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Paul Bongiorno: Morrison government’s surplus baggage

Scott Morrison ...

Back in June, then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull hatched a cunning plan – he would end the year on a high by flagging a surplus in the budget update, and at the same time Labor would be beset by internal brawling at its national conference.

Turnbull timed the Super Saturday byelections for July 28, the precise time the ALP was to hold its three-yearly conference. A mad scramble to reschedule followed, as Labor stood to forfeit $100,000 outlaid for the Adelaide Convention Centre if the gathering wasn’t held this year. On Sunday, the postponed conference begins and its agenda has plenty of contentious issues that Bill Shorten, if he had his druthers, would have preferred not come up on the eve of an election year. Indeed, Labor suspects the election could be just over three months away.

The other arm of the Turnbull plan will play out on Monday, when treasurer Josh Frydenberg unveils the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO). It will be vying with day two of the Labor conference, which suggests the current Liberals are not as confident of Labor falling apart on the banks of the River Torrens as the dumped prime minister was. One Liberal says John Howard, if he were still leader, would have left the media space to Labor anyhow because, even without bloodletting, the more people who know about its scary policies the better …

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