How Albo can emerge from ScoMo’s shadow
SCOTT Morrison is riding a polling high. Anthony Albanese is caught in the coronavirus shadow, struggling to be seen and heard.
This poses challenges and opportunities for policy and tax reform.
Because Australia has done extraordinarily well in controlling the pandemic, Albanese was planning to in the lead-up to the next election to go after Morrison in the belief the Prime Minister would have stuffed it up (no one in Labor believed at the start of February that our cases and death rates so low).
That has disappeared. Now Labor has refocused on the economy, telling Australians that the economy was suffering before the disease.
And when it comes the possibility of reform, it is champing at the bit.
When politicians float the potential reform, there are usually three responses; scepticism, rebellion and yawning, lots of yawning, from voters who have heard it all before.
Political reform elicits different responses from governments, oppositions, lobby groups and voters.
This gives Albanese a way in to be relevant again - because he sure has been overshadowed by union boss Sally McManus, who negotiated with Attorney-General Christian Porter the support needed for JobKeeper.
In reform there are always winners and losers. There are always loud voices. Here is Albanese's best chance to be relevant.
Morrison is banking a lot of political capital on the way he has steered the country through one of the worst economic catastrophes since the Great Depression.
But Morrison, like most leaders in his position, jealously guard how they spend that capital. He can't waste it, and like popularity it can disappear as quick as it emerged.
Morrison wants to be a reformist prime minister. But initially, he would quietly tell those around him that before a Government could reform they needed to fix. The Government started to fix around the edges - the public service and the NDIS are examples.
The phrase "never waste a crisis" is becoming more common than the word "bingo" being shouted throughout nursing homes.
Morrison has an appetite for reform, and believes the most fruitful reform could be gained in health and education - both run by states and territories.
Education and health cost of lot of money, and both extract a lot of cash from the Commonwealth.
Morrison's philosophy remains that Australia can't grow an economy by taxing more. He also doesn't want departments, lobby groups and others "dusting off" old reports to drive a reform agenda.
The exception is the Productivity Commission's Shifting the Dial report, which was given to Morrison when he was treasurer.
He wants a "fresh set of eyes", but knows those who will be eyeballing plans will be the states and territories.
If he can get agreement with the states, he again casts a greater shadow over Albanese, who will continue to struggle for relevance.
The National Cabinet will likely be used to find consensus on issues on health and education but on economic reform, that will be guided by "values and principles" of a Coalition Government.
And this is where Albanese will make hay. The values and principles of conservatives are unlikely to wash with Labor.