• Hannah Phillips

Australia’s 30th Prime Minister Scott Morrison

The day started early in Parliament with campaigning and Peter Dutton realising advice from the Solicitor-General saying he was eligible to sit in Parliament.

At 11.28am the Prime Minister was visited by Peter Dutton to deliver the 43 signatures to trigger a meeting of the Liberal Party Room.

At 11.30 Malcolm Turnbull issued as statement saying “I have just been provided with a request for a meeting of the Parliamentary Liberal Party. It has 43 signatures. As soon as they are verified by the Whips, which should not take long, the meeting will be called.”

The meeting occurred at 12.20pm. The Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull walked in with Arthur Sinodinos who had returned from treatment from cancer and Craig Laundy Peter Dutton walked in with former Finance Minister Mathias Cormann.

The first test was when Former PM Malcolm Turnbull called for a spill motion which was moved and carried 45 votes to 40.

He then moved aside as Leader of the Liberal Party and a vote was held for a new Leader.

There were 3 contenders Minister for Foreign Affairs Peter Julie Bishop, Peter Dutton and Treasurer Scott Morrison.

Julie Bishop was eliminated from the count first a subsequent vote saw Scott Morrison win 45 to Peter Dutton’s 40 he become the new Liberal Leader at 12.51pm.

Josh Frydenberg was then elected as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott said of the result “we’ve lost the PM but there is a government to save”.

Peter Dutton said “my course from here is to provide absolute loyalty to Scott Morrison” as Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull then held a press conference at the PM’s courtyard in the afternoon at 2pm where he spoke of his legacy and said this was a determined insurgency backed by the media and rogue members.

He said he was impressed by how many colleagues voted to be loyal above disloyal to him and “didn’t reward Dutton”.

He said “Australia would be dumbstruck and so appalled by the conduct of the last week”.

There were “deliberately destructive actions” to oust him from the Prime Ministership he said and singled out Peter Dutton and Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Malcolm Turnbull pointed to internal Liberal polling saying that they were 50-50 a month ago.

He said this spill was driven by “vengeance and personal ambition”.

Australia’s 30th Prime Minister Scott Morrison held a press conference with his new Deputy Leader Josh Frydenberg at 4.15pm in Parliament where he outlined his priorities which he said would include helping farmers with drought conditions, using the big stick on energy companies and health care for those with chronic illness.

He said neither he nor Josh Frydenberg was disloyal to Malcolm Turnbull as they didn’t resign or vote for a spill in his leadership.

He thanked his predecessor saying Malcolm Turnbull was a great Australian.

He said there were no plans for “any elections any time soon” and that he sill has the numbers to govern in the House of Representatives.

He said Malcolm Turnbull had not yet resigned and seemed hopeful he might keep him on for a few more weeks until he officially tenders his resignation at which point a by-election will be called for Mr Turnbull’s seat.

He also announced new Deputy Leader Josh Frydenberg will be his Treasurer.

Scott John Morrison was sworn in at 6.14pm this evening at Government House in Canberra by the Governor-General of Australia Sir Peter Cosgrove as the 30th Prime Minister of Australia.

Scott Morrison has been the Member for Cook in Cronulla, NSW for 11 years.

The Week in Parliament

This week eligibility to sit in Parliament again became an issue.

A report on Channel Ten raised the question of whether Peter Dutton was in breach of Section 44(v) of the Constitution which says that any person who has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in an agreement with the public service of the Commonwealth of Australia is ineligible to sit in Parliament.

Mr Dutton’s lawyer, Guy Reynolds, has provided an opinion that Mr Dutton is not in breach of Section 44 while Brett Walker QC has provided an opinion to the Labor Party that Mr Dutton may be in breach.

Professor Anne Twomey has concurred with Mr Walker.

At the time of going to press the Solicitor General Stephen Donahue QC has not yet provided an opinion on this matter.

Mr Dutton is the beneficiary of a discretionary trust which owns two child care centres.

He is not involved in the operation of the centres themselves.

The centres are the recipients of child care subsidies paid on behalf of parents whose children attend the centres.

The subsidies then become part of the operating capital of the centre just as if they were payments by the parents alone.

In the event the centres make a profit then that profit may be paid to the trust.

The trustee of the trust then has a discretion as to whether they pay any money to the beneficiaries.

The High Court said in the Bob Day case that any payments had to be closely linked to the Member of Parliament and cannot be remote.

Mr Reynolds argues that payments on behalf of parents to a child care centre are not the subject of an agreement between Mr Dutton and the public service and Mr Dutton is eligible to sit in Parliament.

Mr Walker says that there is an agreement and Mr Dutton’s therefore ineligible.

The Solicitor General however found that Mr Dutton is eligible to sit in Parliament.

Rebooting the Liberal Party

The Former Prime Minister was quite good at government as the current 3.1% growth rate demonstrates.

The problem is that he can’t convince his own party or the Australian people that this is enough to win the next election.

On Wednesday Mr Turnbull, Scott Morrison and Mathias Cormann called a press conference to announce that the government had been unable to pass the corporate tax cuts for companies with turnovers of more than $50 million through the Senate and that they would not be taking the policy to the next election.

A journalist asked the Prime Minister the following question: “You have dropped your corporate tax cuts and the National Energy Guarantee, what policies do you have left to take to the next election?”

