CANBERRA – Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is reaching into the John Howard "fair go" and "mateship" playbook with a promise of a new family-friendly childcare package.
In a speech on Wednesday for the start of the parliamentary year, Turnbull will announce a revised childcare package -- which had been stalled by the Senate crossbench -- and pledge cheaper energy under the Coalition.
The scene-setting policy announcements are attempts to reach out to voters left behind economically and disenchanted with tit-for-tat politics and the major parties.
1st Cabinet meeting of 2017 - we stand for jobs, investment, opportunity and the security that makes it all possible. pic.twitter.com/ysXzAsoObm— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) January 31, 2017
"The 'good run' of 25 years of continued economic growth has not hit everywhere," Turnbull will acknowledge.
"The truth is that there are many parts of Australia where times are not so good, where jobs are scarce and prospects look less promising than they were."
"We believe in creating opportunities but we also believe in providing a helping hand."
"We are a generous and compassionate people; a fair go and hand up if you fall behind, the essence of mateship, that is deep in our DNA."
Turnbull is reaching out to abandoned voters in what would be called the 'rust belt', a demographic embraced by Donald Trump, One Nation and Nick Xenophon.
Something to hold Bill Shorten to in 2017: "people first, politics last." https://t.co/UuulHcHyUc— HuffPost Australia (@HuffPostAU) January 31, 2017
Labor Leader Bill Shorten wants them desperately too. That's why "job, jobs and jobs", particularly Australian jobs, were the subject of HIS agenda setting speech on Tuesday, along with him telling fellow politicians that "politics as usual doesn't cut it" and "we need to lift our game".
And, after ridicule from Shorten about CPR on a "dead deal", Turnbull is finally conceding the Barack Obama-negotiated 12-nation trade pact The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has essentially been killed off with last week's withdrawal by the U.S President.
"Although disappointed by America's withdrawal from the TPP," Turnbull will say, "we continue to work to open more markets for our exports with negotiations underway with India, Indonesia, the EU and in due course the United Kingdom."
Yes, Australia is moving efforts on to other markets.
The Coalition is behind in the polls, and has been in Newspoll since late September, and Turnbull is being given advice or facing almost daily critiques from his predecessor Tony Abbott.
I've observed 11 PMs over 50 years & Turnbull is weakest & most indecisive since Billy McMahon, says Jack Waterford https://t.co/mv5b3YF4am— James Massola (@jamesmassola) January 28, 2017
But in a speech the Prime Minister hopes will kick start his government's political year and help set the political agenda, Turnbull will set out his key priorities for 2017.
The election mantra of 2016 -- "jobs and growth" -- is gone.
In its place?
"My Government stands for opportunity and security."
"The opportunity to get ahead and to get back on your feet when times are tough, built on a foundation of economic and national security."
"Enabling Australians to do their best - not setting limits, not telling them what is best."
The details are not clear, but the Prime Minister will flag a family-friendly, yet more "affordable and available", childcare package.
The Turnbull Government regards the current system as "broken" and in need of a "complete overhaul", but it has been unable to pass a $3 billion package that includes the removal of a $7500 payment cap for families earning less than $185,710.
"When Parliament resumes, we will introduce a new Bill that combines our childcare reforms with the measures that will pay for them," Turnbull will say.
"We have been holding constructive discussions with the Senate crossbench to ensure we can provide a strong safety net, but deliver more affordable, flexible and available childcare."
And he expects energy, broken down into costs and security, will be a "defining debate in this Parliament".
It is a fight over jobs and cost of living that Turnbull is keen to take to Labor, but it is not clear how he can ensure the household energy bill will be cheaper under a Coalition Government.
"This isn't an abstract issue. Higher electricity prices mean more pressure on household budgets and businesses," he will say.
"We're determined to help families and businesses by making electricity affordable and reliable; Labor's policies mean higher power prices and energy insecurity."
Parliament takes off for 2017 on Tuesday.