Pyne unleashes as Newspoll tips election defeat
SCOTT Morrison's hope for clear air and a boost in the polls have been dashed after a senior government minister unleashed on his colleagues in blistering remarks to the media just a day before parliament resumes.
And despite a rise in personal approval ratings for the Prime Minister, the latest Newspoll shows the Coalition is still on track to suffer a significant defeat at the next federal election, trailing Labor 47 to 53 per cent on a two-party preferred basis.
It comes as Mr Morrison faces a showdown this week over asylum seeker medical transfers and whether to extend parliament's sitting days to deal with banking royal commission recommendations.
Defence Minister Christopher Pyne has added to the prime minister's mega week by unleashing on his colleagues in savage remarks today, accusing them of bowing to "irrational pressure" from "shouty" political commentators and social media.
In a damning assessment of Australian politics, the senior Liberal minister has told Nine Newspapers it was the "end of an era" when Liberal MPs dumped Malcolm Turnbull.
"I felt that the constant social media, shouty segment of the press, that keeps everybody on edge in this building all the time - and might actually not reflect at all the way the public think - had won, and that sensible people had bowed to that irrational pressure," Mr Pyne told Nine.
"And I thought that this is the Australian polity of the future. This is what we've now got. And it's different to what I think is good for the country."
He added it was "going to be very hard" for politicians to make hard decisions for the long-term good of the country. "I can't see that model changing," Mr Pyne said.
The Defence Minister, one of the longest serving Liberals in parliament, has also declared Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton would have been "electorally unpopular" outside of Queensland if he had become prime minister.
He also defended his decision to back Scott Morrison over Julie Bishop in the leadership ballot.
"My assessment was that Peter Dutton would be electorally unpopular except for probably in Queensland, and that Scott Morrison was most likely to win if the moderates supported him and that Julie would obviously be the best moderate but that she wouldn't win," Mr Pyne told Nine.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann refused to comment on Mr Pyne's remarks this morning, telling reporters in Canberra he would leave the "commentary" to them.
Minister Cormann also indicated the government would not compromise on the asylum seeker medical transfer legislation, despite facing a historic defeat in Parliament, and would not cave to calls to extend the sitting period to deal with banking royal commission recommendations.
"This is just another Labor stunt. The Labor Party hasn't even provided their formal response yet to the Royal Commission recommendations," Senator Cormann told ABC News Breakfast.
"This is just another bit of political brinkmanship."
There are just two sitting weeks scheduled before the budget on April 2, making it unlikely Parliament will be able to consider banking royal commission recommendations before the May election.
Senator Cormann also accused Opposition leader Bill Shorten of being "reckless and irresponsible" for not seeking an intelligence briefing on the asylum seeker legislation before today.
Meanwhile, the first Newspoll of the year, published exclusively in The Australian today, has revealed that Labor maintains a significant lead over the Coalition, with a two-party preferred vote of 53 to 47.
But it's not all bad news for the Coalition; the poll also showed that Mr Morrison has managed to retain his lead over opponent Bill Shorten as Australia's preferred prime minister, stretching the gap by two points to 44 to 35.
The poll also showed that Labor's plan to get rid of franking credit refunds for retirees is vastly opposed, with 44 per cent of voters against ditching the $5.5 billion in annual refunds that benefit up to 900,000 people. Just 35 per cent support the move.
However, this means a four-point fall in opposition to Labor's plans since December, implying the campaign against the so-called retiree tax has yet to echo further.
This comes as both parties brace themselves for a debate over the economy and asylum seekers when parliament resumes on Tuesday.
Mr Morrison's personal approval ratings have also increased three points to 43 per cent, and a decrease of two points in those unhappy with his performance.
Nonetheless, the increase in support for Mr Morrison personally has not translated to the Coalition at large, with its primary vote dipping to historical lows of 37 per cent.
On the other hand, the approval rating for Labor has lifted a point to 39 per cent.
The unpopularity Mr Shorten is experiencing with voters is still rife, with a net negative approval rating of minus 15 - the discrepancy between those happy with his performance (36 per cent) and those who are not (51 per cent).
One Nation dropped a point to five per cent, continuing to lose ground, and the Greens failed to ascertain a 1.2 per cent swing against it, leaving it at nine per cent.
The support for independent and minor parties lingered at 10 per cent.