Mr Turnbull responded that he would stand on the government’s record.

It didn’t sound as if he had a plan to deal with energy prices, stagnant wages, school funding or immigration, the issues of concern to voters.

In the circumstances the Prime Minister’s statement sounded like someone who is sleep walking to oblivion, having run out of initiatives.

The Liberal Party should take this as an opportunity to introduce a full reboot of the government aimed at winning the next election.

What will this require?

First and foremost it will require a new energy policy that can secure the support of business and the public.

This policy should guarantee lower energy prices without substantial intervention in the National Energy Market of the sort postulated by the Treasurer and the Prime Minister, which is an anathema to business.

The policy would make clear that the renewable energy target would end in 2020 which would reduce electricity costs by $3.5 billion a year.

Instead the policy would endorse the proposal of the ACCC that the government would enter into power purchase agreements with generators to underwrite long term debt finance.

It would also seek agreement from state governments to end the moratorium on gas exploration.

Given the current economics of the electricity market this would not only lead to cheaper power prices but would ensure that Australia meets, if not exceeds, its Paris climate change commitments.

A Liberal government needs an economic policy to replace the corporate tax cuts.

The solution is to identify a policy that will promote productivity growth.

The best option is to adopt the investment allowance approach that Steve Mnuchin, the US Treasury Secretary, developed for the Trump administration.

Another approach to economic management is to develop a plan to reduce the cost of government while at the same time increasing the amount of money available for essential services.

This can be achieved through a better use of technology to deliver services.

Over time, cutting the cost of government while increasing funds for essential services will allow a faster reduction in the debt and deficit.

It will also enlarge the scope for further tax cuts.

The party will also have to address the problem of school funding.

There’s no doubt that the Catholic schools no longer trust Education Minister Simon Birmingham.

He will have to be moved and funding to the Catholic schools restored.

There’s also a need for a strategic policy to enable farmers to adapt to climate variability.

This will need to go beyond the current drought measures and look at long term responses, including more funding for research and development to create new crops and improve water use.

Finally there is a need for a new kind of leadership that carries no baggage and can carry both the centre and the conservatives.

This means a younger leader who can speak on the one hand to the demographic that is concerned about economic management and, on the other, to the demographic that sees the answers to social and economic problems in technology.

There is a leader waiting in the wings who is capable of rebooting the Liberal Party with substantial new policies, who has no baggage and is acceptable to both wings of the Liberal Party, has strong connections with rural and urban voters, is young and gets technology.

The best candidate for leadership, on any objective analysis, is Angus Taylor.

He has written an extensive report on electricity pricing with a model to reduce prices while at the same time reducing carbon emissions.

He is a micro-economist who was a business partner of the Chairman of the ACCC, Rod Sims.

He is an expert on competition policy.

He was the minister in charge of digital transformation and understands the role of technology both within and outside government.

He has been Minister for Cities and so understands issues associated with immigration, congestion and infrastructure.

He is also a farmer who is at home talking to cockies.

Finally he can walk into a pub and drink a beer without looking awkward.

John McDonnell

Angus Taylor: A Potential Prime Minister

Angus Taylor, along with Matt Canavan, is one of two micro-economists in the Turnbull ministry.

This is significant because micro-economics is a serious weakness in the policy frameworks of both the major parties.

Some of the problems are manifest in the various attempts at energy and climate policy the modelling for which tends to focus on the macroeconomic effects but ignores the micro-economic outcomes.

Microeconomic policy has been a low priority for governments ever since Peter Costello assumed responsibility for the Productivity Commission and directed it to focus on social rather than economic issues.

Angus Taylor studied economics at Sydney University and won the university medal.

He was then granted a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford where he took Master of Philosophy in economics with a thesis on anti-competitive market behaviour.

When he returned to Australia Taylor worked as an economist and management consultant in the private sector, firstly for McKinsey’s and later with Port Jackson Partners.

While he was at Port Jackson Partners he worked with Rod Sims, the present Chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Among the work he completed was a major report on electricity pricing in which he described a model that would significantly reduce electricity prices while at the same time reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

This model is still applicable to the contemporary National Electricity Market.

He has also written a book, ‘The Digital Transformation of Government’ which demonstrates that the government could save tens of billions of dollars through the digital transformation of government services.

In terms of macroeconomic management Mr Taylor has been concerned about the rise in debt that has occurred since 2013.

He believes that there are ways to manage debt and deficit without reducing the funding for essential services.

Because Angus Taylor is a farmer who is currently experiencing drought he can share the problems associated with climate variability with people doing it tough in NSW and Queensland.

He has spoken on the need for an additional $200 billion worth of investment in the agricultural industry.

There’s no doubt that Angus Taylor would have more empathy with people in marginal seats in Queensland than the current Prime Minister.

As a former Minister for Cities, Mr Taylor has turned his micro-economic skills on the problems of urban living including congestion, the infrastructure deficit and the need for a more structured immigration programme.

While he is a strong believer in open markets, his approach to foreign policy is an unknown quantity however the government has plenty of foreign policy experts, such as Julie Bishop and Josh Frydenberg, to advise him.

There is no doubt that the government needs a policy reboot and a fresh approach to politics.

If the Prime Minister decides to withdraw from the field of battle and leave it vacant then the Liberal Party could do worse than choose Angus Taylor to be its next leader.

John McDonnell

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