Albanese slams Morrison for using a “loud hailer” to talk to China from US


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Anthony Albanese has attacked Scott Morrison for sending a message to Beijing while in the United States, and also split with him over the economic status of China.

Albanese accused Morrison of using “a loud hailer” to talk to China during a visit in which he was seen to be very close to the American President, including “being a partner in what would appear to be some of Donald Trump’s re-election campaign there in Ohio”. This was a reference to their joint appearance at billionaire Anthony Pratt’s new paper recycling factory.

The opposition leader’s comments open a partisan rift at a time when Australia-China relations are at a low point.

In his address on foreign policy in Chicago, Morrison described China “as a newly developed economy”, and said it needed to reflect this new status in its trade arrangements and meeting environmental challenges.

But Albanese told the ABC China quite clearly was “still developing”.

“It is still an emerging economy”, he said, pointing to the disparity between China’s per capita income and that of advanced economies such as the US and Australia.

Albanese, who made a series of comments, suggested it was not constructive “to send a message to China from the US in the way that it has occurred”.




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Highly touted UN climate summit failed to deliver – and Scott Morrison failed to show up


While there was a legitimate debate around the World Trade Organisation system, “the conflict between China and the United States [over trade] is one that is not in Australia’s interests. We want that to be resolved rather than be overly partisan about it,” he said.

“Of course our alliance with the United States is our most important relationship. That won’t change. But we need to, I think, be very measured in our comments particularly comments from the United States in the context in which they’ve been given.”

If Morrison was sending a message to China “it would have been better sent from Australia so that there was no confusion that the Prime Minister was advancing Australia’s national interests.”

Morrison had changed “the characterisation of the entire Chinese economy from Chicago,” Albanese said. “Does he think that will be well received and will reduce tension between China and the United States over trade?”

In fact, while Morrison’s language on China’s economic status went further than before, he had gone a considerable way down this path previously. In a major address in June he said: “China’s rise has now reached a threshold level of economic maturity”, with its most successful provinces sometimes exceeding the economic sophistication of global competitors. Yet they enjoyed concessions on trade and environmental obligations not available to other developed economies, he said.

In his Chicago speech Morrison said there was a need to reduce trade tensions that had developed in recent years.

“China’s economic growth is welcomed by Australia and we recognise the economic maturity that it has now realised as a newly developed economy,” he said.

It was important this was reflected in its trade arrangements, participation in addressing important global environmental challenges, transparency in its partnerships and support for developing nations.

“All of this needs to reflect this new status and the responsibilities that go with it as a very major world power,” Morrison said.

He also said: “The world’s global institutions must adjust their settings for China, in recognition of this new status. That means more will be expected of course, as has always been the case for nations like the United States who’ve always had this standing.”

Asked at a news conference what he wanted China to do that it was not doing now, Morrison said the objective was that “similar rules will apply to countries of similar capabilities”.




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Meanwhile in a speech in Beijing this week Richard Marles, Labor’s deputy leader and defence spokesman, urged a deepening of Australia’s relations with China, including even at the defence level.

“I firmly believe it is possible for Australia to maintain our strong alliance with the United States while also deepening our engagement with China. In fact, not only is this possible, it is vital,” Marles said.

“And that must be obvious. Because from the perspective of Australia, the world looks a lot safer when the United States and China are talking to each other and improving their relations.

“And if this is our view, then it stands to reason that Australia’s interest lies in having the best possible relations we can with both the United States and China.

“And from the perspective of Australia the world also looks a lot more prosperous when China and the United States trade with each other.”

“Our starting point has to be that we respect China and deeply value our relationship with China. We must seek to build it. And not just in economic terms, but also through exploring political co-operation and even defence co-operation.

“To define China as an enemy is a profound mistake. To talk of a new Cold War is silly and ignorant,” Marles said.

Asked about the defence reference, Albanese played it down.




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In a Tuesday speech in Jakarta, Labor’s shadow minister on foreign affairs Penny Wong said: “It is clear that the United States and China now treat each other as strategic competitors.

“The strategic competition in our region means we need to think carefully and engage actively to avoid becoming collateral. Great powers will do what great powers do – assert their interests. But the rest of us are not without our own agency,” she said.

“What our region is looking for is less a contest about who should be or will be number one, than how we foster partnerships of enduring connection and relevance”.

Wong said the US should “present a positive narrative and vision about the future, by articulating and presenting what it offers not only what it is against.”

“A greater focus on the likely settling point will enable the United States to recognise – and embrace – the fact that multi-polarity in the region is likely to get stronger.

“And in the context of Beijing’s ambitions, this growing multi-polarity – with countries like Indonesia, India and Japan playing increasingly important leadership roles in the region – is beneficial to Washington’s interests.

“Defining a realistic settling point will also help the United States recognise and accept that decisions relating to China will vary depending on the issues and interests at stake.”

Albanese also criticised Morrison for not attending the United Nations leaders summit on climate.

Morrison said that when he addresses the UN General Assembly this week: “I’ll be focusing very much on Australia’s response to the global environmental challenges. Which isn’t just climate change … it’s about plastics, it’s about oceans, it’s about recycling”.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Albanese says Voice must be in the Constitution


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese says an Indigenous “Voice” to parliament must be enshrined in the Constitution.

