The Courier-Mail - - NEWS - DEN­NIS ATKINS

IF YOU think you knew what was go­ing on in na­tional pol­i­tics this past week, you were watch­ing a dif­fer­ent chan­nel. It was a mad­cap, em­bar­rass­ing, uned­i­fy­ing, bit­ter, too-smart-by-half, ego­driven, game-play­ing, pointscor­ing and moral ground oc­cu­py­ing week that left no one with any real credit.

The week, the last one in which our na­tional Par­lia­ment sat, also gave us the best win­dow yet into how the next elec­tion will be fought. We saw the Coali­tion and La­bor scop­ing out their pre­ferred ter­ri­tory and test­ing lines and themes. We also saw the tenor and vol­ume of the rhetoric and got a mea­sure of just how far and how loud the prin­ci­pals – Scott Mor­ri­son and Bill Shorten – will take things.

The tra­di­tional arc of pol­i­tics in Aus­tralia has been that the Coali­tion has a head start on the econ­omy and na­tional se­cu­rity while La­bor is the car­ing side which can be de­pended on to pro­vide schools, health care, wel­fare, wage jus­tice and a gen­eral so­cial safety net.

Noth­ing this week changed that too much, although the ad­van­tage the Coali­tion has on the econ­omy is on shakier ground than it has been.

While the eco­nomic in­di­ca­tors look quite strong, there is a nag­ging feel­ing among vot­ers that things are not headed in the right di­rec­tion and the cost of liv­ing is of­ten too much to bear.

This is be­cause we have had neg­a­tive or flatlin­ing wage growth for seven years, start­ing in 2010-11 af­ter the great global re­ces­sion and, ac­cord­ing to re­cent Re­serve Bank fore­casts, it will con­tinue un­til at least 2020. Even this fore­cast must be seen as op­ti­mistic. Every pre­dic­tion of the wage-price in­dex over the past seven years has been pitched way over the even­tual out­come, be­tween 1 and 2 per cent.

The na­tional ac­counts re­leased this week con­tin­ued to track this wage stag­na­tion and also found our sav­ing ra­tio was shrink­ing – sug­gest­ing peo­ple are dip­ping into their bank ac­counts and other as­set sources to get by.

The soft­en­ing of the Aus­tralian econ­omy and the per­sis­tently flat wages growth, will make it hard for Mor­ri­son and his Trea­surer, Josh Fry­den­berg, to push a ro­bust mes­sage on eco­nomic man­age­ment.

This is es­pe­cially so be­cause polls have re­cently shown the gap on eco­nomic man­age­ment nar­row­ing be­tween La­bor and the Coali­tion, and the ALP com­mand­ing a dom­i­nant lead on pro­vid­ing wage growth and help­ing with the cost of liv­ing.

At­ten­tion then turns to na­tional se­cu­rity and the twin

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