As former PM Keating said, ‘when you change the government you change the country.’ Those changes will be both in the policy space and in the politics that surround it. This is our attempt to predict the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ in the next three years.
Many policy matters can be pursued by the executive government, but they will still be important to the Parliament. These are the likely top 10 policy issues for the 47th Parliament:
1. Cost of living (COL) including the government supporting an increase in the minimum wage. Despite the rhetoric, the Federal Government is somewhat impotent in dealing with COL pressures. Any attempts to artificially reduce costs will also need to be weighed against the impact on inflation which still has a while to work through the economy. The incoming Treasurer has started the process of ‘expectation management’.
2. Budget repair. Given the state of the budget with ‘a trillion dollars of debt’ and large, structural deficits predicted into the future, starting with a Budget in October, the new government will have to outline a long-term plan to return the budget to surplus. Tax reform is not flavour of the month, but we can expect some serious consideration of changes towards the end of this term.
3. Improving productivity and wages will be a key issue and policy changes in the childcare sector will head the list.
4. Action on climate change and ending the ‘climate wars’ will be a key focus and managing the expectations of the Greens, the new independents and the broader community will essential.
5. Integrity issues including the National Integrity Commission and whether the incoming AG, Mark Dreyfus will discontinue the Bernard Collaery prosecution will be carefully watched.
6. Support for home buyers. Most of the heavy lifting on the supply side rests with State governments but Labor’s modest reforms will provide an important signal.
7. Indigenous affairs. The focus will be on implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart beginning with preparations for the referendum and work on Makarrata. Building multi-partisan support will be a critical early test for the Government and the Opposition.
8. Health and aged care. While no-one wants to discuss COVID anymore the Government will be monitoring it and the growing influenza outbreak. In Aged Care, the Government is pursuing a large agenda to implement the recommendations of the AC Royal Commission.
9. Equality – treatment of women and implementing the Respect@Work report and the Jenkins review (in the background of the prosecution of the accused rapist of Brittany Higgins). Developments in childcare, COL, integrity, climate change and aged care are also key issues raised by female voters in the campaign.
10. Foreign affairs including engagement with our Pacific neighbours and attempts to reset our relationship with China. The fact that the PM travelled to the Quad Leaders’ meeting on day one will not be lost on the international community. And the Pacific will have been pleased to greet the new Foreign Minister as her Chinese counterpart was conducting his own trip.
Politics and process
Beyond the policies we make the following observations on key political and process issues:
§ Albanese is a natural consensus builder, and he will deal with respect with the expanded cross bench. Even if the ALP has a workable majority in the House of Representatives it will likely seek to engage on issues of importance to the cross bench, particularly climate action, integrity, equality. It could start by taking Helen Haines’ draft Integrity Commission bill as a sign of good faith. Trickier will be trying to nail a new 2030 target on emissions reduction. It will be conscious to avoid a successful Teal challenge to Labor seats in 2025
§ First Ministers’ meeting – the PM will bring together the National Cabinet face to face quickly. He will see many familiar faces noting that Labor MPs are now half of all MPs in the nation’s eight parliaments.
§ How will the Liberal Party respond to its dire situation? Will it move further to the right or pursue policies that have a chance of winning back the support of small Liberals who have drifted to the Teal independents. Incoming leader, Peter Dutton, faces significant challenges.
§ Senate outcome. Final numbers are still to be determined but it seems likely Labor will still be able to secure most of its legislative agenda with Greens support and other cross benchers if the Coalition opposes it.
§ The Parliament is more diverse: more female (up to 44%), more indigenous, and more ethnically representative. The 47th Parliament will first meet on Tuesday 26 July.
§ The restoration of a more traditional Cabinet government with an emphasis on ministerial responsibility, accountability and equality (with 10 ministers in the 23 person Cabinet). It also seems likely the role of an apolitical public service will be underscored. The appointment of Prof Glyn Davis AC as the new Secretary to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (and de facto, head of the APS) is a nod in the right direction.
§ The polls were largely right! Most of the key polls predicted the 2PP outcome within the margin of error albeit the Labor primary vote was over-estimated.
The seats of seven of the past nine Liberal Prime Ministers are now held by the ALP or Independents.
Doctors are in the House: in addition to medicos, Dr Monique Ryan, Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah, Dr Sophie Scamps, Dr Gordon Reid, Dr David Gillespie, and Dr Mike Freelander there are also at least six PhDs including: Dr Ann Webster, Dr Andrew Leigh, Dr Daniel Mulino, Dr Andrew Charlton, Dr Anne Aly and the Treasurer, Dr Jim Chalmers.