His position, spelled out in a speech to be given on Saturday to the Garma Festival, makes it difficult to see how he and Prime Minister Scott Morrison will be able to agree on a referendum question.

Albanese says in his address, released ahead of delivery:

With a Voice in place, there can be truth-telling, and there can be Makaratta. […] It is clear to me that enshrining that Voice in the Constitution is what must come first.




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Morrison has been adamant there should be no reference to a Voice in what is inserted in the Constitution to recognise Australia’s First Peoples.

Without bipartisan support, a referendum would not have a chance of success and, indeed, would not be put.

Indigenous leaders in the Uluru Statement from the Heart called for “the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution”.

Albanese says:

I want a Voice and Truth then Treaty to be part of our nation’s journey, part of our national life. It’s not just about respect and redress. It’s about progress and change. It’s about moving out of the darkness

Although there is a gulf between Albanese and Morrison over what should go into the constitution, Albanese says he still hopes for bipartisanship.

“We have not yet had true reconciliation, and a country that is not truly reconciled is not truly whole. And until we are whole, we will never reach our truest potential as a nation – and we have so very much potential,” he says.

But how can we have reconciliation when one side has no voice?

The Voice is the bedrock upon which we must build.

I will take the fight to the government on so many things; never have any doubt about that. But on this we must work together. We must be together. My hope we can have bipartisanship on this remains alive.




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Politics with Michelle Grattan: Ken Wyatt on constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians


Albanese says he is encouraged by “the tentative moves towards constitutional change” by the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt. “I hope he gets the support he needs and deserves from his colleagues.”

He says he is also encouraged by “the epiphany experienced by Barnaby Joyce.

“After being part of the chorus pushing the myth that a Voice would amount to a third chamber in parliament, Mr Joyce did something unusual. He stopped. He listened. He asked questions from people with knowledge. […]

“Mr Joyce then went on television to own up to his mistake, and to explain why he’d been wrong. And he encouraged others who’d made the same mistake to follow his example.”

At Tuesday’s caucus meeting Pat Dodson, the opposition spokesman on Indigenous recognition, said constitutional recognition had now been decoupled from everything that was in the Uluru statement. Uluru had now shifted to “co-design with select individuals”, he said.

Dodson said there was no structure for formal consultations with First Nations. “Apparently the minister has a plan for consultation with the Coalition backbench and apparently with Pauline Hanson”, he said.

The challenge now was to “assist the minister without walking away with all the fleas and ticks that would undermine a principled position”, Dodson said.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Grattan on Friday: Labor battles to keep warm in a cold climate



Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese’s approach is for Labor to pick carefully which issues it takes to the wire.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Although his circumstances are vastly different, Anthony Albanese is in sync with Scott Morrison in using the authority of leadership to the maximum.

In Albanese’s case, this has ranged from his determination to expel rogue union official John Setka from the ALP (a work still in progress) to new question time tactics and the opposition’s handling of the government’s wedge politics on legislation.

As Labor continues to absorb the consequences of its defeat, this week Albanese gave his caucus a sharp lecture about the harsh realities of this parliament.

Highlighting that the post-election Senate crossbench is much less pliable for Labor, he said the situation was effectively akin to when the Howard government won control of the upper house.

Unable to secure amendments to legislation, “we will often be confronted with circumstances where we have to vote on an issue which involves measures we agree with and measures we disagree with”, Albanese said. “The government is wanting to focus on us, with claiming every piece of legislation is a test for Labor”.

Caucus earlier had been debating a bill combining child protection and mandatory sentencing. It agreed to back it, despite ALP policy being against mandatory sentencing.

Albanese’s tough talk was timely. In the just concluded parliamentary fortnight, the Coalition has used every opportunity to corner Labor, and it will go on doing so. On Thursday, it foreshadowed bringing back after the winter break legislation from last term for a drug-testing trial for some Newstart and Youth Allowance recipients.

It tries to maximise the pressure on Labor with its endlessly repeated challenge, “whose side are you on?” Eventually, this prompted a detailed listing by Albanese of who and what Labor sided with.

Given the situation in which it finds itself, Labor can’t win – it can only try to cope as best it can.

When it attacks government measures, and then votes for them, its critics denounce it as inconsistent. If it turned everything into a last-ditch fight, it would be cast as the perennial naysayer, and mostly it would lose anyway.

Albanese’s approach is for Labor to pick carefully which issues it takes to the wire.

Labor will oppose the bill to repeal the medevac legislation, the outcome of which will depend on Jacqui Lambie. It will also maintain its stand against the legislation to toughen the rules against bad behaviour by unions and their officials. But it has been voting with the government on security measures, albeit with some concerns.

Despite the opposition’s general impotence, Albanese’s revised question time tactic – precise questions trying to force answers rather than get TV grabs – is an improvement, and scored some hits on Energy Minister Angus Taylor.

So far, Albanese has managed to keep a demoralised team united, when it wouldn’t have been surprising to have seen massive bloodletting after an election that Labor should have won.

But it is very early days and there’ll be lots of arguments ahead as Labor digs into the reasons for its defeat and looks to refashion its policies. That debate will start to crystallise when the party’s election review is finished later in the year and as the deep dives begin on whether particular policies should be filleted or scrapped entirely.

