Leading article Australia

Could do better

7 April 2016

1:00 PM

7 April 2016

1:00 PM

And so those who kill by the polls now refuse to be judged by them. It was wrong of Malcolm Turnbull to brush off questions about the latest Newspoll – showing Labor winning the next election – with flippant gags about not being interested in engaging in political commentary. Two clear reasons were given by the former Communications Minister for replacing Tony Abbott as prime minister last September; one being the lack of ‘economic leadership’ and the other the ongoing poor polling of the party. It is only reasonable then, that as with any employee in any business, from the dispatch kid to the CEO, Mr Turnbull must hold himself to account on his own KPIs (his key performance indicators) and be measured against the workplace expectations he himself set.

So, after six months in the job, if Mr Turnbull won’t honestly appraise his KPIs, allow us to do it for him. There has been little or no overt economic leadership of any exceptional quality. The electorate are clearly confused about the priorities of the government – indeed, the government themselves at times have appeared confused – and any number of good, bad and downright ugly ideas have seemingly floated out of nowhere before disappearing back into the ether. The test of economic leadership now falls to Scott Morrison and his talented team. Again, were Mr Turnbull having his performance assessed by his boss, it would be pointed out rather forcefully that his inability to foster a solid working relationship with his Treasurer – or more importantly, his inability to foster the appearance of such – marks him down. It is irrelevant whether the two of them loathe or love each other, catch cabs together or eat off each other’s forks. What is critical to economic leadership is that they present themselves as joined at the hip both on messaging and on philosophy, and this has not been the case. It still beggars belief that the Prime Minister, with his fondness for innovative and agile technology such as Snapchat, could not even be bothered texting Mr Morrison that the date of the budget had been moved forward. Economic leadership? Let’s be generous and say a B minus, although hopefully that will improve dramatically with the budget. Somewhere in the A’s would be nice, but that will require substantial spending cuts, tax cuts and no raiding of super.

Next, the polls. Since the beginning of the year, following the long honeymoon, it has been obvious that a Coalition victory is no ‘lay down misère’. This is disturbing. Mr Turnbull must explain why the polls have slipped, and how he intends to address the slump.

But worse than being flippant, refusing to discuss the polling figures was a classic missed opportunity. The PM should be using every single possible excuse – every microphone, every doorstop, every selfie – between now and July 2 to ram home to the voters two things and two things above all else: firstly, that there is a genuine possibility Labor could crawl back into government, and secondly, that letting Bill Shorten, Chris Bowen, Penny Wong and Tony Burke anywhere near your wallet would be stupidity and madness of the highest order.

The mismanagement of our economy under the lamentable Rudd and Gillard governments, the subservience to the corrupt and productivity-sapping practices of the trade unions by Mr Shorten, the legislating of eye-wateringly expensive social welfare and ‘progressive’ programs without the faintest clue of how to pay for them, and the wanton neglect of our border controls by Rudd et al should have ensured a lengthy spell in the political wilderness for the Labor party. At the very least Labor need to remain in opposition and return to Hawke-Keating principles, purge the worst of their socialist undergraduate MPs and Senators, and sever their destructive trade union links. Instead, we are faced with the terrifying possibility on 2 July of a Labor win and a return to crazyland.

Malcolm can do and must do better. For the sake of us all.

In praise of Michaelia’s twang

The voice may grate, and sit at odds with the Thatcherite hairdo and styling. But there is little doubt that the new Minister for Employment is a strong asset for the government. The case against the unions will be critical if the cross bench Senators are silly enough to allow an ABCC double dissolution election to occur (sending most of them into well-deserved early retirement and blissful obscurity). Thus far, Ms Cash has sounded convincingly angry about the rorting of contruction workplaces, and critically, she is selling the idea that it’s the everyday Australian who is getting dudded the most. The blue collar ocker twang doesn’t hurt either. Ken oath.

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