Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Picture: Jenny Evans
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Picture: Jenny Evans

Company tax cuts plan under fire after Longman

A RATTLED Turnbull Government shocked by its drubbing in the Longman by-election will re-write its Queensland strategy after Coalition MPs privately argued for a sacrificial death to proposed company tax cuts.

The LNP will conduct a post-mortem of the election result after all ballots are counted but, as of Sunday night, the Coalition was licking its wounds after being slapped with a 10 per cent swing against it, and a primary vote unable to hit the 30s.

The shock result mirrored last year's election results in state booths in Longman, where the LNP's vote plummeted to a primary vote of as low as 24.7 per cent, only slightly ahead of One Nation's 24.7 per cent.

While yet to push the "panic button", Government MPs across the country feared the vote could become entrenched and cost it up to eight Queensland seats if the 5 per cent swing was replicated across the state at the next general election.

Members of "Team Queensland' - the 21 seats held by the LNP - plus others in Government described the poor showing as the "wake-up call" needed to hone better policies, clearer messaging, and stop believing their own hype.

The view was shared by MPs in other states given that Queensland will be the battleground for the next federal election, which is now more of a certainty to be fought between Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten.

Labor was returned in all the four seats it contested during the Super Saturday by-elections.

"This is Longman. This is not some regional seat this is the type of seat we need to win. It's outer suburban mortgage belt," one Government MP said last night.

Another said: "We need a specific Queensland strategy".

One senior source said the Government had not yet worked out how to neutralise Labor's "lies" on hospital and education funding cuts.

Agitated MPs believed it would force the party and senior Government tacticians to properly address One Nation, which is cannabilising the LNP's vote.

The result now sharpens the focus on the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), company tax cuts and immigration policy.

On those issues, early conversations were being held about beating Pauline Hanson in her calls for support to contentious legislation. With many expecting Senator Hanson to call for a new coal-fired generator for Queensland in return for support for the NEG, it was being argued a plan should be announced soon by the Coalition so it could at least own the decision.

Others publicly and privately downplayed the result, saying after all votes are counted the Super Saturday results would be a credible result for a government, which has not won a seat from an Opposition in a by-election for almost 100 years.

They added that in the by-elections, voters could safely lodge a protest without turfing out the Government.

At a general election that would not be the case.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who told voters the Longman Super Saturday showdown was a contest tween himself and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, played down the loss yesterday and implied he was prepared for internal rumblings on company tax cuts.

"I see that Bill Shorten is punching the air as though he's won the World Cup," Mr Turnbull said yesterday.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Picture: Jenny Evans
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Picture: Jenny Evans

"This is a conventional swing in one election. Absolutely an average swing, in which the Labor party were able to spend in the last week of the campaign as much money as the LNP spent in the whole eight weeks.

"So there's not a lot to celebrate for the Labor party, there's certainly nothing to crow about.

"I'm telling the truth. I think it is very important for everybody to ask this question. How important is it that politicians tell the truth?

"I think it's enormously important. Bill Shorten has been lying and lying and lying. And in Longman the claim that we are cutting funding for public hospitals is nothing more or less than a lie because the funding has been increasing since we came into Government".

Asked about company tax cuts Mr Turnbull said he would listen to voters.

Liberal frontbencher Dan Tehan said yesterday, "In any loss, you've got to be prepared to learn from it".

Mr Shorten said the byelection result showed the ALP was better in touch with voters.

"We engaged with the real world and I think people gave us a tick,'' Mr Shorten said yesterday. "These by-elections (had) a very simple question, do people want more of the same or do they want better from their government? Large numbers want better from the Government.

"The people want politicians who are fair dinkum and my candidates are more fair dinkum than their candidates and my policies are more fair dinkum than their policies.

"Australians and Queenslanders, they're over the cats and dog fighting that goes on between LNP and Labor. What people want out of their politicians is people to stand up for them on their issues.

"Wherever I travelled in Australia, including Queensland, I found a growing appetite amongst every day Australians to see more fairness and more equality in Australian society."