Kim Carr, Senate veteran and former minister, writing in the July edition of The Tocsin (put out by the John Curtin Research Centre), has rejected the “just wipe the slate clean and start again” prescription, warning against simply concluding Labor’s “redistribution agenda, paid for by reform of the taxation system, was a fundamental mistake”. Rather, Carr argues, there was “a massive failure of messaging”.

“Labor failed because its messaging essentially appealed to affluent voters rather than to the blue-collar voters who provide – though not as strongly as was once the case – its core support, and who typically decide federal election outcomes,” Carr says.

“We paid insufficient attention to the anxieties and insecurities that working-class families have about the future,” he writes. “We lost the trust of too many of our own people, while paradoxically winning the trust of many voters in seats that have long been Liberal heartland.”

Finding ways to re-engage with these voters will be harder than identifying their loss. It can lead to some strange contortions.

Take the issue of coal, which cost Labor dearly in Queensland. When Liberal backbencher Craig Kelly (one of the anti-NEG cabal that helped bring down Malcolm Turnbull) last week challenged Labor’s resources spokesman, Joel Fitzgibbon, to co-chair his new Parliamentary Friends of Australian Coal Exports group, set up “to acknowledge and celebrate the invaluable contribution that Australian coal exports make to our nation”, Fitzgibbon immediately agreed.

From the vantage point of Fitzgibbon, who holds the coal seat of Hunter in NSW, this sends a signal, on high volume, about his commitment, as well as saying something more generally about the ALP’s post-election position. Nevertheless, while participation doesn’t contradict Labor policy on climate change and coal, the Kelly-Fitzgibbon alliance does seem an odd coupling.

As the Labor team shakes down, Bill Shorten – still deeply bruised – emerged briefly in question time this week. But he and last term’s frontliners Chris Bowen and Tanya Plibersek remain near invisible.

In contrast, one player coming strongly into focus in the new Labor firmament is former NSW premier Kristina Keneally.

After the election, Keneally crashed through the internal party processes to become Labor’s deputy leader in the Senate. She shadows Peter Dutton in home affairs, and seems to be everywhere. This week she was in the headlines calling for controversial British right-wing activist Raheem Kassam to be banned from coming to Australia to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Sydney next week.

Keneally even attracted an attack from Donald Trump’s son, Donald junior, who tweeted his condemnation.

It is difficult to judge how Albanese will fare this term but you can bet Keneally will be making plenty of splashes.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Politics with Michelle Grattan: Anthony Albanese on Labor’s hard times


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Anthony Albanese has a blunt message for critics who are accusing Labor of attacking government measures but then voting for them. They should “examine the world as it is rather than as they would like it to be,” he says.

In the post-election reality the Senate will mostly support the government. This severely limits the opposition’s capacity to alter legislation.

In this podcast episode, Albanese defends Labor’s backing for the government’s $158 billion tax package, supports an increase in Newstart, and strongly argues the need to take the superannuation guarantee to 12%.

He remains confident in his ability to force the expulsion from the party of maverick unionist John Setka, regardless of the outcome of the court action Setka has brought. “That will happen. His values don’t fit the values of the ALP. It’s as simple as that,” he says. But he stays implacably opposed to the government’s Ensuring Integrity legislation to enable tougher action against erring union officials, saying Labor will vote against it.

Despite its problems at the election, Albanese believes Labor can successfully appeal to both working class aspirational voters and its progressive supporters, maintaining they have common interests in an ALP government.

Transcript (edited for clarity)

MICHELLE GRATTAN: Anthony Albanese has taken over the leadership of Labor at a particularly difficult time – after an unexpected election defeat that’s left the party shellshocked and demoralised. He has to drive a major re-evaluation of policy and in the meantime navigate the party’s way through the legislative wedges set up by a confident government. Amid the challenges he needs to keep his troops united. Anthony Albanese joins us today during a busy parliamentary week.

Anthony Albanese, you’ve been a senior minister, you’ve been deputy prime minister, but it’s often said that the job of opposition leader is the toughest in politics. What do you already see as the main challenges?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well the main challenge is of course overcoming the significant disappointment that’s there from May 18, when there was an expectation that we’d be sitting on the government benches. So, properly examining why it is that we’re still the opposition and then moving forward in a positive way.

MG: In caucus today you likened the [present] situation to when the Howard government won a Senate majority [at the 2004 election]. Now this government doesn’t have a majority in the upper house, but are you saying that Labor can’t expect to get much support from the non-Green crossbenchers?

AA: Well quite clearly [the government has] an absolute majority in the House of Representatives. And in the Senate what we’ve seen so far is the Centre Alliance senators explicitly say that they want to negotiate with the government, because in their view if the Senate passes amendments and it goes back to the House and the House rejects it, then it won’t become practice – it won’t become law. So that’s the explicit view that they’ve put.

Then you get to the One Nation senators who are obviously closer to the Coalition than they are to Labor. And then you have Jacqui Lambie who I think is a genuine person who’ll make judgments. But on a range of issues won’t vote with Labor either. And then of course there’s Cory Bernardi who’s not really an independent – who has basically folded up his own party and is voting with the government so far 100% of the time.

