Australian Election 2016 – The Tests Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull Risks Failing – And The Promise He Cannot Keep

Posted on Sat 07/02/2016 by


Bolt New 01By Andrew Bolt ~

The test for Malcolm Turnbull:

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

– will he really have lost fewer seats than would have been lost by Tony Abbott, a better campaigner? You’d think a loss of 10 seats would be humiliating.

– will he have improved his hand in the Senate? If there’s again 18 Senators or thereabouts on the crossbenches, he’d have achieved nothing. Or can he stitch some kind of deal with Nick Xenophon, David Leyonhjelm and Bob Day, presuming they win?

– will he have a mandate for change? That bit, sadly, we know already.

Dennis Shanahan:

In simple terms the Coalition can afford to lose about 14 seats and still retain government in its own right with 76 MPs while Labor has to win about 20 seats. However, the real argument is going to be about what number of Coalition losses is considered enough for Turnbull and Shorten to thrive and survive respectively…

(M)ost calculations suggest the Coalition will have a minimum of 32 senators, Labor about 27, the Greens nine or 10 and the remainder made up of Nick Xenophon Team senators and some re-elected independents such as Jacqui Lambie and Bob Day.

The simple mathematics that governs politics and legislation mean Turnbull, with 32 Coalition senators, must win at least 82 lower house seats to ensure passage of the Australian Building and Construction Commission bill through a joint sitting of 226 MPs.

So, if Turnbull has a net loss of eight seats or more he can retain government but not pass the legislation he called a double-dissolution election to implement. Such a result would not just be a Coalition retreat into a single-digit majority but also a humiliation for Turnbull because his strategy would have been for no gain.

This is especially the case if the Senate remains intractable because it has as many independents and Greens as the obstructionist Senate that sidelined the Coalition’s budget measures for so long.

Turnbull would suffer a loss of authority and there would be speculation about Liberal leadership once more.

Paul Kelly:

There are two sorts of Turnbull victories on offer — a comfortable victory albeit losing a few seats that establishes Turnbull’s authority in his own right as Prime Minister — and a tight win that leaves him a weakened PM, encourages his opponents and re-­ignites internal Liberal divisions…

The great risk Turnbull faces in victory is that his double dissolution election tactic unravels with an expanded Senate crossbench including some misfits that treat his victory and mandate with contempt, rejecting his industrial bills and even obstructing the corporate tax cut platform that was the centrepiece of his election. Such aggression by the new Senate would guarantee political warfare at the start of the new parliament…

Any Turnbull failure post-election to carry his industrial bills either through the Senate or at a joint sitting would be an unprecedented humiliation for a Prime Minister. It means Turnbull’s new term would begin with the defeat, again, of his bills to secure peace in the construction industry…

The second early and vital test would be the fate of the government’s personal income tax and business tax cuts bills. Given they constitute the heart of Turnbull’s mandate any Senate tampering with this agenda would accentuate this conflict even though Turnbull and Morrison will not replicate the spending cuts sought by Tony Abbott in his first budget…

Another risk for Turnbull lies in the promised same-sex marriage plebiscite. The onus here, once again, will fall on Labor, the Greens and the Senate crossbenchers. The critical decision is whether they authorise the bill to hold the plebiscite…

If … the Senate … rejects the plebiscite bill then the politics of same-sex marriage will be inflamed. The Coalition conservatives have made their position clear: without a plebiscite there will be no parliamentary vote. Since Turnbull would have a mandate for the plebiscite and the Coalition party room would almost certainly affirm its existing position of “no parliamentary vote without a plebiscite” an entirely unnecessary and bitter deadlock might follow… However a re-elected Turnbull, caught in this trap, would be blamed and come under immense political attack from the same-sex lobby and much of the media with damaging consequences.

Also not yet much understood is the trap Turnbull has set for himself at the next election with his 10 year tax plan.

The first bit is easy, and supported by Labor – an immediate tax cut to small businesses with a turnover of $10 million a year.

After that it gets tricky, although still possible – a tax cut for bigger businesses with a $25 million turnover on July 1, 2017, and then for business with a $50 million turnover in 2018-19, in what will be the year before the next election.

That would leave the Liberals going to the next election campaigning not for tax cuts to smaller businesses, such those (presumably) will already have been delivered. No, they would instead be asking voters to back tax cuts – and the most expensive of the tax cuts – for big businesses. First, a tax cut for businesses turning over at least $100 million in 2019-20, and then a tax cut for for everyone else, including the giants such as BHP Billiton.

You really think the Liberals could win an election fought on tax cuts for big business alone? I predict those tax cuts will never happen as the Liberals have promised, and not least because the Budget would have blown out by then as well.

The business groups who went along with this fakery deserve what’s coming. A pity that the rest of us do not.

Andrew Bolt writes for the Herald Sun, Daily Telegraph, and The Advertiser and runs Australia’s most-read political blog. On week nights he hosts The Bolt Report on Sky News at 7pm and his Macquarie Radio show at 8pm with Steve Price.

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