in the popularity stakes, with 48 per cent of voters saying he is their preferred leader, compared to Mr Shorten's 29 per cent.

That's the PM's best result since May 2016, before the last federal election was held.

Meanwhile, Mr Shorten said today that any talk his leadership could be in jeopardy - and that he could be replaced by former rival Anthony Albanese - has now been laid to rest.

"I didn't believe the talk before the by-elections, but it's certainly not going to be spoken about now," the Labor leader told ABC News Breakfast this morning.

Mr Shorten said the message he took from the by-elections, where Labor candidates claimed the seats of Perth, Fremantle, Braddon and Longman, was that people wanted better health care policies and wage rises, not the government's plan for tax relief for big companies.

He added that Australians were "sick of the Punch and Judy and cat and dog fight that goes on between Liberal and Labor".

"They want to know what we're going to do for them," he said.

"What we have is policies that look after everyday Australians - not the ridiculous corporate tax cuts for companies of $100 million and $500 million or $1 billion turnovers. People want us to put their needs ahead of that of the big end of town."

Mr Shorten called for Mr Turnbull to step down if the government dropped its plan to cut Australia's corporate tax rate from 30 per cent to 25 per cent over ten years.

"If Mr Turnbull drops the company tax cuts for the big end of town, he should go with them," he told ABC.

"I thought that they were always a silly idea, but he's made it his signature economic policy.

"If he hasn't even got the intestinal fortitude to support his own economic values, what he really believes, well then he shouldn't hang around either."

Senior Turnbull government frontbencher Mathias Cormann confirmed this morning that the government would push ahead with its corporate tax cuts, saying they were still vital to keep Australian businesses competitive against their overseas rivals.

It is the 37th consecutive Newspoll in which the Coalition has trailed Labor on a two party preferred vote. Picture: AAP
It is the 37th consecutive Newspoll in which the Coalition has trailed Labor on a two party preferred vote. Picture: AAP

The Finance Minister told ABC News Breakfast today he would continue to seek crossbench support for the plan and would aim to put it before Parliament next month.

Senator Cormann added that there was "no sugar coating" the LNP's poor vote in Longman but he argued the result did not indicate how the party would do in a federal election.

"If you look at the history of by-elections, the Government has not won a seat from the Opposition in by-elections in hundred years," he said.

Senator Cormann also said Labor should have had a stronger swing towards them in Braddon.

Mr Newman, a former Queensland Premier and a longtime friend of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, has called on Mr Turnbull to take responsibility for the party's poor result in Queensland after he declared it a test of his leadership and Mr Shorten's.

"He should go. He should fall on his sword," Mr Newman told The Australian.

Former Queensland Premier Campbell Newman with Tony Abbott at the G20 in Brisbane in 2014. Picture: Darren England.
Former Queensland Premier Campbell Newman with Tony Abbott at the G20 in Brisbane in 2014. Picture: Darren England.

To ease the sting of the weekend's by-election results, Mr Turnbull's approval rating also rose one point to 42 per cent in this week's Newspoll, while his disapproval rating dropped one point to 48, reducing the net satisfaction rating to minus six.

By comparison, Mr Shorten's satisfaction rating remained at 32 per cent while those dissatisfied with his performance rose to 57 per cent, producing a net negative of minus 25.

The ALP also maintained its 51-49 dominance in the two party preferred stakes in The Australian's Newspoll.

It is the 37th consecutive Newspoll in which the Coalition has trailed Labor on a two party preferred vote.

These results come as talkback radio host Alan Jones called for the PM to step aside in a scathing attack on social media.

"In politics, as in life, if you do today what you did yesterday, you get yesterday's results. The Liberals surely can't stomach again what happened on Saturday. Turnbull has to go," the controversial 2GB breakfast host tweeted.

When it comes to support for the minor parties in the latest Newspoll, the Greens remained on 10 per cent while One Nation maintained a seven point primary vote.



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