After an eight-week long election campaign, Australia finally received closure as Opposition Leader Bill Shorten conceded defeat to Prime Minister and Coalition Leader Malcolm Turnbull over the weekend. Although five seats are still considered close on the AEC website, two of those are likely to go to the Coalition, giving them the magic number of 76 seats required to form government.
Turnbull has also secured supply and confidence from a number of independents, including Queenslander Bob Katter, Victorian Cathy McGowan, and Tasmanian Andrew Wilkie. This will also ensure that the Coalition will have the seats to install a speaker in the lower house.
However, even though the election frenzy is over, SMEs around the country will be watching closely for what happens next, particularly when it comes to the Coalition’s promises of economic reform.
Here’s what’s in store for the Coalition and its slender majority.
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Signing and swearing
Before forming government, Turnbull must sign a new Coalition agreement with Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce. Joyce told Sky News he wants the agreement to remain confidential, saying “that’s aspiration one, two, three, four, five and six”.
The National Party has increased its representation in the Coalition, from 21 to 22 members, due to the amount of seats lost by the Liberals at the election. Assuming the projected leads in seats Flynn and Capricornia are maintained, the party will look to gain another cabinet post.
The Australian has reported that the Nationals may look to pick up both the communications portfolio and the trade portfolio in the new agreement, the latter being given to the Liberals during Warren Truss’s leadership. There are also rumours that they may seek to gain the small business ministry, currently held by Kelly O’Dwyer.
After the signing of this agreement, which is occurring today, the Prime Minister will visit Governor General Peter Cosgrove to be sworn in again as Prime Minister.
Despite claiming before the election that no changes to the frontbench would be made, Turnbull will be forced to make some changes due to a number of ministers losing their seat at the election. The Nationals currently have no representation in Queensland, so National Senator Matt Canavan appears be best positioned for a cabinet position.
As reported by the AFR, multiple rumours suggest Sussan Ley may be shifted out of the health portfolio following Labor’s controversial ‘Mediscare’ campaign. Turnbull has acknowledged the role of Medicare in the election showed health as a policy area the Coalition must work on.
Three junior ministers also seem to have lost the battle in the lower House: Assistant Finance Minister Peter Hendy, Minister for Tourism and International Education Richard Colbeck, and Assistant Minister for Innovation Wyatt Roy.
Labor is also looking at a frontbench switch up, with a source telling Fairfax that all positions bar Chris Bowen’s as shadow treasurer are under consideration.
There has been no mention of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott returning to the frontbench, despite calls from West Australian Premier Colin Barnett for Abbott to return to cabinet.
One of the greatest challenges for the Coalition will be getting its proposed budget changes through significant crossbench opposition in the Senate. The 10-strong crossbench will feature a number of smaller parties, including Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party.
The Coalition’s 10-year plan for corporate tax cuts will also likely encounter significant opposition in the upper house, as Labor will only support the cuts for businesses with under $2 million in turnover, and the Greens opposing the cuts entirely.
Cabinet Secretary Arthur Sinodinos told Fairfax the government “will put up all the elements of the budget … I believe we have a mandate to do that.” Sinodinos has also said the government will not back down on its proposed superannuation changes.
The super changes were announced five days prior to the election being called, which caused some unhappiness amongst the Liberal ranks.
“I don’t believe that superannuation was quite the make-or-break issue that some people seek to make it,” Sinodinos said.
“Questions about what happens about the budget ultimately will be a matter for cabinet and the Government. But what I’m saying is we have a mandate and I believe we should put up the budget as it is.”
It seems electronic voting in Australian elections is now a live option, with both Shorten and Turnbull discussing electronic voting over the weekend. Both leaders said it is an issue they are interested in exploring.
In his concession speech on Sunday, Shorten said he planned to pursue a bipartisan avenue to install electronic voting in Australia, citing the eight days of vote counting as an issue with the electoral process.
“We’re a grown-up democracy, it shouldn’t take eight days to find out who’s won,” said Shorten.
“We can’t afford to let Australia drift for eight days after an election.”
Turnbull echoed Shorten’s sentiments, declaring that electronic voting was “something we must look at”.
“I’ve been an advocate of electronic voting for a long time,” Turnbull said.