Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Moving on after two unhappy years

  • 16 September 2015

Now is an exciting moment for Australia, after all the low points of the past two years.

The Government showed little real interest in responsible economic management, and it seemed there was little understanding of the damage caused by the various three-word slogans and the Treasurer's weakness.

Business confidence and economic prospects suffered from policy confusion and lack of resolution. The effects of the end of the mining boom were exacerbated by the crippling of the comparatively healthy Australian car industry, which took down the South Australian economy as a whole.

There were the road blocks put in the way of Australia moving towards a cleaner, safer, renewables-based economy, and a sneaky attempt to give the submarines contract to Japan for dubious foreign policy reasons. Young unemployed were constantly under attack. Economic policy had become destructive, poll-driven, content-free and desperately opportunistic.

Australia's sophisticated business community was rightly appalled and angry. Economic confidence sagged. Something had to be done, and on Monday it was.

I was surprised at the lightning speed with which things came together. The new PM's timing and tactics were impeccable. He waited, keeping schtumm, until it became clear over the weekend that this tide had to be taken at the flood, or he might miss it altogether. He would have been mindful of Costello's fatal lack of nerve to challenge Howard in time.

And yet it was such a close thing in the end, just five unreliable votes took him over the line. The vote showed just how far the Liberal Party has forsaken true liberalism. Ignorant Tea Party attitudes and prejudices now seem rampant.

What is in store now for Australia under this new Prime Minister? We can look forward to a real return to greater civil discourse and intellectual integrity in politics. Australians of all parties will welcome this. I expect people like Bill Shorten, Tanya Plibersek, Tony Burke, to play their part as exemplars in restoring a decent political culture. It will be good if they can set aside the negative energy that was brought to the Parliament. They are naturally polite and better than this. Politics, I hope, will return to an informed contest of ideas. There is much to debate.

In his acceptance speech, Turnbull emphasised his hopes for better, more reasoned economic policy discussion. This makes sense. The only way he can deal with his right wing is by getting economic runs on the board, and quickly. Improving business