Time for a brand new Bill
“You know what some people call us — the nasty party”.
That was British Prime Minister Theresa May’s famous statement at the 2002 Conservative Party Conference. Then the Party’s chairwoman, May said politicians were seen as untrustworthy and hypocritical and voters were losing faith. She urged Conservatives to fight for better public services, to care for vulnerable people and warned her colleagues against pursuing obsessions and start fighting for the common good.
Sensing the Liberal Party was being viewed in a similar light, Scott Morrison has handed down a Budget designed to deal with the perception problem.
For three years the Coalition has struggled to rid itself of the mess created by the 2014 Abbott-Hockey budget which offered nothing to Australians, unless your name was Bill Shorten. It characterised everyone as a lifter or leaner, and reinforced the view Conservatives don’t care about regular folk.
The political slate needed to be wiped clean. This week’s Budget was risky. It raised taxes to pay for services, invested in infrastructure and went after the banks.
It offered tax breaks to help first home buyers save for a deposit, curbed negative gearing and began thawing the Medicare rebate freeze.
It’s unlikely to produce an immediate bounce in the polls, but the Budget has improved the Government’s position and taken the wind out of the Opposition’s sails.
Shorten has less to work with now but will use the Medicare levy increase to set the platform for class warfare.
University students and Catholic school kids can expect to see a bit more of the Bill bus too. When Theresa May issued that warning in 2002 she was speaking as a member of the Opposition.
She told her party to judge each issue on its merits. “Voters will only think of the opposition as an alternative government if the opposition acts as government should ...”
On Thursday night when Shorten got his chance to return serve, he made it clear he would continue to prosecute the same old policies that nearly got him the keys to The Lodge in 2016.
But some on his frontbench now fear the strategy will need to be overhauled given the shift in the Coalition’s position.