March 26th 2016

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Articles from this issue:

ROYAL COMMISSION INTO SEXUAL ABUSE: J'accuse...! A travesty of justice

CANBERRA OBSERVED Turnbull's grand plan coming apart it seems

EDITORIAL Defence White Paper: rhetoric outpaces action


DOMESTIC AND FAMILY VIOLENCE Is not family breakdown the real issue?

ECONOMICS Oil offers resistance to free market's operation

HISTORY OF TAIWAN Kaohsiung Incident opens road to democracy

LAW AND SOCIETY Section 18C may render all speech "inoffensive"

VICTORIAN PARLIAMENT Risk to democracy, rights in health complaints bill

RESEARCH Transgenderism: treat it as a mental illness

MUSIC In deliberate pursuit of accidental sounds: Arve Henriksen

CINEMA AND SOCIETY Hollywood writes in "hero" part for Trumbo

CINEMA Hailing the Golden Era: Hail Caesar!

BOOK REVIEW Diminished expectations

BOOK REVIEW 12 million refugees

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Turnbull's grand plan coming apart it seems

News Weekly, March 26, 2016

There was considerable conjecture in the early days of Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministership on how the new PM would use his political capital.

Post-honeymoon PM

Mr Turnbull rode a wave of support from a fawning media, particularly from Fairfax and the ABC stables – and was granted a high degree of goodwill from the Australian people, who were hoping for an end to the procession of prime ministers that had characterised the previous five years.

True, there was some lingering disappointment from conservative MPs in the Coalition and the rusted-on Tony Abbott supporters, who remained bitter about the removal of their man after just two years in the job.

Nonetheless, there was little doubt that Mr Turnbull enjoyed an extended honeymoon period in which to map out his agenda.

But rather than embarking on a campaign of major tax reform, on industrial relations reform, or on a re-alignment of the Federation and government spending, the Turnbull Government seems instead to have sailed into the doldrums, becalmed on a sea of indecision and inaction.

Labor has been particularly effective in fanning this image of the Turnbull Government, but Mr Turnbull has not helped by delaying announcements on changes to the tax system, to the superannuation system, and other initiatives.

There has been confusion over whether there would be a separate tax policy announcement or whether the budget will be brought forward.

Neither Coalition party has denied claims that Mr Turnbull had dissuaded Treasurer Scott Morrison from a major overhaul of the tax system, while raising or broadening the GST has been ditched altogether.

The fact that Mr Turnbull ditched the GST was probably a sensible decision, but it came after weeks of raised expectations and speculation that it was being seriously considered.0

Greens deal a “looming disaster”

As it turns out Mr Turnbull’s real game plan seems to have been to work on a grand re-election plan; an elaborate strategy involving engaging the help of the Greens to remove the pesky crossbenchers from the Senate, and to squeeze out the Labor Party into complete irrelevance in Opposition, thereby setting up Mr Turnbull for three years of clean air to govern.

In other words, it is a political strategy not a policy reform strategy.

Conservative commentators have been warning about Mr Turnbull’s grand plan, especially his apparent desire to accommodate the Greens in a power-sharing arrangement under his Senate reform proposals.

The Daily Telegraph’s Miranda Devine says the deal is a “looming disaster” for the Coalition, arguing that the crossbenchers may indeed be a difficult motley crew but are more representative of the Australian people and far more preferable to the Greens, especially when it comes to holding the balance of power.

Quoting South Australian Family First Senator Bob Day, Devine says the crossbenchers bring a real-world perspective.

“ ‘A builder, a vet, a blacksmith, a soldier, a footballer, a saw miller and an engineer. What would we know,’ says Senator Day, a builder,” Devine wrote.

A returned Turnbull Government without the brakes of the rag-tag senators but in cahoots with the Greens would be free to deliver same-sex marriage, a republic, a carbon trading scheme, and other left policy agendas, she says.

Double dissolution no solution

Yet there is no guarantee that Mr Turnbull will even get the outcome he desires.

If there is a double dissolution election it is more than likely that Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie will be re-elected, possibly with a successful running mate sitting alongside her in the Senate, while Queenslander Glenn Lazarus may also get back in.

Certainly Nick Xenophon will be returned in South Australia, along with perhaps two or three senators in his name in different states.

The unions are furious with the Greens for cosying up to the Coalition, and the CMFEU and the ETU are likely to withdraw their financial support, which will return to the ALP.

So Mr Turnbull could end up with another Senate that is difficult to manage, and moreover will have alienated many conservatives in his own party in the process.

For the general public the machinations and politicking in the Senate is largely a sideshow, and the Prime Minister is hoping the election will sweep away all the criticisms of being indecisive and lacking a clear direction.

The Prime Minister came to power with high hopes from his MPs, particularly that he was far more electable than Mr Abbott.

He will need a strong win at the election so that he can assert his authority over the party and the Parliament, but there is a strong chance his grand plan for a co-operative Greens–Coalition Senate may never become reality.

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