January 30th 2016


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Dyson report only partial answer to union problems

CANBERRA OBSERVED No urgency but Turnbull will want to make his mark

NATIONAL AFFAIRS SA pays price of solar and wind generation

FRENCH POLITICS AND ISLAM Kepel scathing of French elites, Salafists and far-right Islamophobes

ENVIRONMENT New bushfire tragedies: when will we ever learn?

RELIGION IN RUSSIA Betrayal: Curia no friend to Russian Catholics

HISTORY OF TAIWAN From pivot of Dutch trade to Japanese outpost

LIFE ISSUES Victoria enacts law based on lies told to Parliament

LIFE ISSUES Euthanasia: a false start to end-of-life issues

ETHICS Book traces foundations of true civilisation

RELIGION AND SOCIETY A welcome in truth for the same-sex attracted

CINEMA The beauty beyond fear: The Good Dinosaur

BOOK REVIEW Secularism mars insights

BOOK REVIEW A novel for the remnant

LETTERS

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CANBERRA OBSERVED
No urgency but Turnbull will want to make his mark




News Weekly, January 30, 2016

There are a couple of safe bets about how Malcolm Turnbull intends to govern as Australia’s 29th prime minister, but there are also some big unknowns which will also make the Turnbull era highly unpredictable.

Is Tony Abbott back in the picture?

The first sure thing is that, having worked so long and fought so hard to reach the pinnacle of Australian politics, Mr Turnbull intends to remain in the job for some considerable time.

After churning prime ministers (on average one every 24 months) over the recent past, Australian politics is desperate for a period of stability and longevity in order for serious structural reforms and clear policy direction to happen.

Mr Turnbull knows this better than anyone and intends to be the leader to provide that level of certainty.

As a result he will always have one eye on the politics and may not be as determined as his predecessor Tony Abbott to slash debt at speed. Reform will come, but not necessarily as fast as say the business community will demand.

And if Mr Turnbull can get the politics right, the urgency for change will not be as pressing.

The second safe bet is that the man who came close to almost singlehandedly turning Australia into a republic is not in politics to mark time.

In other words, counter-intuitively, Mr Turnbull will want to use his political capital to leave his mark on history, which may mean social reform as well as economic reform.

This could even mean a fiscal reversal that involves major infrastructure investment in public transport, as well as the mooted overhaul of the tax system.

In between these two truths is another, which is that in the past Malcolm Bligh Turnbull was the journalist turned lawyer turned businessman turned politician who is prone to ill-considered judgements and bouts of indecision.

The current polls suggest that Mr Turnbull will be returned whenever the election is held in 2016. Which is good, because he needs plenty of time to settle into the job and make the reforms required to get the country moving into the next era after the end of the long mining boom.

Then there are also some Turnbull unknowns.

For example, how will he deal with Tony Abbott, who, it appears, is increasingly likely to stay in Federal Parliament?

Will the PM bring his opponent back into the fold and appoint him to a ministry or even bring him back into Cabinet? Or will he leave Mr Abbott languishing on the backbench?

The danger for Mr Turnbull is that Mr Abbott will use his Elba exile to plot a return (Elba is the Mediterranean island where Napoleon was exiled with 600 personal guards for 300 days to plot his return to France).

Mr Abbott has his own loyal personal guard of MPs, such as former ministers Kevin Andrews and Senator Eric Abetz, and will carefully watch Mr Turnbull’s performance on issues such as defence spending, border control, immigration, national security and national social cohesion.

If Mr Turnbull’s performance in these areas falls short or his worldview turns out to be out of synch with the Australian electorate, it will provide an opportunity for Mr Abbott to make a comeback in the next couple of terms.

Another unknown is whether Mr Turnbull will be able to translate his cult-like popularity in the inner suburbs of the big cities to the suburbs and the regions.

The PM is enjoying the adulation of the city-based ABC and Fairfax Media, but the rest of the population is giving him the benefit of the doubt rather than their vote.

Until the election we will not know whether Mr Turnbull can capture the hearts and minds of the majority of Australians.

Election speculation is likely to dominate political commentary throughout 2016, but the odds of an early election remain slim.

Mr Turnbull has declared that the poll will take place in September or October, and there is no reason that he should switch from that. Labor Leader Bill Shorten will not be challenged between now and the election, so Mr Turnbull has no urgent need to capitalise on Mr Shorten’s unpopularity.

Then there is the small matter of tax reform. Mr Turnbull knows that if he takes a tax-reform package to the states and to the electorate, it will require a lot of selling.

Mr Turnbull knows he needs time to settle into the job, to get comfortable in the job, because he realises that the real things he wants to do for the nation will take more than just one term.

Tony Abbott notwithstanding.




























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