49 Huge hur­dle for ScoMo

Sunday Herald Sun - - Opinion -

PRIME Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son faces the big­gest chal­lenge in Aus­tralian pol­i­tics. The odds are stacked against him with the Lib­eral brand on the nose, the party frac­tured along ide­o­log­i­cal lines and mem­bers jump­ing ship.

And a fed­eral elec­tion flog­ging is in the off­ing af­ter La­bor’s land­slide vic­tory in the Vic­to­rian state elec­tion last week­end.

Mr Mor­ri­son has just a few months to show that his gov­ern­ment de­serves to be re-elected.

He can­not af­ford any mis­steps in be­lat­edly bring­ing the party to­gether and ar­tic­u­lat­ing a clear vi­sion that is fo­cused on is­sues that mat­ter — such as jobs, in­fra­struc­ture and cost-ofliv­ing pres­sures.

De­spite the polls look­ing grim for the Coali­tion, next May’s elec­tion is not yet a fait ac­com­pli. But it will be if this gov­ern­ment doesn’t re­fo­cus on the job at hand.

It is crit­i­cal that the Mor­ri­son Gov­ern­ment learns from the state elec­tion that the pub­lic is only con­cerned with is­sues di­rectly af­fect­ing their lives.

In a wide-rang­ing in­ter­view with the Sun­day Her­ald Sun, mark­ing 100 days as Prime Min­is­ter, Mr Mor­ri­son was can­did in ac­knowl­edg­ing the achieve­ments of Daniel An­drews’ gov­ern­ment and why it was re­elected con­vinc­ingly in Vic­to­ria.

“To read so much into that would be, frankly, to fail to recog­nise the sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ment of the gov­ern­ment in Vic­to­ria,” he said.

“Many Vic­to­ri­ans didn’t even con­sider the Lib­eral Party, sim­ply be­cause they thought Dan An­drews was do­ing a good job.”

There have been pos­i­tives in Mr Mor­ri­son’s first 100 days, in­clud­ing fix­ing the dam­ag­ing Catholic and in­de­pen­dent school-sec­tor fund­ing prob­lem, in­ject­ing $2 bil­lion into the small-busi­ness sec­tor and es­tab­lish­ing a royal com­mis­sion into aged care.

And he has main­tained a com­fort­able lead as pre­ferred prime min­is­ter over Bill Shorten.

How­ever, these achieve­ments have been over­shad­owed by the con­tin­ued divi­sion, leak­ing and in­fight­ing among Coali­tion MPs.

A sig­nif­i­cant ac­com­plish­ment is the gov­ern­ment re­turn­ing the econ­omy to sur­plus, ahead of schedule, in the com­ing April Bud­get.

But that an­nounce­ment, of the first sur­plus in a decade, barely reg­is­tered with vot­ers as the news cy­cle was dom­i­nated by Vic­to­rian MP Ju­lia Banks quit­ting the Lib­eral Party on the same day.

Mr Mor­ri­son can ex­pect more MPs to be­come in­de­pen­dents if they think it will im­prove their chances of be­ing re-elected.

Our view is that it’s wrong to jump ship when the go­ing gets tough and aban­don the party that got you elected. It’s a be­trayal of not only col­leagues but, far more im­por­tantly, it’s a be­trayal of the vot­ers who elected you on that party’s ticket.

Mem­bers of par­lia­ment must learn it’s a priv­i­lege to form gov­ern­ment and serve their coun­try, not an av­enue to en­gage in factional games where lead­ers are chucked out willy-nilly.

The Lib­eral Party needs to be a broad church but one that is true to its ethos. In re­cent years it seems to have lost sight of the core Lib­eral val­ues of free en­ter­prise and the re­ward sys­tem, whereby the harder you work the more you get ahead.

Mr Mor­ri­son told the Sun­day Her­ald Sun that the silent ma­jor­ity who worked hard and con­trib­uted to the coun­try were his pri­or­ity, not the loud ac­tivist class.

“The peo­ple who rely on me to take the fight up and never lie down on this, they’re the peo­ple that don’t have time to wear ad­vo­cacy T-shirts and turn up to fo­rums and ral­lies and meet­ings,” he said.

“They’re too busy run­ning busi­nesses, get­ting the kids to school, run­ning the lo­cal surf club, they are busy liv­ing their lives — that’s who I turn up to work for ev­ery day.”

The gov­ern­ment also needs to do a far bet­ter job of ex­plain­ing its eco­nomic achieve­ments.

We need to know what the gov­ern­ment stands for, its vi­sion and how it will im­prove the lives of or­di­nary Aus­tralians, many of whom are strug­gling with the cost of liv­ing.

Mr Mor­ri­son, who clearly loves a TV in­ter­view and is adept at pub­lic re­la­tions, needs to be more about sub­stance than spin. We are now weary of politi­cians and their care­fully crafted lines. We want au­then­tic, com­pe­tent gov­ern­ment.

As it stands, only a mon­u­men­tal, united ef­fort from the Coali­tion will see it pre­vail in the elec­tion next year.

If the fed­eral Lib­er­als are dec­i­mated in the style of the Vic­to­rian Lib­er­als, then ex­pect a twoterm Shorten gov­ern­ment.

We de­serve a real choice at the polls and that means a Lib­eral Party fully fo­cused on Aus­tralia’s fu­ture.

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