Parliament’s first sitting bloc of the year is over, and the Coalition has scored an easy victory.

Another fortnight of Labor talking about itself. Another fortnight of a beaming Kevin Rudd popping up on TV. Another fortnight of the corruption claims in New South Wales and Craig Thomson. Another fortnight in which you have to admire Julia Gillard — however grudgingly — for getting out of bed in the morning.

Labor has five more sitting sessions to turn the situation around before the September 14 election (and one of those sessions is Senate only).

And one of the approaches the ALP has used effectively to attack the Coalition — Tony Abbott’s lack of policy substance — has begun to change, ever so slightly.

Two policy proposals — for development in the Top End, and more dam-building — have been leaked recently. There will be more to come. You may not agree with the policies themselves, but if you’ve railed long and hard against Abbott’s policy vacuum, give the Coalition some credit for doing something about it.

Andrew Robb and Tony Smith have spent more than a year leading an internal Coalition policy committee. Expect a focus on “cutting government waste” and building physical infrastructure that paints Abbott as an action man. Don’t expect much structural economic reform. Expect more Institute of Public Affairs-sponsored policies in the Coalition armoury — as we point out in Tips and Rumours today.

This presents a challenge and an opportunity to Labor: to shift gears from the “no policy Abbott” attack towards effective policy demolition.

But to do that, Labor would have to stop talking about itself. Based on the last fortnight, that’s a challenge indeed.

*****

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Peter Fray

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