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Comment: Malcolm Turnbull must step up to the crease

AAP logoAAP 17/11/2016 Paul Osborne

Australians are keen to see some serious runs on the board.

They're also concerned about the captain and the team's overall direction.

No, this isn't about cricket - it's about Malcolm Turnbull and his coalition government.

Just as the government needs to notch up some wins, Turnbull has turned hyperpartisan.

He's knocked Labor for six over damaging the US alliance, being beholden to corrupt union officials, not caring about defence and national security and leaving asylum seekers to die in their hundreds.

In one radio interview alone he mentioned Bill Shorten and Labor 16 times.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton set something of a record, mentioning Shorten and Labor 37 times at a media conference on Tuesday.

Shorten accuses the government of "chaos" and division, pointing to Turnbull being the puppet of "conservative cronies" in the coalition.

While a certain element of partisan politicking is expected, voters want governments to govern.

One of the features of the US presidential election was its highly partisan nature, with one side trying to destroy the other and serious policy discussion taking a back seat. Possibly further than the back seat - more like balancing with one foot on the towbar.

The end result was a divided nation, with protests continuing in American cities over the legitimacy of Republican Donald Trump's win and confusion over which election commitments he intends to deliver and which ones were populist rhetoric.

Labor argues it has supported the coalition when there is good sense in doing so - the omnibus budget savings measures bill is one recent example.

There is some evidence the opposition is being more helpful than in the previous parliament under Tony Abbott.

In the first three sitting periods of the new parliament, Labor voted with the coalition 55 per cent of the time - up from 41 per cent in the 44th parliament.

Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese is one who wants to see greater cooperation across the chamber.

Albanese is someone who knows what it's like to try to bring parties together. He was a key figure in keeping the tentatively-balanced Gillard minority government ticking over.

He visited Birchgrove Primary School in Sydney today with Liberal MP and Speaker Tony Smith to talk to students about democratic participation.

"At a time of hyper-partisanship overseas and often vitriolic political debate in Australia and abroad, it is vital for politicians to put aside their differences and work together in the national interest," Albanese says.

"The community is crying out for politicians to work together."

For his part, Turnbull insists he's in touch with what people want and aiming to deliver what it important to them.

Taking a train from Melbourne to Geelong this week, he came across people wanting to talk about issues from public transport funding to hiking.

He later told Sydney's 2GB radio he wanted to see less carping, especially from media commentators, and more solutions.

"What is more helpful is when people say 'this is what we think you should do'," he said.

"The important thing is to move from a sense of unhappiness to what are the measures people are looking to do."

The next fortnight of parliamentary sittings - the final for the year - will be a crucial test for Turnbull's ability to deliver.

The two double-dissolution triggers - restoring the building industry watchdog and putting in place a new system to tackle union corruption - will be up for debate.

The key to their passing will be convincing eight crossbench senators the two new commissions won't act like star chambers and take away ordinary legal rights of union officials.

Turnbull has two possible avenues if they fail - take them to a joint sitting of parliament or shelve them for now and ramp up the rhetoric about Labor running a protection racket for union thugs.

Given the effort the prime minister put into holding a double- dissolution election, and the iconic status the coalition has given the workplace laws, he will be under immense pressure to go ahead with the joint sitting.

The polls give Labor a 53-47 per cent lead over the coalition, but Turnbull has a 10 point advantage over Shorten as preferred prime minister.

The crowds have some sympathy for the captain, but want him and the whole team to step up.

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