With the defeat of the bill to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission in the Senate, another waypoint in Malcolm Turnbull’s election plan is reached.
The Senate, with its chaotic and unpredictable crossbench, had become an obstacle for any government trying to deliver a suite of reforms.
The Abbott government lost confidence not just because it had a leader who was out of touch but also because of the perception that it was unable to get anything done.
Malcolm Turnbull has been working all year on dealing with the Senate, including by passing legislation last month that will drastically reduce the presence of micro-parties in the upper house.
Taking the ABCC legislation to the Senate – in a sitting that nobody expected and was only secured by the invocation of a little-known clause in the Constitution – now gives Turnbull the option to go to the country with a double dissolution, the only way to ensure the whole Senate needs to be vacated and re-elected, delivering the maximum impact of the electoral reforms.
While some of Turnbull’s handling of policy commentary has been scratchy – and that’s being generous – the wheels have been turning in Canberra in a very methodical way with the goal being to deliver a political setup that would allow a Coalition government to pursue its reform program without having to steer every plan through the minefield that is the Senate crossbench.
Turnbull put his hand up for the job saying he wanted to give businesses more confidence. He cannot control the economic volatility, but there is a path – difficult and risky though it is – to reducing political volatility, which can deliver more policy certainty.
It has been a high-stakes strategy so far, and outcomes are far from guaranteed. But another box has been ticked off on Turnbull’s plan.