How sincere Bill Shorten’s 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 Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s policies – an upper house where the crossbench just got bigger.
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 says.
“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, Mr 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 on Monday.
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,” Dr 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,” Mr Pearson said.