Craig Emerson thinks we are getting political posturing and policy paralysis in parliament right now, and that’s what we’ll continue to get in the 45th parliament unless attitudes and strategies change.
Emerson suggests that Malcolm Turnbull will be facing two oppositions in parliament, one across the aisle and one within (make that many):
- The more Mr Turnbull tries to appease the masters of hyper-partisanship in the Coalition’s extreme right by pursuing their lunar agenda and by slagging off at Labor and progressives in the broader community, the less productive will be the 45th parliament and his own prime ministership.
If the prime minister is to avoid that miserable fate, he needs first to get over the circumstances of the close election result. Scare campaigns are unethical, he protests. But Mr Turnbull’s real gripe is that his own scare campaign about “Labor’s housing tax” crashing house prices didn’t work while Labor’s campaign on Medicare privatisation did.
Both Shorten and Turnbull need to show statesmanship, but the initiative really lies with Turnbull if the tone is to be changed.
Emerson says that if Turnbull’s budget team sat down with Shorten’s talented economic team – Chris Bowen, Jim Chalmers and Andrew Leigh – there may be surprising results.
As the matter stands Turnbull announced that they would table $6.5 billion worth of cuts which Labor included in its election costings and demanded that Labor support them sight unseen. Labor would never do that, nor should they, until the formal document is on the table.
Now that it’s there Labor says the detail doesn’t line up, the Government says it does. Here I’m going on what Tony Bourke and Christopher Pyne said on radio, neither of whom have budget responsibilities. But that’s what we’ve got – shouting across the gulf that divides to score political points.
Turnbull has raised the rhetoric, calling budget repair a “moral challenge”. His strategy seems to be to try to smoodge the crossbench in the Senate. However, he needs 9 out of 11, which means he’ll need both Xenophon and One Nation, who will want to do deals. I think he’ll soon get sick of that.
Last year business, trade unions and civil society groups came together in a National Reform Summit, organised by Emerson and others, in search of common policy ground. He says the statement released at last August showed the found plenty of it. But after a promising start under Turnbull’s prime ministership, the summit statement has been ignored in the lead-up to the election and since.
Emerson says some of the main players seem ready to fight another round. Last time they worked on productivity growth, workforce participation, fiscal policy, tax reform and retirement incomes policy, to which other items to be added now include infrastructure investment, the future of work and the alleviation of social disadvantage.
There’s plenty of work to do.
Meanwhile Ross Gittins thinks we worry too much about debt. He quotes Malcolm Turnbull tugging on the heartstrings of nice people everywhere:
- “We sing Advance Australia Fair,” he said, “but there’s nothing more unfair than saddling our children and our grandchildren with mountains of debt that we have created because our generation could not live within its means.
“If we aren’t prepared to make the tough choices today – younger Australians, future generations, will be forced to pay back the debt through a combination of higher taxes and a lower quantity or diminished quality of government services. In short, through lower living standards than they would otherwise have enjoyed.”
Sorry, but that’s not true. It’s roughly the opposite of the truth. And I don’t believe someone as smart as Turnbull actually believes it.
He says that according to the federal budget papers, the underlying cash deficit is expected to be $37 billion this financial year, roughly what we’ll spend on infrastructure.
The current game-playing includes a bunch of twenty senators want to change the Racial Discrimination Act. Specifically they want to be allowed to “insult” and “offend” people racially, using “sarcasm” and “tone”. Those last two, along with getting the facts wrong, is what brought Andrew Bolt undone in the courts. Otherwise, under the exemptions available as a journalist he could have gotten away with what he did.
Ewan Jones, a Liberal who lost his seat is not impressed. He told Tony Abbott, when it was raised in the last parliament, that Abbott needed to think of Ken Wyatt crossing the floor, with “all us white guys on one side and Ken sitting on the other.”
- Jones blasted his colleagues for launching an identity politics frolic when the government needed all MPs to knuckle down on the government’s policy agenda.
“How many of these men from my party had their seats in jeopardy during the election? This is what gives me the shits,” Jones said.
Apparently the women are invisible.
Note: The image at the head of the post is from an article by Guy Rundle at Crikey (paywalled) entitled The end of two party politics, inspired by what happened in the Northern Territory, Trump and Jeremy Corbyn.
It’s complex, but I think he’s saying that a genuinely new politics will not emerge in Australia until we suffer the real pain of a recession.