So given that we have to get four senators to make a positive difference and three senators to block[…]it won’t happen very often, I don’t think. We’ll put out our cases but we can expect that the government will have a working majority in the Senate on most occasions. 

MG: It will probably lose though, or it may well lose depending on Jacqui Lambie, in its effort to repeal the Medevac bill, won’t it?

AA: Well I hope so. But on that case we only need three. It’s clear from Centre Alliance that they’ll vote with Labor but we will need Jacqui Lambie. But that’s an example. Yeah.

The best case scenario for Labor is essentially rely upon Jacqui Lambie in order to block or defeat legislation, which is different of course from a positive initiative where it needs Jacqui Lambie and effectively, it needs One Nation and Centre Alliance because you need four. So Jacqui Lambie plus either the other combinations doesn’t get you there.

MG: You also told caucus the government will often be wedging Labor so you’ll have to choose whether to support a measure when you agree with part of it but can’t amend the part that you disagree with. The tax package was an obvious example. How do you answer those – including in your own party – who will be critical when you attack legislation but then vote for it? 

AA: Well that they have to examine the world as it is rather than as they would like it to be. We’ve been delivered a Senate where there is one Labor senator from Queensland got elected out of six. So five non-Labor senators out of six to put it another way.

Now the consequences of that are that the government is close to a working majority. As a result of that, take the tax package. We went to the election supporting stage one of the tax cuts – they’re the only part that take effect during this term of parliament. It provides for tax relief through offsets for low and middle income earners. So for every nurse, every council worker, every child care worker, every person working in retail or hospitality, up to $1080.

Now today I noticed in Question Time that the Treasurer said that there were something like 32,000 was the figure he used in one electorate alone were receiving the full $1080 dollars. Now the idea that we could say to a nurse: yes we told you we would do this if we’re elected to government but we voted against you getting this money – money that you need, money also that the economy needs you to get and spend to boost consumer demand and to boost economic activity, is quite frankly untenable.

So we were faced with the reality of either voting for what we’re in favour of – Stage 1 and indeed Stage 2 of the tax cuts we said we’d support as well – or being defined by what we were against which is stage 3 of the tax cuts that go to higher income earners but don’t come in until 2024-2025.

MG: Now you have reserved the right to try to repeal those if and when you are in government. But isn’t that unrealistic?
AA: Well what we’ve said is we’ll have our own tax policy that will take to the election that will determine prior to the election in 2022. And we reserve the right to certainly do that.

But again that was to make the point that to say to someone we tried to block your $1080 that you’re going to get today because we’re concerned about something that might happen in six years time, in my view would have been an incorrect decision.

And that was reinforced to me by the fact that as of last week some 750,000 more taxpayers have put in their tax return this year than had at the same time last year. What that is, is 750,000 people at least additional who have noticed that they’re eligible for this up to $1080, have gone about organising their affairs so that they put in their tax returns to get this money, because they’re desperate to get it. And that’s the reality that we were confronted with. And it’s a decision that I believe was absolutely the right one to make.

MG: Let’s turn to national security. It’s long been Labor’s position to act in lockstep with the government in this area – after in some cases winning concessions. Now that we’ve seen excesses like the raids on the media do you think the ALP has just taken bipartisanship too far?

AA: Well I’ve said way back in 2014 about some of the national security laws, and it was reported, that we needed to examine the measures on their merits. And I thought that some of the statements I made at the time[…]indeed in an article I was quoted in a breakfast television interview as saying that that we’ve gone too far in supporting the Abbott government’s national security agenda and I expressed my concern that what would happen in particular to journalists is that the rights of the media would be constrained. Now I’ve been consistent about that the whole way through.

I’m very concerned about press freedom. When the raids occurred on Annika Smethurst and the ABC, the Prime Minister dismissed concerns frankly was his first response and quite clearly we need to value freedom of the press as an essential component of our democracy. 

MG: So are you going to give less bipartisan support than we’ve seen over the last half a dozen years?

AA: Well we’ll examine things on their merits.

MG: But you’ll be tougher?

AA: So yes we’ll certainly examine things on their merits and we’re prepared to take stances. On the issue of foreign fighter legislation that we’re dealing with now, we had amendments. We weren’t prepared though – if our amendments aren’t successful — to uphold the joint parliamentary committee’s recommendations, that it was essentially to give the power to a judge rather than to the minister to determine these issues.

If that wasn’t successful we weren’t prepared to vote against that legislation because quite frankly the idea that we would be responsible for someone coming back to Australia who wants to cause Australians harm overrode our concern about giving the minister more power.

MG: But are you prepared to be tougher on other areas?

AA: Yes. Yes we are. We will make judgments based upon the merits of legislation that been put forward. But I have expressed the issue of media freedom I think is something that the legislation does need re-examination. And we need to make sure that journalists and indeed whistleblowers, which is the second part of it, are given the protections that they need to ensure that a functioning democracy can occur.

And I think that the real question behind these issues is, what in the information that was published by journalists [Smethurst, ABC] was not in the national interest? What should have been kept secret? And my view is that all of the information published is in the national interest, particularly plans to eavesdrop on Australian citizens without their knowledge.

