If you’re staring outside, you’ll probably say the Albany government is looking good. If you’re looking from the inside out, you’ll probably think it has few challenges.
The new Parliament will begin next week with a fortnightly meeting. Government-green talks will focus on legislation for Labor’s 43% climate target. But it is the economy and COVID that will actually be the more worrying issues.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers, perhaps keeping an eye on politics, is using the megaphone to say he will have bad news when he delivers a state-of-the-art economy address to the House of Representatives on Thursday, a day after its release. The latest inflation data, is expected to be a shocking one.
The revised economic projections will be affected by a number of factors, including to an extent the current, still worsening, COVID wave that governments are trying to manage without imposing restrictions that people will no longer accept.
As we face this wave, it will be desirable for the new parliament to reiterate the COVID Senate committee that did a good job in the previous term in questioning officials and extracting information.
To show that it is serious about its promises, the government on Wednesday released a list of the first pieces of legislation it will introduce.
These are bills for aged care reform, a new jobs and skills statutory body, domestic violence leave and climate change targets. The Integrity Commission legislation will await the September meeting.
Bringing a bill is easy. Take care of the elderly The government says its legislation will “bring nurses back into nursing homes, prohibiting high administration and management fees for home care”. [ .. ] And it will improve the integrity and accountability for residential aged care homes”.
But finding all the necessary nurses – to say nothing of the increased numbers of other staff critical to effective reform – will be very difficult.
Those who would have viewed Labor’s victory as the end of our national climate wars were prematurely optimistic. Ironically, the early days of the new parliament will see another phase in the fight.
Labor doesn’t need to legislate its new target, but it wants to do so to outline its intentions and send a strong signal to investors and the world in general. Getting the legislation through would require the support of the Greens’ Senate and another senator.
The Greens party room reiterated its view on Wednesday that Labor’s policy was not ambitious enough, but gave leader Adam Bandt the right to negotiate.
After the meeting, the Greens said: “The areas of concern are the adequacy of the target, the need to meet the target and not operate as a floor for the bill, the lack of enforcement mechanisms, and new coal and gas projects that would Will remove pollution.”
“We are at the table of diplomacy, not in the trenches”, says the One Greens source.
Labor has indicated that it is open to tampering with expansion, but will not shrink from the original substance. There will be no change in the target, there will be no restriction on new mines.
The government cannot afford to make major concessions to the Greens, not least because it would cast doubt on the credibility of its word. It is also keen to indicate that it is not hostage to the Greens, despite their reliance on them in the Upper House when opposed to legislation.
Can the Greens afford to give in to the government and not oppose the bill? They will disappoint their staunch supporters. They too, from a political point of view, need differentiation. But if they ditch the law, they will be accused of having a puritanical ideology before supporting progressive policy. The Greens have a lot in their judgment.
It will take some time to play it all. The legislation can go to a Senate committee. The final vote may be a way off.
The “internals” of the Coalition on Climate Law would be interesting. Peter Dutton has opposed this. “I am now making it clear to the Labor Party that we are not supporting the legislation,” he told ABC in June. Very few moderates are not happy with that “Captain’s call” before the party-room discussion. There are speculations that one or two floors can be crossed.
And what about the dunes? His votes in the lower house are irrelevant, but may require the vote of crossbencher David Pocock in the Senate. The government would like to be polite to the mounds, but in the end it is the numbers that matter.
The parliamentary fortnight will be closely watched for its tone, its “aura” as well as its essence.
While Tilles and other crossbenchers will not determine the results in the House of Representatives, the crossbench there, now numbering 16, will be a significant presence, including quizzes and a fair opportunity to criticize ministers.
The opposition has a platform when Parliament sits, but the coalition will be struggling to make the most of it, at least in the near future.
Dutton has a ragtag bunch to manage, seniors having trouble finding their feet in their tense political situations. There are still major arguments about how the opposition presents itself.
This is not some unknown land. Labor faced the same situation after the 2019 defeat when it fell apart even more, as the loss was unexpected. The lesson for Dutton (though it will go against the grain) is to remain low-key for a while until he listens and thinks things through. It is a long road to the next election.
The opposition is currently speaking in conflicting voices on contemporary issues – for example, there is division over whether the Bali border should be closed to prevent foot-mouth disease.
The government will present its plans to parliament, but it will also remind the public of criticisms of the Morrison government. This will further complicate the efforts of the opposition to advance the ministers. For example, given the COVID crisis in residential facilities, it would be logical to oppose Aged Care Minister Anika Wells at Home. But Labor will soon return to the record of former minister Richard Kolbeck.
In various sectors, the government would be arguing that “we cannot immediately replace a decade of neglect”. This is true to a large extent, although this crutch will very soon reach its usage date with many voters. And it’s not just neglect that the Albany government is grappling with – new problems are emerging all the time.
Once Albany sits in the prime minister’s chair in the parliamentary dispatch box, the reality of “accepting responsibility” will take on a new intensity.