A telling statistic illustrates the extent to which the Turnbull government has become a do-nothing government.

Since Tony Abbott’s ouster six months ago, the government has passed 21 bills through Parliament. In the equivalent period over 2014-15, Tony Abbott’s government passed more than 60 bills.

The volume of legislation isn’t necessarily a sound guide to the quality of a government. And some allowance must be made for the fact that, with a change of prime minister and two reshuffles, the ordinary business of government will slow somewhat.

But the fact that the Turnbull government has managed just a fraction of the parliamentary business of the Abbott government says much for the drift and indecisiveness that has characterised the first six months of Malcolm Turnbull’s time as Prime Minister. The Abbott government repeatedly complained of Senate obstructionism, yet it was able to pass legislation at a much higher rate than the current government. Perhaps Turnbull would not be in such a hurry for a double dissolution election if he were achieving the same strike rate as Tony Abbott and his ministers. Or perhaps he simply hasn’t tried.

As we enter the last sitting week before the budget, the focus of the government seems to be on bringing the budget forward and presenting a minimalist tax package designed to give voters a handout ahead of an early election.

This is merely strategising to secure an election win. After that, it seems, the Prime Minister thinks his current problems — a recalcitrant Senate, a fractious backbench, a lack of personal mandate — will disappear.

For the nation’s sake, let’s hope he’s right. Because this isn’t governing, it’s treading water until something comes along.

Peter Fray

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