Image for NATION: Like a pantomime horse ...

*Pic: Caring Malc ... PM on the spruik ... with Health Minister Sussan Ley at Sydney Children’s Hospital ... Image from the PM’s website, HERE

Saddled with a superannuation policy change it can’t explain and an economic plan that just doesn’t stack up, the coalition campaign lunges up and down the country like a pantomime horse, back legs alarmingly out of step with its front.

Is it, as some experts suggest, a campaign in search of its narrative? Certainly, jobs and growth is a dud especially in key Queensland seats which after three years of coalition government enjoy neither.

Or is it simply a bad attack of performance anxiety give the burden of expectation and the inexperience of its campaign virgin leader? Certainly, one of the Liberal Party’s key backers if not its major policy architect, the IPA is not helping the callow caretaker PM win any points for leadership.

John Roskam, IPA director tells ABC radio, the changes are clearly retrospective and people write him emails which are"disappointed, devestated, white hot with anger.” “Hundreds of thousands of Australians have had their plans thrown into turmoil.”

Windy back-benchers quickly pitch in but amidst all the hysteria PM “May-I-Just-Say” Turnbull, “makes it perfectly clear” that the policy stays - at least until they’ve won the election.

Whilst Labor exploits its opponents’ debacle, the Coalition eases in the betting. Its poor form fails to inspire confidence and its policies fall flat. No-one in government seems to be across policy detail. Nor does the PM handle it well.

When Julie Bishop can’t explain to 3AW’s Neil Mitchell her own party’s super policy, Turnbull excuses her. Super is “a notoriously complex thing.” Bishop, he suggests, should be sticking to her talking points; not bothering her pretty little head with figures.

b> massive cuts to her portfolio

Perhaps this approach is reflected in the massive cuts to her portfolio over the three years. This government has cut the Foreign Affairs budget, by $1 billion or a whopping 20% in 2015 and with a further cut of 224 billion in 2016. Most OECD countries are increasing their foreign aid. In one year, in absolute dollar terms, Australia went from ninth to twelfth.

We are hardening our hearts in the midst of a refugee crisis. But you don’t hear a word from campaigners about this shocking truth. Instead, out on the hustings, Turnbull tells the nation repeatedly that Australia is “the second most generous participant in the United Nations resettlement program.”

Our generosity to refugees is faked by exaggerating the significance of our participation in the UN refugee resettlement programme, which takes in fewer than 70,000 or 3.5 per cent of the two million people who seek protection from persecution each year.

Australia manages to take 5000 people per year but no-one challenges the government line. Currently we are hosting only 35,000 people seeking protection. We grant visas to about 8000 of these each year. Most must wait four years or more to learn their fate. In the meantime, altruism is increasingly difficult to discern in our political leaders’ deliberations.

Kooyong Colt and union-super-buster Josh Frydenberg, who in February shifted his own work super into a union super fund, is equally foggy on the details of his party’s policy on super despite knowing how to pick a winner in the self-interest stakes. Unlike his party deputy leader, however, nobody suggests he takes a Bex and has a good lie down.

Stronger medication is called for on Thursday when ScoMo goes into a barking frenzy about Labor being “at war with business” on a day set aside to bring home remains of 33 soldiers from Vietnam. Is this another excruciatingly bad Crosby-Textor dead cat on the table tactic?

He shoots himself in both feet.

None of Morrison’s embarrassingly inappropriate and juvenile rhetoric of war and bullets cuts much ice with voters who have all seen better stunts before. He shoots himself in both feet.

Across the nation punters are wary; sceptical. Is the Coalition’s economic plan more than welfare for the wealthy? A $15 billion tax cut over ten years to businesses with big cuts to education and health seems no kind of leadership at all, let alone a pathway to jobs and growth. ScoMo’s stunts shriek desperation. Someone, give the man an onion.

The Fairfax Ipsos Poll has Labor in front 51-49 led by a spectacular collapse in support for Turnbull. Indecisive, ineffectual, a hapless tool of his party’s right wing, the PM has cut his 53% popularity before Christmas to 3% this week by continuing to disappoint.

In Wentworth, there is a ten per cent swing against Turnbull according to Reach-Tel. Half of his own electorate find him less impressive than he seemed when he toppled Abbott. 

