If you want a friend in politics, the saying goes, get a dog. In such a competitive business, friendships are problematic, and many will not last. Enemies can stick it out through thick and thin. That's why it is important to consider the curious relationship between Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull.
Forget Turnbull's rivalry with Tony Abbott – the echoes of which will continue to be tricky – because its defining battle has been fought and won. Abbott may not have accepted that yet but to others, it is obvious. And therein lies the seeds of a future problem for Turnbull.
If his party's currently disorganised conservative wing begins to coalesce again, aggrieved by gay marriage or some other issue, it could line up behind the government's most prominent social conservative. However unlikely in the short term, given bad blood towards Morrison over his dead running in the September coup, it cannot be ruled out in the medium term.
By definition, any treasurer worth his or her salt should be future leadership material so Turnbull's management of the Morrison ascent will be a test of his political competence. Make no mistake, this will be the defining power dynamic of the next period of government potentially deciding what becomes of it – for better or worse. Already, the signs are not good.
When Fairfax Media reported mid-February on tensions between the Treasurer and his Prime Minister, the private response from the latter's office was ... well, let's politely call it robust. The indignant response was that any disagreement over the GST retreat or the future treatment of dumped human services minister Stuart Robert was total fiction – proof positive of a media vendetta.
Yet these tensions are hardly fiction. They have been the subject of numerous reports in the weeks since and come from multiple media outlets. As one senior frontbench member remarked this week, "their relationship has become an issue, there are real problems, that's for sure".
Words are one thing but Turnbull's actions have done little to dampen the perception that an odd and apparently unnecessary power and policy struggle is under way. Consider the public evidence. The Prime Minister embarked upon his shiny new premiership with ambitious reform of the taxation system central to his purpose and with all options determinedly "on the table".
As Treasurer, it would be Morrison's job to run the process, to guide and nourish the debate, as the government moved towards a crucial pre-election budget – his first. It was a key role and as the principal salesman, he was entitled to regard as genuine the PM's commitment to a deliberately open and ambitious policy debate.
Yet through a series of political retreats, Morrison has found himself working within a smaller and smaller field of operations – often plainly at odds with his known preferences.
First came that GST retreat. Turnbull is known to be livid at any suggestion its abandonment was even partly motivated by politics and in particular a spirited right-wing backbench revolt against the higher GST, insisting instead that the modelling showed the "churn" in compensation for low and middle-income earners rendered the gains worthless.
Yet what the Treasury numbers actually proved was that even rigorous modelling is only as good as its inputs. The conclusion was that the growth dividend from personal tax cuts was just 0.3 per cent. This justified the demise of the higher GST which was to fund those cuts and that in turn meant the end of a whole range of contingent possibilities – political and economic.
It has led the government inexorably to where it is now: talking about a tax cut for big business alone. Amazingly in this context, the key justification for a company tax cut is its superior impact on economic growth and yet this aspect had not been modelled by Treasury.
Its emergence as one of the only "goodies" from the much-hyped tax debate reveals the weaknesses of the process in both the political and reform senses.
One result is that voters have been taken on a journey that started with material gain and looks to have ended with the essentially abstract idea that lower company costs will lead to higher profits, more jobs, and thus more wealth for all.
In between the GST retreat and the unappetising company tax carrot now being dangled (supported by just 3 per cent of voters according to a new poll) came the removal of Morrison's clearly expressed hopes of limiting "excesses" in negative gearing, and his near-sacred personal mission to return bracket creep to average PAYG earners.
But the crowning humiliation was the announcement on Monday that the budget – the central purpose of any treasurer – would be brought forward from May 10 to May 3. Turnbull has made no secret of leaving Morrison out of the loop until the very last minute. Such an approach is short-sighted. Worse, it could lead to long-term animosities.
In the choice between a communication breakdown and relationship breakdown, neither looks too good – especially so early in the piece.
Turnbull backers mumble privately that all of this is the Treasurer's fault for being too forward leaning. They say "stop-the-boats" Morrison was great with the blunt instrument of border closure, but that his public debate skills lack nuance.
Some even say it publicly. Take for example when the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, James McGrath, was asked about Morrison's sidelining on Thursday. "I think with Scott Morrison he was a very, very good immigration minister," the close Turnbull confidant told Sky News. "I think with Scott we've got to wait until the budget comes down in May to really see the strength behind Scott's convictions and his ability as a politician."
That's all fine, but the Treasurer will no doubt be taking careful note of who is making his job harder rather than easier.
Mark Kenny is Fairfax Media's chief political correspondent.