Time for a brand new Bill

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - OPINION -

“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.

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