Turnbull turns desperately to Abbott-style ranting about Shorten’s war on business but his rate of fall from popularity is on track to overhaul the Opposition leader’s minus six rating.

Where is the leader who promised advocacy not slogans? What became of the PM who “would respect people’s intelligence,” or who would “explain these complex issues and set out the course of action we believe we should take?”

Apart from his usual nostrum of jobs and growth, a bit of tame pork-barrelling and a promise to stick to his super plan and lies about negative gearing pushing rents up and destroying house values, all Turnbull can offer the nation all week is Shorten’s war.

Turnbull’s approval rating is down 3 per cent in two weeks. It’s serious given the change of leader and the early election was a punt on his popularity - plus a promise he can do things with the economy that his economically illiterate predecessor could not.

Shorten’s approval, on the other hand, continues to climb steadily. Word is put about that Coalition support is strong in its marginals. But elsewhere it is weakening.

... more of a buzz-word…

Seven’s Friday Reach Tel poll has young colt Wyatt Roy, whose sandpit portfolio of Assistant Minister for Innovation is even younger than he is, down to 50% of the two party preferred vote, a 6.9% drop on his last election result. “Innovation” is clearly more of a buzz-word than a campaign strategy.

In Tasmania, Getup! polling has Labor ahead in Bass. Brigadier Andrew Nikolic, Delcon (delusional conservative expecting Abbott’s return) and chair of the joint national insecurity committee, an anti safe schools crusader. When Abbott was about to be rolled, Nikolic said,

“My hope, my plea is that we knuckle down, refocus on what is important and not become the rabble we defeated.’ If only it were that simple. In the meantime the government is plugging national security as its media campaign steps up. 

There is always time for a national security crisis involving another Sydney teenager who wants to travel to Syria or a turn back the tinnies campaign to take us all utterly by surprise and cause us to come to our senses and vote conservative. Or turn for patriotic protection to the Jacqui Lambie network.

ABC Kitchen Cabinet-maker Lambie’s footwork is fancy lately. She lets us tenderly into her closet of ball gowns whilst she blasts Cory Bernardi’s pretensions as being , “… born with a silver spoon up (his) rear end,” a suppository of privilege which puts “silver-tail” in a new light but, as Annabel generously offers, may make things painful for a sitting member.

Bernardi, who is always on the brink of starting his own party, too, needs a public man-hug after being lambasted by Lambie. His PM turns up to embrace him and his cause on Thursday at Bernardi’s Conservative Leadership Foundation fund-raiser.

Perhaps Malcolm is keen to protect Cory from critics of his recent tweet “to all you social advocates out there” to consider Roosh V, who believes men ought to be able to rape women on private property.

Or perhaps it is to reminisce. Bernardi’s CLF spawned CANdo. Sally Neighbour writing in the Monthly five years ago, reminds us,

‘astro-turfing’ - against the ETS.

“CANdo rallied dozens of like-minded groups and thousands of individuals to join an orchestrated ‘grass-roots’ campaign - also known as ‘astro-turfing’ - against the ETS. Their efforts persuaded Liberal MPs to revolt against Turnbull, killing the ETS and propelling Abbott into leadership.”

Bernardi makes Turnbull feel better about Scott Morrison whose lunatic scaremongering last week startles the Press Gallery and does nothing to inspire credibility or respect.

“I’m not saying $67 billion, I am saying up to $67 billion..,” the Treasurer honks as party-pooping, nit-picking reporters find black holes in his black hole. His lame attack quickly falls apart under questioning during its own press conference and is soon trashed by everyone but The Daily Telegraph. But then Labor rears up in fright.

Labor has been “flushed out,” Morrison crows as the workers’ party bins its aged pension asset tests and its $4.5 billion school kids bonus. Whilst Labor enters the second four weeks $8 billion up, only Morrison could claim the loss of these two policies as any kind of victory.

The PM is also flexible with the truth. Turnbull presents himself in Sunday’s leaders’ debate as a political ingenue, an old man of fifty before his idealism, honed by years of deal making, job creating and growing led him reluctantly to public life.

All of which is true if you ignore the reality. Turnbull has been involved in politics all his life. From Sydney University Liberal Club right through to a bid for Liberal preselection in 1981, he’s been a keen participant. In a preselection battle for Wentworth in 2004, he told Peter King, his opponent, “Fuck off and get out of my way.”

