Is the Turnbull government genuinely different from its predecessor? Or are Labor and Tony Abbott right, that it remains the same government, just with a more electorally appealing leader?

There are some positive indications that some of Abbott’s poor policies — such as retaining Australia’s unsustainable superannuation tax concessions, and trying to curb investment in renewable energy — have been dumped.

But the core policy problems of the Abbott government remain: Australia lacks any credible policy on climate action, our strategy for returning to surplus is based on overly optimistic growth forecasts, we are needlessly involved in a Middle Eastern conflict that is in serious danger of spiralling out of control, and we are operating a detention facility on Nauru now synonymous with rape, child abuse and mistreatment of asylum seekers.

Moreover, transparency in Australian politics is at its lowest ebb in decades, with both ministers and public servants actively working to undermine what few mechanisms of public scrutiny exist in Australia.

The more positive, less combative, tone of politics that Malcolm Turnbull has ushered in welcome. This week, for example, we have actually had the beginnings of a serious discussion about infrastructure, with Labor unveiling a major policy and Cities Minister Jamie Briggs talking realistically about pricing for public transport.

But as Tony Abbott and the aggression and febrile partisanship he brought to Australian politics recedes into history, it’s incumbent on Turnbull to demonstrate how he is handling the key challenges facing Australia. And it is on that basis that he should be judged by voters.

Peter Fray

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