Assessing Morrison

Better Than Turnbull, but …

Morrison must be given what he said he stands for – “a fair go” – and for, in the end, supporting the removal of Turnbull, but only just. But it should be recognised that he did not challenge Turnbull, Dutton did; he allowed himself to be coached by T into challenging Dutton; and he put his arm around Turnbull and made sympathetic noises about his leadership. Turnbull’s main aim – to destroy the Liberal party – may not be finished: outside Parliament he may involve himself from now until the election in helping Labor whenever the chance occurred.

Also that, as leader of the Coalition since Friday, Morrison has to accept some responsibility for the Newspoll taken over the week-end, in which the Coalition’s TPP fell to 44/56 (and to 33 on primary votes) compared with 49/51 on the previous poll, and Shorten became the favoured leader in the poll. Of course, this fall partly reflects the behaviour of Turnbull after he was challenged. But there is as yet no sign of any honeymoon for Morrison (see Newspoll on 27/8) and he faces what one reporter characterises as a “gargantuan task” to give the Coalition a chance at the next election. As I have consistently suggested, a much earlier challenge would have provided time for the Coalition to make its pitch.

Morrison is also subject to some criticism for his choices for Cabinet. He has snubbed Abbott by offering him an “envoy” position – but not known to where or for what purpose (Abbott has responded by offering Morrison “full support to win the next election”). The same with asking Joyce to have a drought watcher envoy.

In his article Bolt may have taken the line that, presumably because an election is coming on and there is little time to absorb the job of PM, he should adopt something of a compromise between “conservatives” and “lefties” (see Bolt on Morrison). Hence the Morrison snub to Abbott instead of offering (say) foreign affairs, the downgrade to Dutton despite his excellent handling of immigration, and the appointments of relative lightweights Payne (foreign affairs) and O’Dwyer (industrial relations) and Birmingham (Trade) to important policy positions. Morrison has been cautious and more of a compromiser than seems desirable.

Much will depend on whether the little known Taylor (but a Rhodes Scholar) can start reversing the policies which, with Turnbull’s pressure, Frydenberg adopted even though they could have been much less involved in combating the supposed dangerous warming. He (Taylor) may even be sympathetic to reducing the emissions target and may also be prepared to seriously question the policies adopted by Labor. A big test will be whether he can establish a policy which is conducive to lowering electricity prices but without govern assistance.

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