Morrison’s toughness to be put to the test

Earlier this year, Scott Morrison boasted he was no stranger to tackling causes that didn’t enjoy popular support.

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At the time the Turnbull government appeared to be pursuing an increase in the GST rate as part of its tax review, a move that generated a hostile response from Labor.

“For five years I campaigned heavily on what were very unpopular measures,” the former immigration minister proclaimed.

Now as treasurer preparing for his first budget, he’s seen as not doing enough by taking a populist route.

The GST idea has been ditched, making personal tax cuts unaffordable, and negative gearing remains sacrosanct.

It has been a tough few months for Morrison, meeting a wall of protests at every turn as he puts together a plausible tax package as part of the budget – be it from opposition parties, vested interests, the media and even his own backbench.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull put his faith in Morrison soon after he rolled Tony Abbott to help turn around the fortunes of the economy and the government, something he felt was lacking under the previous leadership.

There have been times since when the pair has been giving a good impression of not speaking from the same script.

Morrison has spent more time in the Treasury portfolio than he did social services.

But the move from immigration and border protection allowed him to gain experience in a key budget area – the massive welfare spend.

His tough stance on asylum-seeker boats, both in opposition and government, made him one of the Abbott government’s few standout performers in its first year.

But Morrison drew criticism over the secrecy surrounding his tough border controls, which were run as a military operation complete with an army general.

That secrecy appears to have spilled over to his role as treasurer, keeping his budget plans unusually close to his chest.

Since taking over the Treasury portfolio, the economy has perked up to a three per cent growth rate and unemployment has dropped to its lowest level since the coalition came to power in September 2013.

However, the budget remains in deep deficit with Morrison pushing out the likely timing of a surplus to 2021.

Many inside and outside the Liberal Party have previously tipped Morrison to be a future leader.

Whether he can still make that claim to fame will likely hinge on how the budget is received and whether it helps get the coalition over the line at a July 2 election.