The Politics    Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Distinct signs of competence

By Nick Feik

The government’s post-Abbott cleanup is going well

The Turnbull government is having considerable success this week completing deals or cleaning up loose ends left by the previous leadership. In contrast with its predecessors, the new team is showing distinct signs of competence.

Yesterday the government announced its response to recommendations made by the Financial System Inquiry (the Murray review), to a notable lack of serious criticism from either business groups or Opposition.

Last night, Trade Minister Andrew Robb reached an agreement with Labor’s Penny Wong on the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, which will now proceed through parliament and be in effect by December.

Today, the treasurer, Scott Morrison, and social services minister, Christian Porter, presented a revamped family benefits package which abandons many controversial measures first proposed in the 2014 budget, but still cuts around $3.5bn in government benefits (mostly from single-income and single-parent families) in order to pay for the $3.5bn childcare package promised in the 2015 budget. The senate is expected to pass the package in return for various sweeteners.

Labor has claimed victories on the latter two issues, pronouncing that its principled positions have, respectively, protected Australian jobs and benefits for Australian families. But they are minor wins. The real victory is for the Turnbull government, which has in a matter of days demonstrated an ability to negotiate that was entirely absent in the previous leadership.

(As to the deals themselves, they represent simply a slightly more moderate form of neoliberalism than was proposed initially.)

Joe Hockey, who delivered his emotive final speech to parliament today, believes he deserves some credit for setting the Coalition’s agenda, and for his contribution over 19 years, and he probably does. The historical record will show, however, that he achieved very little as treasurer, and left with his tail between his legs. In the meantime, a (rumoured) new American ambassadorship should help to rebuild his large, bruised ego – his age of entitlement is far from over.

Turnbull and his new cohorts must be feeling satisfied about their transition into power. They would do well to keep themselves in check, however, because the unfinished business of recent years will be ongoing, and won’t always be so readily resolvable. For example: In an extraordinary hearing last night, the National Broadband Network’s chief executive Bill Morrow told senate estimates that NBN Co had recently bought 1800 kms of copper wire and was going to need a lot more to facilitate its rollout. Copper wire!? What year is this, and what kind of broadband network are they building? The former communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull, may yet have some telecommunications business to manage. 

 

Today’s links

Nick Feik

Nick Feik is the editor of The Monthly.

@nickfeik

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