Federal Election 2016: Where did it all go wrong for Malcolm Turnbull?

Malcolm Turnbull wanted an exciting time. He's got it.

There's still a chance he could pull off the most basic requirement of Government — a majority — but right now even that would require a good chunk of luck.

More likely, the man famed for his popular appeal, brought back to save his party at the ballot box, and widely expected to achieve a sweeping victory and secure his mandate will slump across the line, in some form of minority government.

So much for stability.

So where did it all go wrong?

Blame has already been spread far and wide. Most of it is self-serving, albeit with grains of truth.

There are, of course, a multitude of reasons for the Coalition's underwhelming result, including the success of "Mediscare", Labor's strong ground campaign, the digital space, the Coalition's refusal to unleash attack ads about boats and unions and the general disdain for major parties.

But one element has been largely overlooked. The GST.

If that sounds absurd, look at the data

When Mr Turnbull seized the leadership, the Coalition's two-party-preferred vote flipped from terminal lows, where it had wallowed since the 2014 budget, into very positive territory.

So much so, moves were made in Labor backrooms towards replacing Bill Shorten.

On February 1, the Coalition was in front 53-47, according to Newspoll.

The next poll, on February 22, the Coalition had fallen back to 50-50, a six-point turnaround.

So what happened?

On February 8, Mr Turnbull publicly dumped plans to increase the GST.

The plan to raise the GST was first implicitly served up in the wake of the 2014 budget, which flagged $80 billion in cuts to health and education over a decade.

Most political observers logically assumed the only way to restore the funding was through an increase in the GST.

By the time Mr Turnbull moved into The Lodge, an increase in the GST had been left on the table for so long, it had started to go cold.


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By February of this year, it seemed inevitable; it was just a matter of what would be exempt.

Australians may not have liked it, but they had begun to accept it.

Mr Shorten had already started campaigning against the GST. It didn't shift the polls, but it did spook some Coalition MPs.

Then, without warning, the GST was taken from the table back to the kitchen, and forced down the insinkerator.

The Government backgrounded journalists with modelling that showed by the time compensation was paid, and company tax cuts delivered, the growth dividend would be minimal, even though the GST was always about raising revenue for health and education.

Had anyone ever suggested a tax increase and churn could grow the economy?

Whatever the reason, the real problem was people felt their Government had blinked ... again.

Just as occurred when Kevin Rudd went to water over his Emissions Trading Scheme, Mr Turnbull's approval fell through the floor.

The decision confirmed people's fears that he wasn't the leader they thought they knew.

Even more problematic, it threw his entire economic narrative off track.

All that was left in the Government's grand plan for the economy was the company tax cuts, which didn't go down well, and an opaque plan for innovation, which scared working class voters.

There was no way to fund, and therefore combat, Labor's promise to restore funding to health and education.

For all the sound and fury of the past five months, the polls remained locked at 50-50 and that's how the election result landed as well.

People like gutsy politicians.

It's why John Howard succeeded. He was predictable. Even when people didn't like his politics, they knew where he stood.

Now Malcolm Turnbull barely has a leg to stand on.

Source: ABC News

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