As longterm readers know, my record on political and other predictions is mixed, not as bad as some have made out, but by no means uniformly accurate. Still, I’m going to venture my most fearless prediction in some time.
Bill Shorten will be Prime Minister after the next election.
Like most Australian voters, I have no great enthusiasm for Shorten. But, I’ve come to the view that Turnbull is, as the Fin remarked recently, “all hat and no cattle”, and the same can be said of most of his ministry. In particular, Scott Morrison is the most striking instance of the Peter Principle I’ve seen in some time. Brutally effective as Immigration Minister, he handled the Social Services portfolio quite deftly, but has floundered as Treasurer.
Turning from personality to policy, Labor certainly deserves a win. They have stuck to their guns on issues like carbon pricing, and advanced serious and credible policies on tax and public expenditure, something that hasn’t been attempted since John Hewson’s Fightback! disaster in 1993.
By contrast, the Turnbull government is an enigma. Will it go to the election with the policies Turnbull inherited from Abbott? Or will be asked to “let Malcolm be Malcolm”? Or will we see a continuation of the studied ambiguity of the last five months? No one seems to know.
For the moment, Turnbull’s popularity looks like the trump card. The experience of his last stint as leader suggests that this is a fairly weak reed.
The best hope for the government is that the post-Turnbull surge was not so much driven by support for Turnbull as by an underlying LNP majority, submerged by Abbott’s absurdities.