‘People are not happy’: PM’s big blow
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has taken a serious knock in the polls, while conceding he was in the wrong when he took a flight to Hawaii with his family in the midst of Australia's bushfire crisis as more lives continue to be lost.
Mr Morrison fronted the media after weeks of criticism over his family holiday, telling the ABC's Insiders program on Sunday that he could have "handled things on the ground much better".
The Prime Minister also announced on Sunday he would "continue to evolve" his government's climate change policy while also flagging a royal commission into this summer's tragic and ongoing events.
And Mr Morrison's approval rating has taken a hit in the latest poll.
Labor is ahead of the Coalition for the first time since the federal election and Mr Morrison's approval rating has plunged, according to a Newspoll.
Labor is in front 51-49 on a two-party-preferred basis in the poll conducted for The Australian, a significant turnaround from the last Newspoll in early December when the Coalition led 52-48.
The Coalition's primary vote has dropped two points to 40 per cent, while Labor's has increased from 33 to 36 per cent since early December.
Approval for Mr Morrison tumbled from 45 to 37 per cent, while Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese's rating leapt from 40 to 46 per cent.
Today host Karl Stefanovic asked Treasurer Josh Frydenberg: "Are you worried?"
Mr Frydenberg replied: "We are absolutely just focused on the response and the recovery to this national crisis and as you indicated, Karl, today we are making a significant and initial contribution of $50 million to respond to the ecological disaster that we have seen across many states.
"Our focus is on the Australian people. We have heard the message, loud and clear, that when it comes to these national disasters they want the Federal Government to be playing a very district role."
Stefanovic responded: "But Treasurer, the polls are also a sign that people were not happy with the way he handled thing, at least initially. So that has to be a concern for you?
"Well, you saw the Prime Minister yesterday in the better view make the point that if he had known know what he knew then he had known know what he knew then he would have done some different things," Mr Frydenberg said in regards to the PM's comments on ABC on Sunday.
Speaking on Today, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson said the poll result was not a surprise.
"It doesn't surprise me because as I move around the country people are telling me they are very disappointed with Scott Morrison since the election. So they are not really happy with him," she said.
Since the last poll Mr Morrison has faced sustained criticism over his handling of the bushfire crisis, especially his decision to take a family holiday in Hawaii.
He was met with anger and frustration during his visits to fire-affected communities.
Mr Albanese has overtaken Mr Morrison as preferred prime minister and leads the Liberal leader 43 to 39 per cent, according to the survey of 1505 voters conducted from January 8-11.
Support for the Greens rose one point to 12 per cent, while One Nation lost ground, falling one point to four per cent.
Backing for other minor parties dropped off one point to eight per cent.
PM SAYS CLIMATE CHANGE POLICY NEEDS TO 'EVOLVE'
Mr Morrison said he could have happened the crisis better.
"There are things I could have handled on the ground much better," Mr Morrison told ABC TV on Sunday.
"These are sensitive, emotional environments.
"Prime ministers are flesh and blood too in how they engage with these people." He said in hindsight he would not have taken his family for a holiday to Hawaii, despite being defensive about it in a radio interview at the time. His original intention was to holiday, as was routine for his family, on the NSW south coast.
Mr Morrison said the scale of the bushfires was "unprecedented" and had created a situation in which Australians were demanding a greater response from the federal government than had been provided in the past.
"That was not something that was recommended going into this fire season," he said.
Mr Morrison says he accepts climate change is driving longer, hotter and drier summer seasons and the government's emissions targets need to "evolve".
The prime minister has faced criticism for lacking ambition to cut Australia's emissions and a number of his Coalition party room colleagues have downplayed the link between climate change and recent devastating bushfires.
Australia has pledged to cut emissions by 26 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030, under the Paris Agreement.
"It is my intention to meet and beat that target," Mr Morrison told reporters on Sunday.
"We are going to continue to evolve our policy in this area to reduce emissions even further and we are going to do it without a carbon tax, without putting up electricity prices and without shutting down traditional industries," he added in an ABC TV interview.
Asked whether he was open to moving the existing target, he said: "What I'm saying is 'we want to reduce emissions and do the best job we possibly can and get better and better and better at it'".
Mr Morrison acknowledged some within coalition ranks felt climate change had nothing to do with the bushfires. But it was the government's "uncontested" advice and position that climate change was impacting on longer, hotter, drier summer seasons.
Mr Morrison said one of the issues which should be explored by a royal commission into the bushfires, which he will put to cabinet and state premiers in coming weeks, would be the impact of climate change.
On Sunday, Guardian Australia published an article by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull who argued the world must stop burning coal "if we are to avoid the worst consequences of global warming".
Mr Turnbull also urged his successor to reinstate the national energy guarantee policy and lift targets to cut emissions.
Mr Morrison stressed the government would "meet and beat" its emissions target and had implemented the "reliability" part of the NEG policy. Australia Institute executive director Ben Oquist said it was a "good move" to include climate in the terms of reference for a royal commission.
"But Australia will have to do more to tackle coal and gas to have a credible climate policy on the international stage," he said.
"The coal and gas industry should begin to help pay the mounting costs of climate impacts, recovery and adaptation through the introduction of a climate disaster levy." Mr Morrison has rejected the idea of a levy, arguing it would hurt the broader economy.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the government did not have a climate policy to tweak, given its commitment to use Kyoto credits to achieve the emissions cut target.
"At the moment they have … accounting tricks, rather than actually reducing emissions," Mr Albanese told reporters in Hobart.
"Good policy on climate change will create jobs, will lower emissions, and lower energy prices."