Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s first major economic address since the July 2 federal election was, in most respects, the kind of speech one might have expected from a leader who had won with a comfortable margin.
He sounded like a prime minister whose campaign agenda had won widespread support, and who had been rewarded with a significantly increased parliamentary majority.
In reality, he has more in common with the Bahamas’ Shaunae Miller, the runner who only just fell across the line to win her race at the Rio Olympics. Turnbull won, but only just, and his election result leaves him with diminished authority both within his own party and within the parliament.
To be sure, Turnbull acknowledged that:
… the times in which we live are ones of economic change unprecedented in both its scale and pace
and this brings hardship. He noted that:
While we recognise that these times offer extraordinary opportunities for Australians, the changes they bring with them will not always be welcome … We cannot assume that the rising tide of economic growth will lift all boats – we have to make sure that it does.
But there was no tangible signal that, as a result of having recognised these things and having reflected on them in the weeks since the result of the election became clear, the prime minister and his government have heard the message from the electorate. There was no clear sign he intends to do anything different, or differently, from what they proposed beforehand.
Rather, Turnbull expects others to change. He wants the Labor opposition and the crossbenchers in the Senate to move away from the positions they took to the voters at last month’s election.
It makes sense for Turnbull to seek to capitalise on Labor’s belated willingness to accept some of the savings measures from the 2014 budget, which it had opposed up until the last two weeks of the election campaign.
Turnbull said today that:
In the upcoming sittings, we will introduce an omnibus bill that puts together all the government’s savings measures that we understand from the election campaign the ALP is prepared to support.
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