John Howard once said he wanted Australians to be comfortable and relaxed.
Scott Morrison is so comfortable in the wake of his election win he’s taken his family for a Fiji holiday.
There is justification for his confidence, but there is also a danger of hubris.
With the May 18 election results finalised this week, the prime minister has secured 77 seats in the House of Representatives – a majority even with Victorian Liberal MP Tony Smith resuming the speaker’s chair.
What’s more, the Liberal-National coalition picked up 35 seats in the Senate, up four on the previous position and just four votes short of a majority.
That could improve even further with South Australian Cory Bernardi starting the process to wind up his Australian Conservatives party and potentially re-join the Liberals.
“The Morrison government victory and policy agenda suggests we are well on the way to restoring common sense in the Australian parliament,” Bernardi told his supporters this week.
“That is all we, as Australian Conservatives, have ever sought to do.”
If he does re-enter the Liberal fold, Bernardi could also deliver a grassroots membership boost to the Liberal party now headed by someone he described as “a man of faith and values … leading the Liberals back to their traditional party platform”.
Politics is a confidence game – some would say a confidence trick – and the former tourism industry spruiker Morrison has it in spades.
World leaders such as Donald Trump will get a glimpse of this when Morrison takes off for the G20 summit in Japan next week.
Heading into a new parliamentary term starting on July 2, the coalition is not blinking on a number of its key election promises.
Income tax cuts will be put to the parliament as a whole package – take it or leave it.
Labor supports the first stage of the $158 billion plan, which will mean extra cash for low and middle income-earners.
But it believes the later stage, aimed at flattening the tax rates by mid-2024, shouldn’t be legislated years in advance and could lead to greater inequality.
Morrison and his chief negotiator in the Senate, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, are engaged in a crash or crash-through strategy.
Bernardi is on board.
One Nation’s two senators are not for turning, as Pauline Hanson wants the back-end tax cut money redirected to infrastructure, such as a new coal-fired power station in Queensland.
The Centre Alliance’s two senators want guarantees that gas prices and the flow-on impact on power bills won’t instantly erode the hip-pocket gains from the tax cuts.
Tasmanian independent Jacqui Lambie doesn’t yet have a view, as she is still setting up her office.
A breakout on the Labor backbench has been seized on by the government.
Victorian MP Peter Khalil said this week if the government’s position is set in stone, Labor has no choice but to back the tax cuts.
Former leader Bill Shorten’s stumbling on the issue during the election campaign was undoubtedly a negative for the federal opposition.
The danger in supporting the government’s entire tax cut plan is it will leave Labor with a lot less money to promise for policies such as health and education at the next election, having permanently locked in billions of dollars in spending.
Having secured a win on the tax cuts, and taken a small-target approach to the election campaign, Morrison then has to plot an agenda for this term.
This is where hubris becomes a danger.
There are many micro-agendas within coalition ranks, each competing for Morrison’s attention.
Coal-fired and nuclear power, greater religious freedom, a crackdown on union misconduct, public service spending cuts, workplace deregulation, relaxing of so-called “green tape” for major projects and corporate tax reduction are among them.
Interestingly, Howard used his Senate majority won at the 2004 election to pursue many of these – only to see his government steam-rolled by Kevin Rudd in 2007.
Even Howard admits he over-reached on policies such as Work Choices, his radical overhaul of the industrial landscape.
Morrison shouldn’t get too relaxed.