In Thursday’s Commentary I referred to the view of The Australian’s political editor (Dennis Shanahan) that Morrison still has a “last chance” of winning the election. In Weekend Australian Shanahan acknowledges that “the Liberal Party is in a mess” but also points out that “Labor finished the last week of parliament for the year on the back foot over national security and border protection, giving Morrison a reprieve from the dismal Liberal outlook. The Prime Minister was able to declare there would be a budget surplus next year, he changed Liberal leadership rules, intervened to stop a preselection brawl, asserted his authority over Turnbull and avoided an embarrassing defeat on the floor of parliament”
Although we had a long election campaign during which Parliament was not sitting, it now has another “break” until 10 October during which Turnbull and two other ministers (including Immigration Minister Dutton) will travel to the US. In this coming week Turnbull is scheduled to attend what his press release describes as “the biggest summit on the international calendar” - the UN General Assembly Leaders’ Week, which will include “summits on refugees and migration” hosted by Ban Ki-moon and a smaller one arranged by Obama. But, while discussions at UN General Assemblies rarely produce meaningful policies for use back home, the risk is that Turnbull may relax our refugees policy and, as Abbott did, agree to take more refugees. Given the tightening of border controls by European countries, and increasing concern about terrorists being amongst asylum seekers, Australia’s existing policy would seem justifiable.
My Commentary sent out late Sunday (thanks to those who sent compliments) drew particular attention to the article by Judith Sloan on the Federal budget and her conclusion that “Labor is completely out of control fiscally; the Coalition is slightly better but no cigar”. This followed other strong critiques, including by John Stone. Meantime we have Turnbull and Shorten buying votes as they go from electorate to electorate and adding up to $100mn a day to budget spending. What does the odd million matter?
Recipients of my recent Commentaries will be well aware of my expressions of concern about the budget outlook in the last couple of weeks. Friday’s Commentary expressed additional concerns after the publication by the heads of Treasury and Finance in PEFO of their concerns, albeit expressed diplomatically (at the same time it was reported that Treasury head Fraser would resign after the election: he will be a serious loss and his successor under either party will find him difficult to follow). I also drew attention to the Spectator Article by John Stone, which not only savaged the Coalition’s budget but pointed out that neither Labor nor “independent” journalist commentators have (with one or two exceptions) drawn attention to the seriousness of the economic problem Australia now faces. I concluded by suggesting that the Coalition should acknowledge the problem and indicate that after the election it will start a program of reducing spending by at least 2% of GDP over the next three years.