I have been offering Malcolm Turnbull advice on a change of political direction for some time now. It began to take effect recently Malcolm Turnbull has been reading my blogs (at last) is a summary of the sum of my wisdom.
Mark Kenny writes in today’s Age “If Shorten is under new pressure, he did a passable job of not showing it. Yet his party has been stung by the Coalition’s appropriation of the middle ground.”
Essentially, my argument is that there is no mileage in Turnbull trying to recapture ground from the rabid right. There aren’t many votes out there and most of the preferences will drift to him in the lower house anyhow. He needs to be regaining some of the middle ground.
And that’s what the Morrison budget sets out to do.
I won’t bore you with the detail but it picks up a lot of the ideas that Labor has been pushing, most notably Gonski funding.
It’s clever politics but somewhat dubious economics. For instance, Morrison says that the deficit is going to return to surplus. This is what the graph looks like.
The return to surplus
If you believe this kind of stuff you still believe in the tooth fairy.
Nonetheless, there are measures to make sure that the NDIS is better funded through higher taxation, a bit of bank bashing and indirect taxation through a levy on banks, all of which indicates that Morrison now does recognise that Australia has a revenue problem.
All in all it’s pretty much an about-face from the disastrous days of the Hockey budgets. There is even a tax on cigars.
Last night, Shorten gave one of his best performances in his Budget reply speech.
He did what you would expect him to have done. He made a clear differentiation between the Labor-Lite of the Turnbull government and what a Labor government would do: legislate for gay marriage, action on climate change, block increases in fees for university students, take some on firm action on housing affordability by dealing with the problems of negative gearing and capital gains tax.
It now remains to be seen whether the opinion polls will show any improvement in the fortunes of the Liberal party and Malcolm Turnbull. If they do, he will have gained a considerable victory over the right wing of his party and will be able to pull Coalition more to the centre. This will mean he will to be able to mount an effective campaign against Shorten which may in turn destabilise his position in the Labor Party.
If there is no improvement in the polls, then Malcolm Turnbull and possibly Scott Morrison are dead in the water. The implications for the Liberal party are horrendous. The right, led by reinvigorated Tony Abbott, will lead them like lemmings over the cliff.