“The Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie held talks with Tony Abbott's chief of staff, Peta Credlin, and Labor's chief parliamentary tactician, Anthony Albanese, about his proposed poker machine reforms and other policy issues in what sources said was a bid to leverage the tightened parliamentary numbers to his advantage.”
While it may seem overly cynical to do so, we should note the political effect of prime minister Tony Abbott's forthright response to the tragic deaths of 298 people aboard Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine late last week. As expected, the Coalition appears to be benefiting according to polling by Essential Research and ReachTEL: as a rule, incumbent politicians do well out of crisis situations. With some relatively clear political air over the next month or so while parliament is on its winter break, the government can expect something of a revival in public opinion.
But when parliament resumes in late August the government will run into the same issues that saw its popularity decline rapidly since the May budget which, according to a biography of Joe Hockey released today, would have been even tougher had the treasurer had his way. The Productivity Commission highlighted one such issue – Abbott's contentious and unmodelled paid parental leave scheme, announced amid strong opposition from within his own party and later watered down – in a draft report it released yesterday. The report suggests that the benefits of the PPL are difficult to discern and recommends that funds be diverted to childcare, which remains the main barrier to new parents returning to work. Abbott remains unmoved. As things stand the PPL is merely one of a raft of budget-related measures the government will fail to get through the senate.