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Turnbull suffers a drop in the polls -

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Turnbull suffers a drop in the polls

The World Today - Tuesday, 9 December , 2008 12:14:00

ELEANOR HALL: To Canberra now, and the Federal Opposition is in disarray as Kevin Rudd and the
Government open up a big lead in the opinion polls over the Coalition and its leader Malcolm
Turnbull.

The Newspoll result has prompted Coalition calls for unity. But while Liberals are blaming the poor
showing on division in the Coalition, National party MPs are adamant they're NOT the problem.

And Independent Senator Nick Xenophon has warned Opposition senators that he won't negotiate with
them if they continue to back down on key bills at the last minute.

In Canberra, Alexandra Kirk reports.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Labor's finishing its first year in office widening its lead over the Opposition in
the polls.

It's the Coalition's worst performance in months and Kevin Rudd's lead over Malcolm Turnbull harks
back to the gap he commanded over Brendan Nelson just before the leadership change.

In the last opinion poll for the year, Newspoll has the ALP on 59 per cent to the Coalition's 41
per cent on a two party preferred basis and Kevin Rudd's satisfaction rating back up to 70 per
cent. And he's 47 points ahead of Malcolm Turnbull as preferred prime minister.

Liberal frontbencher Andrew Robb says the multibillion dollar stimulus package has worked for the
Government, but that disunity has cost the Opposition, blaming the Nationals who twice last week
crossed the floor in the Senate.

ANDREW ROBB: The voting intention shows quite clearly that people turn off with disunity.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Has the coalition started to take steps to fix that?

ANDREW ROBB: There's been I think over the last few days a lot of talk internally, you know you
look at Queensland, Queensland at a state level, the parties after many years of disunity realised
it was death, they were going nowhere.

The merger of the Liberal party and the National party in Queensland this year has seen thousands
of new members and they're now very competitive at a state level. Now I think that lesson just had
to be learnt federally.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Well you can't blame the Nationals for that though can you? Because even on issues
where the Nationals are on side, the Coalition when it came down to the vote, changed its view and
decided to vote with the Government.

ANDREW ROBB: Look it's very difficult with people deciding to cross the floor in the unilateral
sort of way. It will require a strong will and it will require everyone to see that they are part
of a team.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: When you say everyone has to see that they're part of the team you're talking about
the National party and the National senators?

ANDREW ROBB: And others within the Liberal party too have to make sure that what they do again is
consistent with the team.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: But Nationals leader in the Senate Barnaby Joyce says the Nationals are not to
blame.

BARNABY JOYCE: I definitively say the problem is not the National party problem, the problem is one
of the issues that have come before the Senate.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Barnaby Joyce says the Senate infrastructure vote, ending Coalition's $2-billion
plus bush telecommunications fund, is a case in point where regional Liberal senators broke ranks.

BARNABY JOYCE: Without a shadow of a doubt we could never have breached our promise to the
Australian people that we made that those funds were there to look after people who were not being
looked after by the market as far as telecommunications goes.

Now that was going to be the issue whether it was the National party, the Liberal party or any
other party in Australia, your commitment is your commitment, there are certain ripples that can be
easily ironed out by consistency and approach, then you will have unity every day.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: And Senator Joyce doesn't accept the Queensland merger of the two conservative
parties is the answer, federally.

BARNABY JOYCE: In federal politics the Coalition is by far and away the most successful political
vehicle in this nation. You have to, you know, stick with the net that catches the fish and the
Coalition is the net that catches the fish on a federal level.

But a Coalition in itself is a name in itself that acknowledges there are two parties and two
policies and those two policies must be, you know accommodated for the areas that they hold, you
know, dear.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Independent Senator Nick Xenophon says the problem is the Opposition's chopping and
changing on key issues, with back downs just before the final vote was taken in the Senate. He says
that doesn't sit well with him or with voters.

NICK XENOPHON: Well I think I made it pretty clear, don't waste my time if this sort of thing
happens again, I've been quite open with senior Liberals about this and I think they've got the
message loud and clear because if they don't, the shemozzle of last week is going to turn into one
big debacle in 2009.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Opposition's Andrew Robb won't concede that point.

ANDREW ROBB: We are acting in good faith on these things but we have to make judgements about
individual pieces of legislation. But that's not the point Alex, the point is where we have
disagreements between our two Coalition parties and where unilateral action is taken. Now, that is
seen by the public as unacceptable and a lack of unity and we have to have a sense of teamwork
where we can accommodate the range of views across both our parties and yet present a united
position.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The tension's set to continue, with Malcolm Turnbull indicating yesterday the
Opposition will keep doing what Senator Xenophon's firmly warned against.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: If our amendments are rejected we have to consider whether the Government's Bill
without our amendments is so unsatisfactory it should be rejected out of hand. We may in that case
let the legislation pass and undertake to set it right when we return to government.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Treasurer Wayne Swan can't resist a swipe.

WAYNE SWAN: Malcolm Turnbull and his team have been entirely negative about the economic security
strategy, the bank guarantee and so on and I don't think that's particularly appreciated by the
Australian public.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan ending that report by Alexandra Kirk in
Canberra.