Time for boldness or Shorten will settle in

Time for boldness or Shorten will settle in

Opinion
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten in the Great Hall at Parliament House in Canberra. Photo by AAP Image/Mick Tsikas.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten in the Great Hall at Parliament House in Canberra. Photo by AAP Image/Mick Tsikas.

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Peter Austin summarises the last month in politics.

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Poor Scott Morrison. Who would want to be the leader of the Coalition, with an election looming next year, the polls predicting doom, and now another ill-timed Nat distraction! 

This time it’s the Victorian Member for Mallee and assistant minister Andrew Broad, who is alleged in a magazine article to have behaved badly on a work trip. What is it about these Nats – first Barnaby Joyce, now this bloke – that they have so little respect for the brand they represent.

Monday this week was supposed to have been a “good news” day for the Government, following the confirmation that the budget is set to return to the black in 2019-20, for the first time in a decade. Instead, that news item of national significance was overshadowed by the latest parliamentary scandal – as if we haven’t had enough of that sort of news lately from our rugby league and thespian glitterati.

Despite the negative polls, Morrison still has a chance to carry the day – provided he doesn’t make any more ill-considered “captain’s calls” like his crazy proposal to relocate our Israel embassy. If he doesn’t prevail, it’s likely Australia will be stuck with Labor governments for years to come, because under the “fair go” policies outlined by Bill Shorten in Adelaide last weekend, Labor will have corralled so many client groups reliant on its largesse as to make it electorally unassailable.

It was actually a rallying call delivered to delegates at last weekend’s ALP national conference by party president Wayne Swan - “You are bold or you are dead” – that Morrison must adopt as his own credo.

With the stakes high, and nothing much to lose, he must go bold on two key issues: immigration (reducing the intake substantially until infrastructure has caught up, if it ever does) and energy. On the energy front, he could open up a clear policy choice for voters by committing the Government to a nuclear program (which Labor would never attempt), and underwriting new investments in dispatchable power generation to tide us over in the meantime.

The Government must also start explaining to people how Labor’s proposed carbon emission targets would impact on the economy, and on employment, and indeed on every facet of our lives. As former Nationals senator Ron Boswell reminded us in a recent article, while most of the debate about reducing emissions has focused on electricity generation, that actually accounts for only one-third. Of the balance, almost half comes from agriculture and transport, and for Labor to achieve its stated reduction targets, it would mean for agriculture the equivalent of shutting down the entire sheepmeat and dairy sectors.

This and other “inconvenient truths” of Labor’s green-friendly climate change policies need to be trumpeted. On that note, I wish all readers a happy Christmas, followed by a new year of seasonal turnaround, drought recovery and inspired leadership.

- Peter Austin

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