MG: So are you saying that you would want a wide review of current national security laws to see whether they need to be modified? And what precisely are you saying about changes that are needed relevant to the media?

AA: Well look I think in terms of national security we live in times that are uncertain. We live in a world where people do want to give us harm. So I’m not talking about opening up the full range of issues, and we need to ensure that the government’s responsibility to keep us safe is an important one.

But it’s the government that’s broken with bipartisanship here. Previously all of the recommendations from the [parliamentary] joint national security committee, the PJCIS, have been adopted. It’s the government that have walked away from that because that model is important because that committee can get in the intelligence services, get the information in camera confidentially if need be, and then act in accordance with their knowledge of that information which is brought forward.

Now I’m concerned that the government has broken with that bipartisanship. I certainly want to be bipartisan on these issues because I don’t want them to be the subject of political wrangling. I want them to be the subject of what do we need to do to keep Australians safe.

When it comes to the media, quite clearly I think that the issues raised by the journalists concerned are in the national interest – that that be public and the fact that we’ve seen such quite draconian action really with these raids is of real concern. And if we need to examine legislation quite frankly we can’t do that from opposition.

MG: No but there is an inquiry now going on into this question of confidentiality following the raids by that very committee you referred to. So will Labor take a robust stance into that inquiry?
AA: Oh look we’ve made it very clear that we’re concerned about media freedom and we’ll take action consistent with the views we’ve put forward.

MG: You’ve been very critical of Peter Dutton for having essentially too much power. Isn’t the logic of that criticism that the home affairs portfolio should be broken up to an extent?

AA: Well this was a government decision to form this portfolio but the question is how much of it was driven by what was good governance and how much was driven by Malcolm Turnbull’s desperation to keep Peter Dutton happy? Now that didn’t work out so well for either Peter Dutton or for Malcolm Turnbull.

So what we need is appropriate government arrangements. I was of the view, for example, that having the transport security issues in home affairs has removed some of the expertise which is there relating to the people who actually run airports and run airlines. But I don’t seek to make those issues partisan. I hope that the government considers good outcomes should be what we’re concerned about here.

MG: But Labor does not regard the present structure of home affairs as immutable forever?

AA: No and the truth is that that would be the case for the government as well but it shouldn’t be about the individual, who the individual minister is. It should be about how do we get the best outcomes.

MG: Let’s turn to Newstart. Labor’s now supporting an increase in Newstart. Does it matter that this would reduce the projected surplus? Is it more important than the quantum of the surplus?

AA: Well with respect, that’s not the right question in my view. The question is because governments aren’t just about Newstart and everything else remained static for example which is the assumption behind that question. Should Newstart be increased? The question is, is it too low? Is it keeping people in poverty? Is it restricting people’s capacity to get off Newstart because they don’t have enough money to be able to search for jobs?

MG: So you’re saying yes is the answer to those questions?

AA: The answer is clearly yes. And we asked the Prime Minister in parliament, could he survive on $40 a day. And essentially he didn’t answer the question.

MG: Could you?

AA: No no. Quite clearly it’s too low and it’s too low for the people who are Newstart recipients to survive on it. And that’s what they’re telling us so missing out on meals. They’re missing out on being able to afford to catch transport and to get to job interviews. They’re missing out on being able to dress appropriately to get to job interviews. It’s having an impact on their health.

And what’s more, an important factor here is that an increase in Newstart wouldn’t be a zero sum game. The Newstart recipients spend every cent that they get. That creates economic activity. That creates jobs. That means less people on Newstart as well. So there’s a boost to the economy and that’s why you have everyone from the Reserve Bank to the Business Council of Australia, the trade union movement, John Howard, Barnaby Joyce, the National Party – everyone except for Scott Morrison – saying that we need to do something about this.

MG: Now in another area of incomes, there’s debate now about whether the superannuation guarantee should go up from 9.5% to 12%, be phased up. It’s already legislated but some in the government want that changed – some on their backbench. Lots of young families would in fact prefer any extra money being available to them in the form of a wage rise that they can use now when they need the money rather than being put away in superannuation. Yet your policy is to go to the 12%. What’s your response to those families?

AA: My response is that the whole concept of compulsory superannuation relies upon the first word, “compulsory”.

It’s about a national savings scheme that has served over the long term, served individuals and families, exceptionally well and is the envy of the world. It’s a great reform by the Hawke-Keating government.

And lifting it up to 12% is a practical reform that will make an enormous difference to people’s lives and once you start fiddling around with that concept then you undermine the whole superannuation agenda that’s so important for individuals.

But I’ll make this point too. It’s important for the national interest because of the amount of money that is in funds that could then be used to promote economic activity and growth through investing that in infrastructure projects and other activity.

MG: I want to ask you a couple of questions about Indigenous affairs. On Indigenous recognition, the government and opposition seem to me to be miles apart on the crucial detail. You back a reference to an Indigenous “Voice to parliament” being inserted into the Constitution. Scott Morrison won’t have a bar of that. This referendum is simply not going to fly, is it?

AA: Well I hope that you’re wrong and I believe it is possible that you are. That will be up to the government. But quite clearly you can’t have recognition of First Nations people in our Constitution – that’s so important for the unity of our nation going forward – without taking into account what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people themselves say they want.

