Having campaigned as a one-man show, Scott Morrison — the author of a “miracle victory” — now finds himself with that rarest and most inscrutable of political assets: the one mandate.
Think “Aladdin’s Cave” for politicians.
Mr Morrison genuinely can now do whatever the hell he likes.
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This is a man who — in one evening — has won the hysterical adulation of his horridly divided party, condemned Labor to a painful round of internal recrimination and grief, won Government without the tedious overhang of rash or unachievable campaign promises, and taken Clive Palmer for 60 million big ones without actually having to deal with the bloke in the Senate.
Oh — and the electorate helpfully cleared away the management issue of opinionated former leader Tony Abbott too.
This is the sort of outcome from which a Liberal leader would ordinarily awake to find it had all been a dream.
It’s not a dream
“Our view yesterday was that we could only win if absolutely everything went right,” said a senior Liberal last night. “And it did. Beyond what we could possibly have expected, actually.”
Thought by friend and foe alike to be a serviceable nightwatchman tinkering about at the crease until light stopped play, Scott Morrison is now the entire shape of the team. It’s difficult to overstate the power he now wields internally.
Viewed with a pinch of suspicion by both warring camps within the Liberal Party (the Abbott camp suspects Morrison of betraying Abbott for Turnbull, and the Turnbull camp suspects him of betraying Turnbull for Morrison), the re-elected PM has at his disposal a new, third way: His own.
When asked during the campaign by Leigh Sales who would set the pace in a re-elected Coalition Government:
“Who will have the upper hand in driving Liberal Party policy if you’re re-elected? The climate change sceptics who killed the National Energy Guarantee, voted against same-sex marriage and orchestrated Malcolm Turnbull’s downfall, or the mainstream of the party?”
Scott Morrison’s reply was swift and brutal.
What’s on the ‘to do’ list?
Despite pernicious money problems and the ragged disarray within the party, Mr Morrison also has at his disposal a reinvigorated party organisation.
Federal director Andrew Hirst — a faithful long-term staffer who has slogged through dark times with Brendan Nelson, Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott in opposition — is now the toast of the town; a young man who has now cemented a new generation of organisational authority.
But what to do?
Scott Morrison’s campaign was extremely economical; just one guy, with mainly one message, which was “I can be trusted to manage the economy. The other guy can’t”.
What is he committed to as a result of the campaign he’s run? Tax cuts across 10 years, including some that depend on re-electing Mr Morrison twice (a decreasingly ridiculous proposition, you’d have to say).
Assistance for first home buyers; not too tricky to implement, after a bit of ex-post-facto homework as to how it’ll work.
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But on much else, he has enormous flexibility. Including on the composition of his Cabinet, so few of whom appeared beside him on the election trail that — beyond Treasurer Josh Frydenberg — you really couldn’t accuse Mr Morrison of having created much by way of expectation.
(One exception is Environment Minister Melissa Price. In a rare off-the-cuff undertaking, Mr Morrison guaranteed that Minister Price would retain her portfolio; it will be interesting to see if that undertaking is kept).
Will Labor policies influence the Coalition?
Sagacious Arthur Sinodinos, after confessing on the ABC’s election panel last night that he had doubted Mr Morrison in February when he sketched out the path to victory that last night became reality, had this to say: “Nature abhors a vacuum.”
“In fact, one of the things, I think, he will have to do is take some of the elements of the Labor campaign and look at them and say, ‘Well, where were the issues that motivated some people to vote Labor, and what can I do to and ameliorate — assuage those concerns?’.”
Currently, the Government’s climate and energy policy is a strange amalgam of Mr Abbott’s policy approach and Mr Turnbull’s.
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With both of them gone, there is an opportunity for something new.
When there’s an election, Government departments are obliged to prepare a “red book” and a “blue book”; thorough briefing papers for incoming ministers in the event of — respectively — a returned incumbent government or an incoming new government brief.
Across the public service this time, the red books were slender, the blue books bulging.
But the red books are the ones they’ll need; the frenetic activity of an imagined first Shorten term now gives way to the unnatural calm of a second term for Mr Morrison.
Having campaigned on the broadest of visions, the Prime Minister needs detail — fast. Nature does abhor a vacuum.
And Aladdin’s cave, while magical, was also booby-trapped.
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