At a Glance

Malcolm Fraser once famously said … “life wasn’t meant to be easy”.  With the resumption of Federal Parliament next week, Malcolm Turnbull is about to find out that the 45th Parliament isn’t going to be easy either.

With a 1 seat majority and a diverse Senate the Prime Minister could find himself travelling down a very rocky road.

Don’t expect it to be a stroll down the garden path for Bill Shorten either.

Given the election result, he is now perceived as a viable contender as the alternative Prime Minister. Next time the people head to the polls they will be asking themselves the key question… “does he really have what it takes?”

Come next week, all eyes will be on Malcolm Turnbull.  Will it be the road to success or the road to ruin?

The State of Play

Since the election the Prime Minister has had to deal with a multitude of political challenges (all before the Parliament has even resumed).

Including the following:

  • A potential challenge in the seat of Herbert (that the Government only lost by 37 votes)
  • George Christensen, an LNP member from Queensland, threatening to cross the floor over superannuation policy changes
  • The Government’s failure to support Kevin Rudd’s UN bid and subsequent Cabinet leaks
  • A conservative push to revive the free speech debate by changing section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act
  • The national plebiscite on same sex marriage is now under threat
  • The Census2016 debacle
  • Continuing calls for a Royal Commission into Banks

And I could go on… it’s safe to say – it has not been the smooth sailing for the Prime Minister since the election.

To add to his woes, the Opposition have promised to test the Governments majority in the House of Representatives, next week, by seeking to move a motion to support a Royal Commission into Banks.

It would only take 1 Government MP to cross the floor and vote with the Opposition to show that the Government had lost control of the House.

A Fork in the Road?

A potential early win for the Government could be the passing of the ABCC package of Bills.  This was the whole reason the election was called in the first place. On this issue the Government may well meet with success if a joint sitting of the Parliament is required to vote on them.

The Bills require a 114 votes to pass into law, with the Government starting with 106. They require another 8 votes from the combined 16 House and Senate crossbench members and senators.  One Nations 4 Senate votes will be crucial to the outcome.

The challenge for Bill Shorten will be for him to demonstrate that he has what it takes to be the next Prime Minister.

With the nation looking for leadership, will Shorten step up and claim the mantle of Prime Minister in waiting?  Or will he merely imitate Tony Abbotts’s tactics of ‘just saying no’ because that’s what an Opposition does.

Bill Shorten is in a unique position to demonstrate the qualities of leadership required to show the public he has what it takes, or he could just seek to harness and feed the politics of complaint.

For the Opposition Leader, this Parliament is going to a very long job interview for the highest office in the land.

The Road Ahead?

By far the biggest challenge facing Malcolm Turnbull and his team is that of budget repair.

There are approximately $9 billion in unlegislated savings measures from the last Parliament that need to be reintroduced.  Labor has committed to support around $5.2 billion with another $1.3 billion in the balance.

That leaves a $2.5 billion gap in savings measures to start with, to find somewhere in the budget before other savings measures are even considered.

Bill Shorten has upped the ante, by calling on the Prime Minister to support $8 billion worth of Labor savings (mainly encompassing changes to negative gearing, the baby bonus, the private health insurance rebate and capital gains tax).

As the Government look to horse trade and cut deals, Labor savings measures and other measures potentially suggested by the crossbench Senators, could well become part of broader budget repair negotiations. Industries and businesses with an interest in measures such as negative gearing could well be put back on the reform agenda again.

While the Government railed against Labor’s negative gearing policy, for a Government scrambling to find savings, what gets said during an election campaign, can very quickly be forgotten in the cold hard light of day when savings need to be found.

As the saying goes “what is old is new again”.


The new Parliament will present a unique set of challenges for both Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten.

For Malcolm Turnbull, having won the election it has been one challenge after another all before the Parliament has even resumed.

For Bill Shorten, can he demonstrate that he has the right stuff to be Australia’s next Prime Minister.

There are immediate challenges facing the Government including:

  • Passing legislation to clean up union behaviour in the construction sector
  • Enabling legislation to hold a plebiscite on same sex marriage
  • The ongoing challenge of budget repair
  • Managing the politics of opposing a Royal Commission into Banks

Will Bill Shorten travel the road less travelled and become a responsible leader or will his inclination be to just say NO!

Tony Abbott proved himself to be a combative Opposition Leader, but since then the electorate has shown disdain for such tactics.

Given the rocky road to the resumption of Parliament, the challenge for Malcolm Turnbull will be how he navigates the political path that lays ahead of him.

For more information, in regards to this or any other public affairs issue you may require assistance with please don’t hesitate to contact me or visit the Insight Strategy website at

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