MG: And that’s a reference to the Voice in the Constitution. And you support that?

AA: They had that commitment. I do support that. I do support that because they supported it. I’m not seeking to impose it on them. They had a process and came up with the unanimous Statement from the Heart at Uluru and it doesn’t represent a third chamber.

The other thing is is that it’s a reference to it in the Constitution. The outline of how the voice would work is a legislative one and legislated by the parliament that is elected and indigenous people I think have been very modest in what they have put forward.

It’s a practical idea which is pretty simple that they should be consulted – they don’t get a final determination, just consulted about matters that affect First Nations people. And I think that is a very reasonable proposition. I hope that the government can support it over a period of time we have seen, including in the last week, people like Barnaby Joyce changing his position.

MG: Now you’re going to the Garma Festival at the weekend. What will be your message there?

AA: Look I’m going to listen and to pay respect to First Nations people. It’s an important forum as well as a celebration of Indigenous culture.

We are very very privileged to live in the land with the oldest continuous civilisation on the planet and I’m looking forward to engaging while I’m there with whoever wants to have a chat. I’ll be giving a speech there as well reaffirming our support for constitutional recognition and a Voice. And I’ll be proud to be going there as well with Pat Dodson who has played such a critical role in reconciliation, and with Linda Burney and with Malarndirri McCarthy.

I hope Ken Wyatt is going as well, I hope and I think it’s a very good thing that there has been substantial progress.

The truth is you’re right in terms of constitutional recognition can only occur with bipartisanship. And I was given some hope by the fact that when I met with the Prime Minister we agreed that Ken Wyatt and Linda Burney would work together to see if there can be a common position going forward.

MG: Now on the vexed question about coal. Labor’s ambivalence about coal caused it a great deal of grief at the election. The Adani issue in particular. Now we hear that a parliamentary friends group for coal exports has been formed with Liberal backbencher Craig Kelly and your resources spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon as co-chairs. Are you comfortable with this and won’t many of your supporters believe it looks very odd?

AA: Well it’s not surprising that the Member for Hunter with such a very large electorate of coal miners supports the economic interests of the people that he’s elected to represent.

MG: It’s an odd couple though you must admit.

AA: Well I will admit that Craig Kelly is an odd fellow on most issues, but Labor’s view is very clear which is that climate change is real, that we need to act, that we need to transition to a clean energy economy, that we need to be engaged with the global community to take global action through processes like the UNFCCC that will take a proactive role.

The last Labor government of course the first thing that we did was to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. We then tried to have an emissions trading scheme that was comprehensive that would have applied by the way to fugitive emissions and therefore would have had an impact on mining, it would have applied to transport across the board and of course the Greens and the coalition got together to scuttle that not once but twice and had that not happened, I think we might never have seen Prime Minister Abbott but it did.

And then of course what we’ve seen after the change of government in 2013 is a government that doesn’t have an energy policy at all.
So renewables will play an increasingly important part. We had a strong policy going to the election on climate change. We’ll have a strong policy again. It will reflect the circumstances that we find ourselves in in 2022.

But Labor’s position is very clear which is that climate change is real. We need to listen to the science and we need to respond.

MG: Now on an internal problem that’s causing you a bit of difficulty. You’re committed to expelling maverick union official John Setka from the ALP. Are you still sure you can actually do this regardless of whether he wins or loses the court action he’s undertaken to try and stop you doing it?

AA: Well he’s been suspended …

MG: But can you get rid of him?

AA: Absolutely. And that will happen. His values don’t fit the values of the ALP. It’s as simple as that.

MG: Are there any amendments that would persuade Labor to support the Government’s legislation that’s aimed at toughening the law against bad behaviour by union officials like Setka?

AA: Well there are laws in place right now.

MG: But now the parliament is considering a law for tougher action.

AA: And we’ll be voting against it because there are laws there right now.

What this what this government is obsessed about is attacking the trade union movement, attacking its very existence. They don’t seem to care about occupational health and safety at work sites, they don’t care about the fact that wages are stagnant, they don’t care about stolen wages and we’ve seen some very significant cases particularly in the hospitality industry with very prominent people involved.

They don’t care about the fact that the wage stagnation is a real constraint on the economy that’s been identified by every economist. They don’t care about the fact that enterprise bargaining system isn’t really working properly in terms of wages being allowed to grow, and they are just obsessed by attacking trade unions.
I’d say to the government, what you should be bringing into parliament is legislation that will assist in growing wages and improving living standards. Legislation that treats people the same way whether they’re workers or employers.

This [Ensuring Integrity] legislation doesn’t provide any consistency with the behaviour of corporations or corporate executives with what is proposed for ordinary workers. The majority of people who would be impacted by this legislation aren’t people who are trade union officials – they’re volunteers who give up their time to participate to assist their fellow workers.

MG: Now just finally, you’ve been highly critical of Labor’s failure to appeal to aspirational voters at the election. What is your message now to your two key, but sometimes separate, constituencies – working class aspirationals and progressive voters?

AA: Well that there’s those common interests in having a Labor government. A Labor government’s all about creating opportunity, in lifting people up and making sure that what they want, regardless of whether there are blue collar workers or whether they’re lawyers or tertiary educated people.

