The revolving door of Australian Prime Ministers has left many wondering who’s really in charge of the country. The situation has become so dire that even paramedics avoid asking casualties the supposedly simple question of ‘who’s the Prime Minister?‘ to test their mental alertness levels. Malcolm Turnbull is the fourth Australian Prime Minister in four years following his coup d’état against Tony Abbott under the guise of the falling opinion polls. How much has changed with Turnbull regime? Let’s take a look…
- Taxation and Goods and Services Tax (GST)
Tony Abbott ruled out tax changes and sought to avoid changes to negative gearing and superannuation. Malcolm Turnbull has confirmed that many tax reforms are once again on the tablet. Increasing the GST to 15% and broadening the base of the GST with income tax cuts has not been ruled out.
- University Deregulation
Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne tried unsuccessfully twice to push through changes to the university system which deregulate and increase fees. Simon Birmingham, the new Education minister has announced that the previous university deregulation plan has been axed and that a new set of compromised reforms will be put on the table.
Tony Abbott refused to fund public transport projects with Commonwealth monies opting for roads instead. Malcolm Turnbull has said that the government will consider both roads and public transport as worthwhile in funding. Jamie Briggs has also been appointed to the newly created portfolio of Cities and Built Environment.
- Knights and Dames
Probably Tony Abbott’s most infamous “captain’s calls” was to reintroduce the ‘knights and dames’ honours and later to award a knighthood to Prince Phillip. Malcolm Turnbull a renowned republican has abolished these honours after seven weeks as Prime Minister.
- Welfare Reforms
The 2014 austerity budget set the former Abbott government down a track that it never recovered from. Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey’s attempts to change family tax benefits and the dole were mostly blocked by the Senate. Christian Porter, the new Social Services minister has announced that the government will propose a changed family tax benefits package and is willing to negotiate with the Opposition and the cross-bench in the Senate.
What’s the same?
- The Environment
Tony Abbott put forward his ‘Direct Action’ plan to tackle climate-change, a policy that has been of little effect other than to say to coal is important for the future and the wind powered turbines are not good. Malcolm Turnbull either is yet to release his own environmental policies or is largely committing to hold onto Abbott plan of ‘action’.
- Indigenous Recognition
Both Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull have affirmed their commitment to giving Indigenous Australians constitutional recognition. Turnbull has highlighted that he is experienced with attempts to change the constitution although whether this will place in 2017 remains unclear. Perhaps one positive of Tony Abbott’s leadership was his ability to draw much needed attention towards Indigenous affairs with the Recognise campaign saying that meeting between the Prime Minister, Opposition Leader and Indigenous leaders made a real improvement towards public support of the movement.
- Same-Sex Marriage
Malcolm Turnbull has signalled that the plebiscite on same-sex marriage announced by Tony Abbott will continue as planned without a conscience vote in the Liberal Party room.
With the next Australian Federal Election set for September or October in 2016, what are your thoughts about Malcolm Turnbull leading the Coalition to the polls (that is if Abbott doesn’t pull a Rudd 2.0)?
This article was first published in The Typewriter
Roydon Ng is a freelance journalist, blogger and web designer based from Sydney, Australia.