Malcolm Turnbull couldn’t get a deal done on corporate tax cuts but the PM has time to try again.The briefcase labelled “corporate tax cuts” was held up to the audience and brand new Senator Tim Storer crossed his arms.
But instead of a smiling Andrew O’Keefe in a TV studio, it was a weary Mathias Cormann making sure the show went on.
“Everybody knows the maths in the Senate,” the finance minister said, while withdrawing the company tax cut bill before it got to a vote.
The coalition could only get 37 senators to support the tax cuts.
“Everybody knows we need 39,” Cormann said.
After months of public and private lobbying, the government failed to get the support it needed, in part because it could not guarantee wages would rise.
Just like how no one on “Deal Or No Deal” knows what is in each briefcase, no one could exactly say if corporate tax cuts would work.
Malcolm Turnbull promised senators that wages would rise if the tax rate was lowered, but even businesses weren’t prepared to go that far.
Without guaranteed wage rises, Derryn Hinch was sceptical of the bill. Senator Storer wanted wider tax reform. The Nick Xenophon Team just thought it was a bad idea.
But Turnbull’s government remains committed to cutting taxes for companies with revenues above $50 million.
They have five weeks to figure out how to get those final two votes, because Parliament won’t sit until the Budget is delivered in May.
The next month will be filled with carefully managed budget leaks on the front pages of newspapers.
The prime minister will head to London for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in April.
The Commonwealth Games will eat up headlines, as athletes win gold on home soil.
The cricket scandal will drag on as the footy seasons ramp up.
The break is a chance for government negotiators to get their heads down and work on a way to get the tax cuts through as they get the Budget ready.
Turnbull is going to face a storm when the 30th Newspoll in a row lands showing the coalition behind Labor.
When he mentioned that figure in his speech challenging Tony Abbott for the leadership in 2015, Turnbull probably wasn’t looking this far ahead.
He was just trying to not lose the 2016 election.
Abbott has shown he’s unlikely to stay quiet when the 30th poll is released, but Turnbull can turn the inevitable sound and fury to his advantage.
The poll results were just one of the reasons Abbott was dumped – and Turnbull has made significant headway on the others.
“We need to restore traditional cabinet government,” Turnbull said in his 2015 challenge speech.
That’s been done. Cabinet is operating more collaboratively and ministers have more responsibility for their portfolios.
“There must be an end to policy on the run and captain’s calls,” was another line.
Everyone has preferred to forget, but for two years ns woke up every day with no idea what Abbott would do or say.
The peak was his snap decision to give Prince Philip a knighthood, but don’t forget how he used his G20 speech to complain to world leaders, referred to candidates with “sex appeal”, or said axing the carbon tax was the best thing he did as Minister for Women.
For all Turnbull’s faults, the public conversation under his leadership is back to being about policy.
“The only way we can ensure that we remain a high wage, generous social welfare net, first world society is if we have outstanding economic leadership, if we have strong business confidence,” Turnbull said in 2015.
Last year saw the most jobs ever created in a single year in ‘s history, and the budget is on track to be into surplus even faster than predicted.
These are the reasons Turnbull is in no danger of a spill.
His government prefers to strip out controversial parts of legislation in order to get deals done and laws passed.
The tax cuts are controversial too, but Turnbull has done what he promised when he said he would try to provide economic leadership.
In five weeks’ time he might not have a Newspoll win, but he will still have the leadership, and maybe anti-tax senators will be ready to deal.