Originally published in The Australian Financial Review on December 8, 2014

Tony Abbott’s problems with the Senate are only just beginning. The black eye the Palmer United Party gave him on his carbon and mining tax repeal is nothing compared to the body blow he will receive when the major policy initiatives announced in the budget, initiatives that weren’t mentioned during the election campaign, hit the Senate. The big question is whether it will be the Palmer Party, the National Party, or both, that block the bulk of Treasurer Joe Hockey’s budget measures. Either way, politics is about to get interesting.

The problem for the PM is that Hockey’s budget holds a magnifying glass over the deepest cracks in the deal that has, for decades, united the city Liberals with the country Nationals as the Coalition. Put simply, the budget is based on the premise that the lifters are paid well to work in our CBDs while leaners bludge in the bush.

Hockey thinks unemployment is caused by people not looking hard enough for work. While some individuals may well be work-shy, it is not clear why the election of a Coalition should lead to such a rapid increase in the number of people lacking motivation. As the unemployment rate hits levels it hasn’t seen since John Howard was PM, Hockey’s solution is to deny young people access to unemployment benefits for up to six months.

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