12/09/2013 - 12:09

How much will really change?

12/09/2013 - 12:09


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The certainty and stability that business craves from Canberra may not be delivered.

The certainty and stability that business craves from Canberra may not be delivered.

The results of last weekend’s national election came as a welcome relief to many people.

After years of infighting and deal-making, the coalition’s decisive victory was seen as an opportunity to re-establish orderly, predictable government.

That is certainly the tone prime minister-elect Tony Abbott has brought to public discussion.

He said this week his emphasis was on being “purposeful, methodical, calm and conscientious”.

If anything, he has been very modest in his aspirations, saying he wants to lead a “competent” government.

That certainly gives him an opportunity to under-promise and over-deliver, which would be the opposite of Labor’s track record.

Mr Abbott has also signalled clearly that he won’t be rushed, saying that he wants legislation properly prepared before recalling parliament.

“The last thing I want to do is rush the Parliament back for a photo opportunity before the substance of the work is there for it to do,” he said.

That’s an entirely sensible approach, except for the fact that he spent the election campaign telling us that Australia faced a budget crisis and a border control emergency.

It was a similar story with the coalition’s budget strategy. The costings and savings released at the 11th hour of the campaign, when there was effectively no opportunity for analysis or debate, add up to just a little more than what Labor had promised.

In addition, the new government has outlined plans for multiple policy reviews, including of the tax system and competition policy.

There will also be a commission of audit and a Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council.

Coming after some of Labor’s bungled policies, like the pink batts fiasco and the Building the Education Revolution program, there is sense in ‘hastening slowly’.

But not to the point where nothing happens.

Once the new government works out what it wants to do, an even bigger challenge will be getting its legislation through the Senate.

Labor and the Greens will have control of the Senate up to July next year and they are already arguing that Mr Abbott does not have a mandate to axe the carbon tax.

The government’s task may get even harder next year, when a strange and largely unknown collection of independents and micro parties, including WA’s very own Australian Sports Party, will hold the balance of power.

Mr Abbot has been very diplomatic in his language, saying he would like to reform the electoral system but would respect the people who do get elected.

He also says he wants the new parliament to be more cooperative and constructive, which is a bit rich after his unrelenting attacks on Labor.

As for Labor, it has been asserting that the election loss was all because of infighting and that its policy record was not the problem.

Clearly, Labor MPs need a reality check.

They have also been saying they need to move on from the factional infighting, in the same week we have had reports that union powerbroker Paul Howes is being lined up to replace former foreign minister Bob Carr in the Senate.

And it’s the same Labor that has elected just one senator from WA, union powerbroker Joe Bullock.

Does anyone really think these are the kind of people that will reform Labor?


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