Scott Morrison has had a lousy week and there’s not much to look forward to.A lot of people in Canberra will say Scott Morrison is doing politics better than Malcolm Turnbull.
Eight weeks into the job, the prime minister appeared to be making populist judgments and reading the mood of the electorate better than his old boss.
But not this week.
Where to start?
His decision to look at moving ‘s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem seemed like a cynical attempt to win votes in Wentworth, one of the nation’s most Jewish electorates.
It also upset Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, a strong ally of Palestine and ‘s current trade priority.
Even worse, the Palestinian foreign minister was in Indonesia on the day of the announcement, essentially forcing the Asian country to publicly oppose ‘s move.
It went against advice from spy agency ASIO and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and it angered local Arab and Muslim groups.
When Morrison talks about sticking to the issues that matter to ns, moving an embassy in the Middle East would rank a very long way down.
It was just one of the bad own goals the government smashed in during the week.
Mistakenly voting for Pauline Hanson’s motion declaring “it’s OK to be white” was personally embarrassing for coalition senators.
The phrases she used were taken straight from far-right campaigners trying to stoke racial division but somehow dozens of Liberals and Nationals voted for it – albeit changing their vote when it was brought back.
Environment Minister Melissa Price allegedly told the former head of Kiribati Pacific nations were always after cash before appearing confused about funding for the Great Barrier Reef.
And Barnaby Joyce’s campaign to return to the Nationals leadership spilled out into the public arena.
Bill Shorten summed up Morrison’s week.
“His government has voted for a white supremacist slogan, damaged relations with Indonesia, leaked secret ASIO advice, insulting every country in the Pacific, had an environment minister who’s misled Parliament twice and undermined the deputy prime minister with open warfare breaking out in the National Party,” he said.
The self-inflicted wounds detracted too from government wins.
Successfully bringing forward tax cuts for small and medium businesses gives the coalition an economic message to sell.
The unemployment rate is down to five per cent, the lowest since the height of the mining boom in 2012.
The coalition also appears closer to getting the remaining asylum seekers off Nauru, something which would give moderate Liberal voters something to cling to at least, as Morrison is solidly more conservative than Turnbull.
But the own goals hurt even more because the government doesn’t have anything big on the policy agenda to easily move on to next.
The coalition has been in power for five years, surviving the daily news cycle and the loss of two prime ministers.
It has run through company tax cuts, personal tax cuts, several trade deals, stopping the boats, a number of failed energy policies, the trade union and sex abuse royal commissions, media ownership laws, national security changes, same-sex marriage and getting the budget back in black.
But the policy cupboard is bare.
The polls say Morrison will suffer heavy defeat at the next election, and there does appear an element of fatigue around government MPs.
Under Turnbull they had a solid chance of winning even though he also nothing new to sell.
Now they’re facing defeat and there are still no policies walking through the door anytime soon.
While Labor has spent the past two years rebuilding its agenda to capitalise on growing inequality and stagnant wages, the coalition is clinging to free trade and tax cuts.
The trade platform has been a solid success economically; jobs are booming, the budget will be back in surplus.
But the big ideas were lacking even in Turnbull’s last few months and Morrison hasn’t found anything to replace them.
He’s trying all the tricks but this week they fell flat.
And with the Wentworth by-election being held on Saturday, it was the worst time for a stumble.