How is Scott Morrison performing as Treasurer?

Is Scott Morrison doing a better job than Joe Hockey as Treasurer? Photo: Andrew MearesWhen Malcolm Turnbull challenged Tony Abbott for the leadership of the Liberal Party, he said the government desperately needed a different leadership style.

Australia is facing huge economic challenges and needs a new leadership team that can explain those challenges clearly and sensibly, he said.

He replaced Treasurer Joe Hockey with Scott Morrison and set about rebuilding the government’s economics team.

But how well is Scott Morrison doing as Treasurer? Is he doing a better job than Hockey? We asked some senior economists and strategists for their views.

Saul Eslake, private economist

“I think the jury is out on Morrison. I’m prepared to cut him a bit of slack because he’s the first treasurer since John Kerin who has not previously been a shadow treasurer, a finance minister, or an assistant treasurer, so he’s been thrown in at the deep end.

“He’s dropped some of the apocalyptic rhetoric that Abbott used all the time and which Hockey was prone to use when he was under pressure. There’s none of that from Morrison, which is good and appropriate.

“But I haven’t seen much sign of a concerted effort on Morrison’s part yet to educate the public as to the nature of the economic challenges that Australia faces or to start the work of seeking a mandate for dealing with them.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with Mr Morrison and Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer. Photo: Andrew Meares

John Hewson, former Liberal leader

“I think he’s sent mixed messages. He started out by saying he could fix the budget by cutting expenditure and at the same time he was raising expectations of tax reform without increasing the burden of tax. I don’t think those two things are consistent.

“If you realistically factor in the long-term expenditure commitments which the electorate seems to want, and which both sides of politics have signed up to, then somewhere in there you have to admit we’ll actually have to raise the burden of tax as well as cut government expenditure.

“We haven’t had realism in the debate and I’ll doubt we’ll get it before the election.”

John Daley, director, Grattan Institute

“The one thing we’ve seen Morrison explore in any kind of detail was his speech on superannuation, and that certainly looked as though he had looked long and hard at understanding what are the principles here, what are we trying to do, and then what are the options? And he laid out some pretty sensible principles and options for reform.

“With the mid-year budget update, he made some movement towards making the assumptions behind the budget more sensible.

“But it doesn’t feel like he has the kind of urgency behind budget repair that I suspect he needs to have. There seems to be quite a lot of acceptance that we’ll have budget deficits for a long time, and we’ll just hope we can grow ourselves out of it.”

Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott. Photo: Alex EllInghausen

Bruce Hawker, veteran Labor strategist

“The best you can say is that Morrison has turned a corner from the disastrous image that Joe Hockey – and of course Tony Abbott – had on economic management.

“The big advantage that he has over Hockey is that he actually does present as somebody who’s competent, and that’s incredibly important to the electorate because they want to believe that the person running the Treasury is numerate and can look after the finances and economy of the nation.

“But the big challenges are still ahead as we head into a year of economic volatility. How he manages tax policy will be one of the defining moments for him. They haven’t actually made any hard decisions… increasing or broadening the GST would be politically disastrous and test both Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull.”

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