Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull hit the first of what will inevitably be many speed bumps this week, when he and Treasurer Scott Morrison commenced the challenging task of selling tax increases to the Australian public.
Following an “exposé” in the weekend tabloids that claimed the government was planning to increase or broaden the GST, the PM did his best to inoculate himself against anticipated accusations that his planned tax reforms amounted to nothing more than a “great big tax” on everything.
In a succession of media statements and speeches over the week, Mr Turnbull stressed that our rapidly changing society and economy should be embraced, not feared, and that accompanying reform shouldn’t be accompanied by “a hyperbolic scare campaign”.
Well he would say that. Inconveniently for the PM, his own colleagues were among the first to push back against the idea of tampering with the GST.
To make matters worse, the Australian Council of Social Services chose this week to release a commissioned study that shows low and middle-income earners would be hardest hit by a GST increase, and that compensating them would be counterproductively expensive.
The ACOSS report is particularly troublesome for Mr Turnbull, given the Liberals’ GST hero John Howard managed to get the social services sector on board when he first introduced the consumption tax.
The current PM will have Buckley’s of getting the public to accept a change to the GST if ACOSS decides to oppose it.
A rod for his own back
The PM also returned this week to the comments he made when challenging Tony Abbott for the Liberal leadership.
Mr Turnbull emphasised the government needed to respect the intelligence of Australians, and have a grown up discussion “across government, business, the labour movement, the wider community” that clarifies policy goals and then identifies and removes any obstacles to generating “growth, productivity, investment and jobs”.
That’s all good and well, but the PM also set a particularly high bar for himself on the matter of fairness.
“It is not enough to persuade the public that your motives are good,” Mr Turnbull said, “you also have to demonstrate that you’ve taken decisions in an open, consultative way, that you’ve carefully weighed up the various options and arguments.”
And when it comes to tax reform, the PM has set himself this task: to deliver a reform package that raises revenue, shares the burden fairly across the community and is seen to be fair.
“Any package of reforms which is not and is not seen as fair will not and cannot achieve the public support without which it simply will not succeed.”
We see what you did there Julie Bishop
Not that long ago, former PM Julia Gillard was criticised for belatedly voicing support for gay marriage when the cause would have benefited from such support earlier, when her views actually counted.
Now Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has clambered on the worthy bandwagon, telling a popular television program that she has “absolutely no concerns” about same-sex marriage while hedging her bets with the additional acknowledgement that “there are a lot of people who are deeply concerned about the issue”.
It’s hard to avoid the perception that both women kept their support for SSM to themselves until it could no longer be held against them by the arch conservatives in their respective parties.
Labor’s preselection woes
Meantime, Labor continues to grapple with its own difficulties, including a continuing weak performance in the opinion polls and another ugly preselection battle involving factions and the unions.
Following on from a factional deal that relegated talented shadow minister Lisa Singh to the unwinnable fourth position on Labor’s Senate ticket for Tasmania, other factional manoeuvring tried to oust former Federal Labor Minister Gary Gray and former WA state minister Alannah MacTiernan from their seats.
Regrettably for the factionally unaligned Senator Singh, Labor’s national executive has only moved to protect Mr Gray and Ms MacTiernan from the chopping block.
Nobody put Bill Shorten in the corner this week when footage of him dancing awkwardly while wearing a traditional headdress in Kiribati was circulated on social media.
“The good news for me is I’m running for prime minister, not running for Dancing With The Stars,” the Labor leader is quoted as saying.