“The PM’s strong preference is to go next year, so the only way I envisage one this year is if the vaccine rollout goes perfectly and the unemployment number gets down to somewhere around six per cent – or less six than per cent – and if Labor is in a bit of a mess,” Mr Coorey said.
Mr Coorey joined Sky News AM Agenda Host, Laura Jayes; Network 10 Political Editor and Professor of Politics at Griffith University and University of Western Australia, Dr Peter van Onselen; and ABC RN Breakfast Presenter, Fran Kelly, for a discussion on the state of Australian politics.
Mr Coorey, the author of the Political Outlook in CEDA’s 2021 EPO report, said next year would be a year of very small targets.
“As the Prime Minister said at the Press Club, his priorities are essentially rolling out the vaccine, getting people back into work and reskilling those who can't find work, and he's not interested in much else beyond that in terms of reforming tax, industrial relations or anything else that is going to require a large amount of effort,” he noted.
Ms Jayes said the Prime Minister’s future and the success of his party depended on the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I think everyone just wants their life to get back to normal, so if voters think Scott Morrison is the man to get back to normality, well then I think he wins,” she said.
“There’s no big appetite for a big reform agenda… at the start of this crisis we thought that politicians of all stripes might use these opportunities to push through big reforms.
“I think [NSW Treasurer, the Hon. Dominic Perrottet] is the only one that's used that mantra ‘don't waste a crisis’, but it just doesn't seem like Scott Morrison has that appetite.”
Dr van Onselen said Mr Morrison would be guided by what’s in his best self-interest when the time comes.
“If suddenly calling election at the end of this year looks like the best political move for him because it looks like there might be a move away from him… I think he’ll go to the election late this year, as long as he doesn't think the odium of having suggested he wouldn't go becomes a reason not to do so,” he said.
“But if he thinks he’s still travelling well, and there's no indication of that changing by the time we get to the first half of next year, then… he’ll likely just go full term, as he has indicated to his own party room.”
While climate change and energy policies continue to divide Australia’s major political parties, Mr Coorey said Mr Morrison had been quietly steering the Coalition away from coal for some time.
“I think Morrison does get it and does want a change, and he’s been doing it right under our noses now for the past year or 18 months,” Mr Coorey said.
“It’s a bit like turning around the QE2 [Queen Elizabeth 2] - it’s a slow process moving the Liberal Party and the Coalition.”
The AFR Political Editor pointed to recent speeches and comments from Mr Morrison on Australia’s energy future, where there was a focus on gas and no mention of coal.
He said Mr Morrison was not passionate about climate change, but accepted that the capital markets supported clean energy.
“He has to bring the Coalition around to that realisation without doing two things: splitting the party, or destroying his leadership, and he’s been doing it in baby steps,” Mr Coorey said.
“His aim on net-zero is to approach it in baby steps, so when you take the final step, it’s a step not a leap.
“In terms of combating climate change, it’s tiny in terms of achievement but in terms of shifting attitudes in the Coalition, it’s quite significant.”
CEDA's Economic and Political Outlook is Australia's premier publication and series of events held in Australia's capital cities and major regional centres, focussing on the Australian economy and politics for the year ahead.
Running for 40 years, the EPO brings together political, economic and business leaders and provides CEDA members with business intelligence on the environment they will be operating in over the next 12 months.
ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL OUTLOOK (EPO) 2021
CEDA’s 2021 Economic and Political Outlook (EPO) report examines why governments should seize opportunities that deliver long-term economic and social benefits to secure Australia’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.