Through a combination of good fortune and panic a more sensible Do-nothing Malcolm government is emerging. That does not make it sensible on any objective measure but less stupid is a start.
The Government has been behind the curve on every major issue since the election:
- on housing affordability it has been getting a caning as it jumps from one public thought balloon to the next;
- on the energy crisis it did nothing then blamed renewables;
- on gay marriage and social policy it has been mired in a largely irrelevant and symbolic debate about 18c while the public taps its foot waiting;
- on the Budget and reform agenda the cupboard has been bare with blocked savings measures and a brain fart corporate tax cut.
We are moving forward now, however, as:
- the Budget prepares what it appears will be largely supply-side measures as Treasurer Morrison strongly supports macroprudential tightening. This policy mix will not provide a cure in themselves but they will materially slow the problem getting worse so are worthwhile measures that the government can hang its hat upon;
- the gas CEOs meeting did not resolve anything but it has prepared the ground for the one policy shift that must happen: banning third party exports. The government’s absurdly toxic attack on renewables is dead after the announcement of the Snowy hydro project. It is clearly another thought-bubble but at least it is in right universe and there are no more preposterous lumps of coal in parliament;
- there appears to be some form of 18c consensus emerging in the government for modest changes though the senate is still in the way. Given the issue is almost pure distraction, settling it somehow will benefit the government;
- finally, the government is dropping the blocked measures and the senate is going to relieve us all of its brain fart corporate tax cut, thank goodness. The bulk boomlet has provide some breathing room on the deficit as well.
The penalty-rate cut defense is ongoing and is unwinnable but it could be at least neutralised if the government had a broader agenda into which it fit. Alas there is still no narrative of any kind and we have no idea what it stands for, even if it is at least now hosing off what it does not stand for, which was a toxic grab bag of policy blunders.
However, all of this is still immaterial. The Do-nothing Government is on death row for one simple reason: Pauline Hanson. While One Nation is a force, the Coalition cannot win any national election and after the WA drubbing it is quite clear that One Nation cannot and will not partner with the Coalition.
The Coalition can do some poofta-bashing and other unsavory activities to try to win back the disaffected One Nation vote but it won’t be anywhere near enough. A shift of leadership to a troglodyte like Peter Dutton might help but, jeez, could also so alienate the centre that the Coalition might sink from sight.
The one and only policy shift that can save the government lies ahead not behind. It is as obvious as it is undisclosed. It is the same lever that John Howard pulled to rescue himself from our Pauline last time around and the Coalition will have to pull it again to have any chance at all of rescuing its future.
It is going to have to cut immigration. Not just stop the boats. Stop the planes. That will recapture a lot of One Nation voters and it can then expose the nutters and destroy it as polls turn.
Until then, Do-nothing Malcolm is just doing more…nothing.