There is no shortage of views about what should be done next week when a spill motion will be considered in the party room (presumably including National party members). Mine include the following.
- The aim must be not simply to consider whether there should be a new leader but to pass a resolution requiring a major policy statement to be presented by whoever the government leader is in 2 weeks time. This should cover, inter alia, policies to be pursued henceforth on the budget, workplace relations, climate change, and counter-terrorism. A policy statement along these lines may be the only hope of restoring lost polling on a sustained basis;
- The principal theme should be that Australia unavoidably faces considerably slower economic growth, that this could continue for some time, and that it requires a sharing of the burden by the existing population who have benefited from the commodities boom, not an increase in government borrowing;
- This outlook reinforces the need to reduce government spending, and this should focus on where higher income groups can afford to receive reduced benefits (and where it is not timely to increase childcare benefits);
- The government will make every effort to reduce employment costs facing businesses, including by making submissions to the Fair Work Commission to (further) reduce penalty rates and other restrictive measures and by taking action in ordinary courts to stop disruptive action by unions. Critical attention will be given by the government to the capacity of unions to exercise disruptive powers and to the adverse economic effects this is having. There will be an increased focus on the risk of electing a union-dominated Labor party;
- An indication that, as in some past periods and in the last 16 years temperatures have not been increasing when carbon dioxide emissions have been, no new measures will be taken to reduce usage of fossil fuels and that subsidies for more costly renewable energies will be phased out;
- A confirmation that Australia is a country which accepts western values only, that sharia law is not applicable here, and that additional counter-terrorist measures will be presented to Parliament to further minimise the risk of extremist activity here. (Note that in an election year the Canadian government has just introduced “sweeping” legislation expanding the powers of the Canadian Intelligence Service to actively intervene in threatened terrorist action).
- Whatever the outcome of the spill motion, for the kind of reasons given in The Australian editorial below there should be no return to Malcolm Turnbull as leader of the Coalition (and nor should he be appointed Treasurer as suggested in the editorial). If there is to be a change of leadership, it needs to be to a person prepared to make a major policy statement along the lines indicated.
- The statement should include assurances that the government leader will increase his consultation with ministers and that ministers will increase their consultations with the bureaucracy. The recent consultation with the Reserve Bank Governor and the new Treasury Secretary on the economic outlook was welcome news but should have happened before.
To emphasis again, the consideration of the spill motion should not only determine who is to be the leader but should include a resolution calling for a major policy statement.