2019 Federal Election Update #5
MORRISON’S WAY: SCOMO SETS UP SIX MORE YEARS
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has come out of the ‘election gates’ with a confidence and direction that could well set up the Coalition for six years in power. He has stamped his authority with a new look Ministry that elevates a number of untested MPs into frontline portfolios while retaining key senior ministers. By deftly combining continuity with some cleverly nuanced shifts, he has positioned himself as John Howard’s true successor in conservative politics.
The PM has signalled a more ambitious reform agenda while acknowledging the need to target problem areas of Commonwealth administration. Notably, Angus Taylor’s Energy portfolio now includes responsibility for Emissions, opening the way for integrated policy on energy and climate change. Meanwhile Sussan Ley has replaced Melissa Price in the Environment portfolio and Attorney-General Christian Porter has added Industrial Relations to his portfolios. Also notable is a role for Warren Entsch as Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef. A new customer service agency, modelled on the NSW Government’s Service NSW, was also unveiled.
There are symbolic milestones with a record number of women in the Ministry, the first ever female Minister for Agriculture in Bridget McKenzie and first ever indigenous Minister for Indigenous Australians in Ken Wyatt.
Senators Arthur Sinodinos and Mitch Fifield will leave our shores as US Ambassador and Ambassador to the United Nations. As one of the best political minds of his generation, Sinodinos is an ideal choice to wrangle the Trump administration and protect our trade interests.
Effectively what we are seeing is the birth of what could be a new, better model of Coalition Government than we have seen in the past two terms, one more akin to the Howard years and capable of stability and longevity.
There has been much discussion of similarities between this election and 1993, when a new PM, Paul Keating, beat an Opposition that scared voters with a big and complex tax agenda. The morning after the 1993 win, though, Keating was still at the Lodge in his pyjamas at 11am, exhausted after a decade of government. By contrast, Scott Morrison has been a live wire since last Saturday. He already looks like a two-termer who is prepared to shore up his election success with continuous campaigning.
The PM can be expected to grow in office like Howard. Having shown Howard-like political judgment that has been in short supply under previous leaders, there is no obvious leadership rival to Morrison so political tensions should ease in Coalition.
Can Scott Morrison keep Australia feeling ‘relaxed and comfortable’ as his role model John Howard did? On initial indications the way ahead for Morrison looks promising, notwithstanding the unknown trajectory of the world economy and the US-China tensions with its reverberations for Australia. His second term agenda is likely to reflect the winning formula from the election: managing economy in a downturn, tax reform, and possibly a more centrist approach on climate change. Superannuation reform is also on the cards. It is going to be a complicated road ahead for business which will need to stay on its toes and plugged into the policy making process.
Ministry – winners and losers
The PM’s close friend, Queenslander Stuart Robert, has been appointed to Cabinet to overhaul the troubled National Disability Insurance Scheme. South Australian Anne Ruston has been elevated into Cabinet as Minister for Social Services – one of seven women announced as part of the new Morrison senior frontbench.
Paul Fletcher has been promoted into Cabinet as Minister for Communications and Cybersafety. Western Australian Michaelia Cash returns to Cabinet after a period in exile, appointed as Minister for Employment, Skills, Family and Small Business.
Tasmanian Richard Colbeck will take over as Minister for Aged Care, ensuring he will be responsible for managing the fallout from the Royal Commission into aged care facilities.
In addition to his new IR role, Christian Porter has taken over Christopher Pyne’s role as Manager of Government Business in the House.
The Government’s economics team has a distinct Victorian feel: Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will be supported by Alan Tudge as Minister for Population, Cities and Infrastructure while Michael Sukkar becomes Assistant Treasurer. Fellow Victorian Senator Jane Hume will be given the task of muscling up to the powerful industry superannuation funds as Assistant Minister for Superannuation.
Mathias Cormann will continue as Finance Minister while Western Australian Senator Linda Reynolds will take over the prized Defence portfolio from the retired Christopher Pyne.
The Nationals pushed hard for additional Ministry spots but didn’t get them. Deputy PM Michael McCormack keeps Transport and Infrastructure. Deputy Leader Bridget McKenzie’s inheritance of the prized Agriculture portfolio from David Littleproud may, however, reverberate within the Nationals’ party room where he is seen as a future leader. He has instead been handed a grab bag of responsibilities, including Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management.
State of the parties
The Coalition looks likely to stretch its 76-seat majority to a very comfortable 78 seats against Labor’s 69 seats. Three seats are still being counted: the one to watch is Macquarie which covers the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury and where, as of today, Liberal challenger Sarah Richards was ahead of Labor MP Susan Templeman by just 46 votes. Bass in Tassie is still looking like a Liberal gain (650 votes ahead) while Labor (900 votes ahead) is likely to keep Wayne Swan’s former Brisbane seat of Lilley.
Senate veers right
The Senate will have a conservative and populist bent likely to favour the Coalition’s agenda. The Government is expected to have 34 Senate spots which means it will have to rely on just four or five votes from the now smaller crossbench to pass legislation. Two Centre Alliance senators, two One Nation senators and Tassie firebrand Jacqui Lambie are returning alongside a similar sized Greens contingent and Cory Bernardi. The new Senate will come into effect from 1 July.
Labor’s tortuous road
Anthony Albanese looks set to be elected unopposed following a tortuous rank and file election process with Victorian right winger Richard Marles his likely unopposed deputy. ‘Albo’ is popular and may well get a bounce in the polls. However, he will lead a Labor Party dealing with existential issues such as tax, climate change and controlling its largely left-wing grassroots membership. And unlike the Prime Minister, he has not shaken off his internal opponents. He has indicated his first action will be to go to Queensland and hear direct from voters why the State that gave birth to Labor rejected it so decisively.
Due to the ongoing Macquarie and Senate counts, the writs (the formal authority for a new Parliament from the Governor General) are unlikely to be returned for some time. There will be an automatic recount in Macquarie if the winning margin remains less than 100 votes.
As a result, Parliament is unlikely to return in June. The PM has stated he hopes to reconvene as soon as possible which could point to an unorthodox July parliamentary sitting. Scott Morrison will want to create momentum for his Government’s agenda as soon as possible.