To my mind they have a common theme to their life which is they want their kids to have more opportunities and better living standards than they ensured themselves.

They also want to have an environment that’s at least as pristine as the one that they got to enjoy.

So I don’t buy the the argument that there’s these two completely distinct constituencies of Labor. I think that as I go around the country I think that they have much more in common.

People who have an outlook which is one of caring about their community. And when I talk about aspiration as well people want to aspire to better living standards, to better jobs for themselves. But they want something more than that. They want better living standards and a better quality of life for their family, for their neighbours, for their community, and indeed for their country.

MG: Anthony Albanese thank you for talking with us today. And that’s all from this podcast. We’ll have another interview soon. Thank you to my producer Rashna Farrukh. Goodbye for now.

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AAP/LUKAS COCHThe Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Grattan on Friday: Those tax cuts test Albanese and provoke Hanson


The proposed 3 stage tax plan will cost $158 billion.
Shutterstock

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

As hissy fits go, it was a beauty. Pauline Hanson was very cross indeed. Senate leader Mathias Cormann hadn’t called her, even though he was reportedly negotiating on the government’s $158 billion package of income tax cuts.

Venting on Sky on Wednesday night, Hanson said: “I don’t think he’s got the guts to pick up the phone and actually talk to me. And to turn around and say that he’s negotiating with crossbenchers is not the truth, because he’s not negotiating with me”.

She went on to rail about the Liberals preferencing One Nation below Labor, doing “grubby deals” with Clive Palmer and trying to destroy her.

The three-stage 10-year package, which promises an extra tax offset for low and middle income earners, is the big game in town for the first days of the new parliament, which opens the week after next, and it’s causing some grief.




Read more:
Frydenberg declares tax package must be passed ‘in its entirety’


Despite the government’s confident words during the election campaign, the Tax Office has declined to pay the offset of up to $540 until the legislation is passed. This means the July 1 deadline from when the offset was supposed to be available will be missed. (Although people will get from July 1 the tax cut in the pipeline from last year’s budget.)

If the tax legislation is passed quickly, a few weeks’ delay for the offset is no big deal, especially as many people won’t be putting in their tax returns for a while. But the pressure on the government to deliver the first stage of its plan ASAP – not least because the economy needs the stimulus – reduces its ability to hold out indefinitely on its insistence it won’t split the package to accommodate objections to the later cuts.

Labor is in even more of a bind. It is happy to tick off the first stage – worth $15 billion – but has yet to decide its position on stages two (costing $48 billion and starting 2022-23) and three (costing $95 billion and commencing 2024-25).

Its objections are particularly to the last stage, which delivers cuts for higher income earners. Both the later stages come after the next election, due early 2022.

Those urging Labor should try to block at least stage three argue, apart from the equity issue, that mounting economic uncertainty makes it irresponsible to lock in such big tax cuts out in the “never never”.

On the other hand, a strong case can be made on grounds of principle and practicality for Labor to wave the whole package through.

The question of when a party or politician has a “mandate” is vexed.

On one view an opposition can claim it possesses a mandate to stay faithful to positions it advanced before an election even after it has lost that election.

But when the Morrison government went to the polls with the tax package as its prime policy, it does seem to have a strong case to say the parliament should pass it.

The same point would have applied if Bill Shorten had won. He would have had a mandate for his proposed changes to franking credits and negative gearing – both opposed by the Coalition.




Read more:
Mine are bigger than yours. Labor’s surpluses are the Coalition’s worst nightmare


It doesn’t help maintain faith in the political system, or in election promises, for parties to try to govern from opposition, despite the Senate’s voting system sometimes facilitating this. Voters should be able to expect that major election policies of the winning side are implemented (perhaps with some alterations at the edges by parliament).

It is another matter when, as happened with the Abbott government’s 2014 budget, big new controversial initiatives are brought in soon after the election campaign, during which they were not flagged.

The practical reason against Labor going to the barricades on the tax package is that as it regroups, there is little to be gained by taking on this particular battle, especially when it is trying to reposition itself as appealing better to “aspirational” voters and leaving behind language attacking the “top end of town”.

Labor might be right that the proposed long term tax cuts could look irresponsible later, but if so, that is a fight to be had at the next election, when the ALP could highlight doubts it had previously registered.

There are divisions in Labor about what to do. Victorian MP Peter Khalil this week said if the government won’t split the package, Labor should vote for it all. Anne Aly, a backbencher from Western Australia, expressed concern about the package’s implications against a darkening economic outlook. The ALP has asked the government for more information. Anthony Albanese is consulting within the party before shadow cabinet decides the position it takes to caucus.

While the government is focusing the rhetorical pressure on Labor, it has an eye to the alternative route – to get the package through via the crossbench.




Read more:
Coalition likely to have strong Senate position as their Senate vote jumps 3%


For Cormann, the new Senate is easier than the last, partly because the non-Green crossbench has been slashed at the election.

To pass legislation opposed by Labor and the Greens the government needs four of the six non-Green crossbenchers. These include two from Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, two from Centre Alliance, South Australia’s Cory Bernardi, and Tasmania’s Jacqui Lambie.

