Scott Morrison

Scott Morrison is facing a fierce backlash from voters over last week’s disgusting self-indulgence by the Liberals, even though he had little to do with it. But if he’s to either be competitive with Labor at the election — a prospect dismissed as unlikely by many now, but remember how Tony Abbott turned around the Liberals in 2010 — or save the furniture, there are some key issues he needs to address:

Explain why Malcolm Turnbull was removed. It’s crucial that Morrison doesn’t repeat Labor’s error in 2010 of failing to explain to Australians why their Prime Minister had to be removed. No one cared in 2015 because we were delighted to see the back of Abbott. But without an explanation, voters will reach their own conclusion, that the Liberals are more interested in settling scores than running the country. And “Turnbull couldn’t unite the party”, which is the line Mathias Cormann has been running, isn’t anywhere near enough. 

Make wage stagnation the government’s key economic focus. Morrison and his new Treasurer Josh Frydenberg have a great story to tell on jobs growth. But with unemployment at 5.3%, the majority of voters don’t care about new jobs, they care about their wages, and the government has refused to take the issue seriously. MYEFO, or better yet an end-of-year mini-budget, should be used to provide more realistic WPI forecasts and describe a plan to tackle them — perhaps starting by increasing income tax cuts, even if dumping the company tax cuts provides little funding in the immediate future.

Take back control of of immigration. As the man who so successfully “stopped the boats”, Morrison is well-placed to address the issue that lurks at the heart of the immigration “debate” in Australia — that we’ve lost control of our borders. This time, it’s not maritime arrivals, which push the buttons of a white colonial settler culture, but regular immigration into cities — Sydney and Melbourne — unprepared for such a high volume of new arrivals.

With David Coleman from Western Sydney as the new Immigration minister and Alan Tudge from Melbourne as population minister, Morrison needs to signal to voters in those cities that he has a policy, in cooperation with the NSW, Victorian and relevant local governments, to minimise the negative impacts of immigration on housing and infrastructure. And that must include the road pricing inquiry promised by the Turnbull government way back in 2016.

New financial regulatory arrangements. It’s clear from the banking royal commission that not merely is financial “regulator” ASIC little short of a joke, but the once well-respected APRA is also useless. ASIC needs to be dumped as the consumer financial services guardian and replaced with the ACCC, and Morrison and Frydenberg will have to do something that every fibre of their Liberal beings will object to — impose an aggressive regulator on the banks. Pity the new Assistant Treasurer is Stuart Robert, a man there purely for doing Morrison’s numbers, not for any ministerial talent.

Start restoring voter trust in government. The best way to signal to the electorate that politics is not an enclave for the influential and wealthy is an independent federal anti-corruption body along the lines of a NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption, followed by a fundamental overhaul of political donation laws

Kill off Labor’s cynical Catholic school campaign.The Turnbull government commendably tried to properly implement the original Gonski education funding recommendations, which meant more funding for public schools and reducing the funding increase to the greedy, gouging Catholic school sector only up to as much as it would have received under a proper allocation. Labor lied that this was a funding cut and have reaped the political benefits ever since. There’s no political choice but to cut a deal with the Catholic sector — a policy tragedy and a win for sectarian parasites, but crucial to the Coalition’s electoral chances.

What do you think of Morrison’s chances? Send us your responses to [email protected].

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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