Turnbull’s failure to negotiate is failing the nation

Opinion 2Treasurer Morrison made a speech recently that he proclaimed would set out his budget priorities and philosophy, but all it did was underline the incoherence of the Turnbull/Morrison government’s economic policy.

Given that there are problems for the budget in terms of rising debt and falling revenue, you would think the government would have a better grasp on solutions but no, once again they resort to puerile and ideological rants that rest on what the media has described as; “bald face lies’.

Take this as one example from Morrison’s speech – “We have consistently rejected Labor’s tax and spend approach.”

The facts are — Liberal spending is still well above the level of every Labor year but one, the 2009 GFC stimulus year, and taxation is well above any level reached under Labor, the facts are plain, it is the Liberal party that is currently the party of tax-and-spend in Australia.

In his speech on the government’s economic plan Treasurer Morrison made no mention of infrastructure, the climate or science and innovation, not one word. It certainly must be ‘exciting’ to be in the LNP.

His solution to budget repair is to blame the poor – “On current settings, more Australians today are likely to go through their entire lives without ever paying tax than for generations. More Australians are also likely today to be net beneficiaries of the Government than contributors – never paying more tax than they receive in government payments. There is a new divide – the taxed and the taxed nots.”

He forgets, of course, the numerous taxes everyone pays regardless of their financial status, taxes that hit the poorest the hardest and he can say all this with no hint of irony as they pass out $50 billion in tax cuts for big multinationals and $17 billion on a tax cut for the very highest income earners.

Their approach to negotiating a budget repair package that might have a chance of passing through the Senate is even more bereft of ideas and is trapped in that point scoring political nonsense the vast majority of the electorate has come to loathe.

Do they not understand the simple yet fundamental rules of negotiation? Matthias Corman’s ‘wibbly wobbly’ approach seems to be the model.

Insisting on Labor supporting the passage of the $6.5 billion Omnibus budget saving package when they refuse to reveal any of its detail is not a platform for negotiation but is pure childish petulance especially when Labor has offered coherent positive suggestions that have been well supported by experts and key stakeholders.

As Bill Shorten said in his recent speech to the Press Club – “Mr Turnbull spoke of ‘reaching across the aisle’. Yet all he did was demand Labor’s support, sight unseen, for his legislation.”

While, in Bill’s words, Labor has put forward  – “ … a practical, achievable plan to deliver an immediate budget improvement of $8 billion over the forward estimates and over $80 billion over the next 10 years. I say to Mr Turnbull, let’s put the nation ahead of partisan confrontation.”

Perhaps those who believe they are born to rule have never felt the need to learn the art and craft of negotiation and compromise.

As Shakespeare’s King Lear said: “Nothing can come of nothing.”

If, as they claim, there is a sizable and difficult budget problem and if, as they claim, they are governing in the best interests of all Australians and given their slim majority wouldn’t they be making some intelligent attempts to negotiate a compromise package in the interests of the nation?

The answer is, sadly not.

As Anthony Albanese so eloquently put it on Far North Queensland ABC Radio – “This mob are an Opposition in exile.” And in the background the $160 million dollar marriage equality plebiscite is still on, only later.

Claire Moore – Senator for Queensland

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