By Larry Anthony, SAS Group Director
Barnaby Joyce, Fiona Nash and Malcolm Turnbull. Photograph: Mike Bowers for the Guardian
The next federal election has to be held within the next eight months. There is increasing talk that there will be an early election, potentially a double dissolution, to be held as early as July 2016.
The weekend’s announcement of the Turnbull/Joyce ministerial reshuffle by the Prime Minister places the Liberal & Nationals Coalition on election footing. The changes to the ministry are significant and the ministerial line-up almost seems unrecognisable since the 2013 election of the Abbott/Truss government.
Whilst the recent Galaxy poll has the Government dropping from 56 per cent of the 2PP to 52 per cent of the 2PP, it still has the Turnbull/Joyce government in a good position. This poll clearly shows the Prime Minister’s honeymoon is coming off, but the government remains in a winning position.
The central issue that is focusing the government at the moment is what will be its core economic message in the election campaign. This messaging is important as it will help shape the election campaign and the budget forecasts of the years ahead. As we get to the pointy end of the election cycle, it’ll be the hard policy issues that will determine – to a large extent – the government’s’ re-election. How well the new ministry advocates and defends this narrative will be critical.
The combination of a popular urbane, sophisticated businessman as the Prime Minister, versus the new National Party Leader and Deputy Prime Minster in Barnaby Joyce who comes across as a champion of small business and rural issues is a wining combination for the Liberal & Nationals Coalition.
As long as the two can manage their relationship – and as the Deputy Prime Minister said over the weekend, “it’s a business arrangement,” – then the Coalition should be able to appeal to the centre and slightly left with Malcolm Turnbull; but also reach out to the right through Barnaby Joyce.
The new-look cabinet, particularly with Fiona Nash as the first female Deputy Leader of The Nationals and a number of other notable appointments, such as Steve Ciobo to Trade and Investment and Darren Chester to Infrastructure and Transport, will complement the leadership.
There has also been a major reshuffle of the outer ministry.