SCOTT Morrison won the election without having to put forward many policies. That won’t make governing easy.
In 2013 and 2016 the coalition had some economic and social policies to push through, but the well has run drier the longer the government has been in power.
Income tax cuts are coming, and then what?
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When the government of the day doesn’t fill the air time with its own policy agenda, it becomes reactive to what other people put forward.
The issues Labor identified during the campaign are still going to be problems for the coalition until the prime minister and his cabinet come up with solutions for them.
Energy prices continue to bite.
On election night Julie Bishop suggested the coalition revisit the National Energy Guarantee, the policy Morrison was intimately involved with under Malcolm Turnbull.
It had support from business, unions, state governments, the vast majority of the Liberal party, and Labor was prepared to provide bipartisan support.
With Tony Abbott gone, and his need to remove Turnbull also gone, the way is open for Morrison to bring the guarantee back – maybe with yet another makeover.
The guarantee was also a way to bring emissions down, which Morrison admitted during the campaign had gone up under the coalition.
Climate change was an issue in Abbott losing his Sydney beachside seat of Warringah. It hurt the Liberal vote in heartland Victorian seats like Kooyong and Higgins.
Under the coalition’s current policies emissions will continue to rise and climate will remain a political problem unless something is done.
Labor refused to commit to increasing Newstart but Bill Shorten said it had to go up. The Business Council of Australia also called for an increase.
Even the Liberal’s party great elder John Howard last year called for the dole payment to be increased beyond just inflation.
“I was in favour of freezing that when it happened, but I think the freeze has probably gone on too long,” Howard said a year ago.
During the campaign the Country Women’s Association hosted Morrison and asked him to raise Newstart due to the number of rural people living in poverty.
“It is impossible to live on $40 a day in rural and regional Australia. You cannot run a car, pay the rent and buy groceries with such little money,” national president Tanya Cameron said.
Independent MPs Zali Steggall, Andrew Wilkie, Bob Katter, Helen Haines and Rebekha Sharkie all want Newstart increased.
Morrison has so far refused to consider a Newstart raise. He says the best welfare is a job.
But giving Australia’s poorest people more spending power is a way of stimulating the economy when consumption numbers are tanking.
With such a diverse range of groups lined up arguing for an increase, the coalition will continue to face pressure to make a change.
To pay for its promises Labor was going to change negative gearing and franking credit rules. Those policies will not be adopted, given the coalition won on scare campaigns about them.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told Adelaide radio 5AA it was “absolutely false” that the coalition might consider making some changes to these areas of taxation.
Morrison had previously considered changes to negative gearing when he was treasurer, but the housing market has slowed since then.
Instead franking credits is an area the coalition could and should look at.
Australia is the only country in the world with a scheme this generous, effectively redistributing wealth from middle class taxpayers to asset-rich share owners.
Initially meant to cost the budget $500 million a year, it is now at $5 billion a year and soon to hit $8 billion.
Not figuring out a way to curb the worst excesses of this blown-out policy would be irresponsible to the budget and taxpayers.
Morrison won the election poking holes in Labor’s policies and campaigning on the coalition’s economic record. It’s rare for governments to change when the economy is good.
But he can’t cede the policy ground for three more years. He’ll have to find an agenda.
© AAP 2019