The more things change, the more they stay the same.
And so the Malcolm Turnbull Prime Ministership begins, but apart from the charm offensive, the winning smile, and the ability to speak in sentences of more than three single- syllable words, not much else has changed.
Indeed, the new government has demonstrated a ‘new leader but old policies’ applies as Prime Minister Turnbull got down to business, thereby dashing the dreams of those who hoped the change in leadership would result in more progressive and compassionate policies.
He began by re-introducing a Youth Measures Bill in Parliament that would keep young people off income support for four weeks at a time.
As Senator Richard DiNatale said “It is clear that when it comes to reducing unemployment and helping our most vulnerable the Coalition simply has a new leader but the same punitive policies”.
Thankfully the Senate confirmed this sentiment by rejecting this same measure last week.
In relation to Marriage Equality Mr Turnbull, who has always been a strong supporter of same-sex marriage, has fallen into line with Mr Abbott’s proposal to hold a plebiscite on the issue. This is of course a delaying tactic, in the hope that it will go away. Plebiscites and referenda can also be manipulated to get the result you want, as John Howard masterfully (and regrettably) proved with the Republic referendum.
Environmentally Mr Turnbull has also proved to be a major disappointment. He intends to continue with the ineffective Direct Action scheme for combatting climate change, and will take the previous government’s dismally low emissions target to the Paris climate conference in December.
Mr Turnbull was also busy turning the clock back when it comes to water, specifically the Murray-Darling Basin. Grabbing the headlines last week was the decision to put the nation's water supply in the hands of the National's Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce
As many have pointed out, this is potentially a massive conflict of interest, as it pits the industrialised agriculture against the well-being of the environment, and so should not be risked.
Indeed, giving control of our nation's water to the Agriculture Minister is like putting the fox in charge of the hens’ house, as has been shown by his reported support for the mooted Lake Coolah dam near Narrandera
However, overshadowing Water being ‘given’ to Mr Joyce, another water issue that happened last week was probably lost in the media’s excitement about the leadership change. This was the Water Amendment Bill 2015, passed on the combined vote of the Liberals, Nationals and Labor.
The new legislation includes a 1500 GL per annum cap on water buybacks. This is a massive retreat from the 2750 GL that was agreed to in negotiations over 2011-2012.
What a legislated cap will do is make it tougher for some farmers who will not be able to sell their water entitlements once the government has reached the arbitrary 1500 GL cap. River flows will again suffer.
“These changes are about political power. They are not good policy”, said Greens NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon. “The changes work against the needs of the majority of farmers.”
So essentially the switch to Malcolm Turnbull as PM means that nothing of any significance has changed. As the French reputedly say, “plus ça change, plus c’est lamême chose” , that is, the more things change, the more they stay the same.