Turnbull is said to be short of fuse, remote and very rude which is why his handlers have instructed him to keep smiling. Morrison surely tests his fixed rictus.

“tax their bullets.”

By Thursday ScoMo has a puerile new routine, Labor’s war on business with “tax their bullets.” It comes complete with silly charts and absolutely no new information or argument. A lunatic logic prevails. The “war on business” refers, for example, to Labor’s qualified tax cut for-small-business-only support.

Is the Morrison Cormann show the arrogance of entitlement? Or is modelling incompetence a Crosby Textor new team plan? Julie Bishop and Josh Frydenberg’s failure to explain their government’s superannuation policy certainly fits the incompetence theory.

Or is it just a dud idea? A Turnbullian attempt to steal a march on Labor, the minor changes it proposes to super rules have taken the Coalition out of its comfort zone.

Booking a back flip, Party amnesiac, Sindodinos says he wants a review after they win the election, a bizarre approach to a policy reform and a pledge clearly announced in the ScoMo budget. Turnbull digs in.

The IPA kicks up a stink on principle. Changing super rules is unfair to the rich, a cause shock jocks rush to join. And it’s unfair to the poor, the IPA adds cleverly. You just don’t know how many people this will affect.

This line attracts Fran Kelly who gets Kelly O’Dwyer on her show. But she overlooks one vital political detail if she expects any real answers.

The Coalition has economic management in its DNA. Former PM and IPA tool Tony Abbott assured us of this after he was on the skids over his incompetent handling of the economy.

To be fair Abbott pushed through an IPA agenda of tax cuts for companies, “efficiency dividend” austerity budgeting, privatisation, punishing the poor and the low wage earner and so much more so that wealth may continue to trickle upwards. 

Now Tony’s team may have another PM as the back legs of the panto horse, but it still clearly acts as if it has licence to make it all up as it goes along. Not to bother with party lines on super. 

... a glut of innate fiscal DNA…

Doubtless, too, a glut of innate fiscal DNA fuels Peta Credlin’s vicious attack on Kelly O’Dwyer and her own team. Claiming the issue threatens to become a sleeper, (with some help from Sky) Credlin lectures her former underlings and cup-bearers. 

“…the government can’t be in a position where it’s incapable of explaining its own policies.”

Credlin would know. Who can forget the excruciating inadequacy of Tony Abbott’s “We stopped the boats’ policy explanation with Leigh Sales on ABC 7:30? 

In the real world, however, the failure of senior Liberals to explain policy exposes the gap between hype and reality, a party still trading on the myth of better economic management, one of Howard and Costello’s legacies to the nation along with a squandered mining boom.

Is ignorance of policy good enough? Fran Kelly asks O’Dwyer. 

O’Dwyer “won’t commentate on commentary” she says in a stock Liberal evasion. 

Asked if the government has understated how many of us the changes to superannuation rules will affect, it’s as if O’Dwyer is deaf. It’s the tactic du jour of the campaign, which itself is founded on the lie that the government could not function without its ABCC legislation. 

Whilst the strategy is not new, it seems that the coalition has truly made it their own; elevated the non-sequitur to a performance art. With a plethora of economic DNA sloshing around in its veins, a Liberal politician doesn’t need to answer questions.  Or hold itself to account. Luckily there is an election in July that might help it with the latter.

*Urban Wronski was born in England, raised in New Zealand and has been an Australian resident since 1979. Urban Wronski grew up conflicted about his own national identity and continues to be deeply mistrustful of all nationalism, chauvinism, flags, politicians and everything else which divides and obscures our common humanity. He has always been enchanted by nature and by the extraordinary brilliance of ordinary men and women and the genius, the power and the poetry that is their vernacular. Wronski is now a fulltime freelance writer who lives with his partner and editor Shay and their chooks, near the Grampians in rural Victoria and he counts himself the luckiest man alive. A former teacher of all ages and stages, from Tertiary to Primary, for nearly forty years, he enjoyed contesting the corporatisation of schooling to follow his own natural instinct for undifferentiated affection, approval and compassion for the young.

Quentin Dempster, The New Daily: Turnbull’s popularity is dropping