The Economy – Front and Centre
As the nation heads towards a May 18 election the campaign shadow boxing between Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten continues.
This week the issue of the economy was prominent, with the release of the December quarter national accounts showing the economy slowing to annual grow of 2.3% below the Reserve Banks forecast of 3%.
Both sides sought to use the national accounts to their own political advantage with the Treasurer stating, “the economy is in fundamentally good shape” and Labor’s Chris Bowen claiming the government had “lost the moral authority to campaign and talk about the economy”.
With the economy always a key election issue Bill Shorten declared that the election will be “a referendum on wages” whereas the Prime Minister made his pitch as the election being a contest between “enterprise and envy”.
There is no doubt economic fundamentals remain sound, but also many people are doing it tough and this is felt through stagnating to low wages growth. Coupled with falling house prices there is danger for both sides in claiming to be the superior economic manager.
For Labor promising to abolish negative gearing against the backdrop of a falling housing prices may further exacerbate people’s feelings of economic anxiety and insecurity. For the Government campaigning on a strong economy, when living costs are going up but their wages aren’t, leaves them vulnerable to claims of being out of touch.
Is the ‘Big Stick’ Back on the Table
In a development no doubt not welcomed by either the Prime Minister or Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, six Queensland Nationals MPs have demanded the shelved ‘big stick’ energy reforms be put to a vote in budget week.
The ‘big stick’ laws would allow the Government to force energy companies to be broken up in order to try and drive down energy costs.
Given budget week is also the last week of sittings before the election is held in May, it is highly unlikely the Prime Minister wants to be distracted in budget week with another divisive party room debate on energy policy.
The Prime Minister will want to use budget week to position the Government as the superior economic manager underpinned by a budget back in the black sooner than expected and not dominated by another debate over energy policy.
It is a measure of the political potency energy prices are as an electoral issue, that these six MPs are calling for a vote on these laws during budget week which would totally undermine the Government’s budget week strategy.
Malcolm Turnbull Returns
The ghost of Malcolm Turnbull returns to haunt the Morrison Government.
Following last week’s claim by Julie Bishop that she would have beaten Bill Shorten in a head to head contest, Malcom Turnbull has claimed in an interview out of London that he was dumped as leader because his own party was afraid, he would win!!
This must certainly be one of the more bizarre modern-day political claims, as most parties dump their leaders as their colleagues believe they can’t win the next election.
Putting aside the bizarreness of this claim, the concern for the Government is that with the election campaign just around the corner, will Malcolm Turnbull be to the Liberal Party what Mark Latham was to Julie Gillard in the 2010 campaign, a totally unwelcome distraction.
Many in the Government will be hoping that Turnbull sits out the campaign but to date he has shown no signs of doing so.
Until next week.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jody Fassina is the Managing Director of Insight Strategy and has served as a strategic adviser to MedTech and pharmaceutical stakeholders.