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Senate a test for Turnbull's agenda


How sincere Bill Shorten is with his pledge to work with the re-elected Turnbull Government remains to be seen, but it is in the Senate where it will be make-or-break for the Prime Minister’s policies.

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While vote counting continues, the Coalition is likely to end up with a slim majority but not so in the Senate.

“This is not good news for Australia’s reform agenda,” HSBC chief economist Paul Bloxham said.

“Australia is in need of economic reform to help to boost productivity and to get the budget back on a sustainable medium-term path.”

Global rating agency Standard & Poor’s issued a clear warning last week – keep to the mid-2021 budget surplus timetable or lose the triple-A rating in the next couple of years.

On conceding the election, Opposition Leader Shorten said he would work with the Government on budget repair, but senior Liberal Christopher Pyne insists actions will speak louder than words.

“Let’s hope he means it this time,” the industry minister told ABC radio today.

However, both major parties have claimed a mandate to pursue their policies taken to the people.

Shadow assistant treasurer Andrew Leigh explained a mandate means you need to do after the election what you said you would do beforehand.

“It’s a novel concept; it certainly wasn’t something the Abbott-Turnbull government proceeded with, but it’s absolutely something Labor will continue,” Leigh told Sky News.

Shadow treasurer spokesman Chris Bowen was happy to nominate several measures the Opposition was willing to back to achieve budget savings – all his own.

The Government could save $160 million by scrapping the same-sex marriage plebiscite, and save billions by backing Labor’s changes to negative gearing and capital gains tax.

The Australia Institute believes there are opportunities for the Government to work with the Senate, such as putting up changes to superannuation first, while abandoning parts of the planned company tax cuts which would significantly improve the budget bottom line.

“It would be prudent for Malcolm Turnbull not to repeat the mistakes made by Tony Abbott where the repeal of the carbon and mining taxes were implemented first, while leaving surprise spending cuts to be rejected by the Senate,” the institute’s executive director Ben Oquist said.

But Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry boss James Pearson says all parts of the 10-year tax plan that would take the company rate to 25 per cent must stay in place.

“The benefit will flow overwhelmingly to households and families,” Pearson said.

Meanwhile, New Senate crossbenchers Pauline Hanson and Derryn Hinch have been offered Treasury briefings, but they differ over whether Malcolm Turnbull has a mandate.

“I think he just fell over the line by a nose. The people didn’t particularly want Liberal or Labor,” Hanson told Seven.

Hanson said she was yet to hear from the Prime Minister, who said during the election campaign that she would not be welcome back in parliament. But she said she was prepared to work in the best interests of the country.

“We are all elected to the parliament as leaders of this nation to look at what is the best to introduce as legislation and laws for the people. That’s what I will be looking at,” she said.

But she said she also believed she had a mandate to pursue her policies, which include a royal commission into Islam.

Hinch said that despite the close result, Turnbull had the mandate to “introduce any legislation he likes at all”.


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