Bernardi will vote with the Coalition. He has said he wants to help the Morrison government as much as possible, and on Thursday he announced he is winding up his Australian Conservatives party. It’s not clear whether he’ll seek to rejoin the Liberals, from whom he defected in 2017, or even stay in the parliament.

Cormann has been in discussion with Centre Alliance about their push for lower gas prices, and an agreement on some action appears likely. While this deal is formally separate from the tax package, he and they both have that front of mind.

This would leave one vote to be collected.

Lambie refuses to comment on her position. Hanson said earlier this month she was “not sold” on the current package and “therefore not likely to support the measures” – and proposed some of the funds be used for a coal-fired power station and a water security scheme.

After Wednesday’s outburst, Cormann was (of course) on the phone to her at crack of dawn Thursday. On her account, he said: “I’m not negotiating with crossbenchers with this at all. We have our three stages. We’re going to pass that no matter what”.

The government aims to keep the heat on Albanese. By the same token, if the crossbench has to come into play, Cormann won’t want a repeat of last term, when he couldn’t muster the numbers to deliver tax relief to big companies.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Infographic: who’s who in Labor’s shadow ministry


Emil Jeyaratnam, The Conversation and Justin Bergman, The Conversation

There were a couple of big questions before the new Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, announced his shadow ministry on Sunday.

One of those was where would former leader Bill Shorten end up after the party’s humbling loss in last month’s federal election. (The answer: head of the NDIS and government services portfolio.)

One of the biggest beneficiaries of Albanese’s changes was Kristina Keneally, who was handed the powerful portfolio of home affairs – opposite an immediately dismissive Peter Dutton – in addition to immigration and citizenship. She will also be the deputy opposition leader in the Senate.

Our experts have already analysed the chief challenges faced by the new ministers in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s cabinet – now, we’re asking them to look at Labor’s shadow ministers, as well.

In some cases, the shadow ministers hold more than one portfolio. To simplify the policy analysis, we’ve chosen a key policy area for which they’re responsible and asked our experts to analyse this.

The Conversation

Emil Jeyaratnam, Data + Interactives Editor, The Conversation and Justin Bergman, Deputy Editor: Politics + Society, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Grattan on Friday: Is it good for Labor, or Bill Shorten, for the former leader to stay in parliament?



Kristina Keneally has been announced as deputy Labor leader in the Senate.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

In his first excursion as leader, Anthony Albanese this week visited the Queensland electorate of Longman. This seat tells, in microcosm, the story of Labor’s success and failure, hopes and disappointment between 2016 and May 18 2019.

The ALP wrested Longman from the Liberals’ Wyatt Roy in the election in which Bill Shorten became a Labor hero by bringing Malcolm Turnbull within a whisker of defeat. Then on Super Saturday last July, Shorten held the seat, reinforcing his own leadership and undermining Turnbull’s. But on May 18, Longman went back to the government, as part of Queensland’s rejection of the ALP.

Labor this week has looked like a routed army forced to regroup while it is still bandaging wounds and burying its dead.

The leadership transition was the easy part, with Albanese the only candidate, after the party’s right couldn’t muster support for an alternative. But installing a new frontbench has been a messy process, exposing the downside of factionalism.

The factions are devotees of the “iron law of arithmetic”, so when Albanese demanded Kristina Keneally be given a place, someone in her NSW right faction had to bite the dust. It was especially unfortunate that this was Ed Husic, widely seen as a talented performer, who incidentally is one of only two Muslims in the caucus.

“It seems right that a man should step aside for a stellar woman to take over,” Husic told the ABC.

At the same time, a Muslim friend texted me, “What kind of ‘diversity’ is Albo’s ALP presiding over, when a Muslim-background MP is elbowed out from the frontbench in deeply Islamophobic times? Husic has been very supportive of Muslim communities.”

There were, one would have thought, better candidates than Husic for the sacrifice.

In the Senate, right faction player Don Farrell has also made room for Keneally, who has replaced him as deputy Labor leader there. She was able to mount a claim to this position on gender balance grounds – with Tanya Plibersek replaced by Richard Marles in the deputyship, the two top opposition posts are in male hands.

All in all, the path of the one-time NSW premier has been much smoothed. Keneally only entered the Senate at the start of last year, after a middling performance in the Bennelong byelection. Shorten made her his “bus captain” in the campaign, and planned to ensure she was in a Labor ministry. Albanese has gone out of his way to back her. Not all in caucus are impressed and she’ll have a good deal to live up to in the next three years.

Apart from the loss of Husic from the shadow ministry, the other bad outcome was the dropping of Andrew Leigh. He was shadow assistant treasurer but is non-factional, so he lacked muscle men to preserve his place. Leigh, a former economics professor, did a solid job, and Labor could always benefit from more rather than less economic talent.

And in the week when Ken Wyatt became the first indigenous federal cabinet minister,
Indigenous senator Pat Dodson did not run for the frontbench. Wyatt is minister for Indigenous Australians, the post Shorten had foreshadowed Dodson would have. Dodson is likely, however, to be given some role on reconciliation.

Albanese will allocate portfolios, to be unveiled Sunday, and also announce parliamentary secretaries (the leader chooses these and this could, and should, provide an opportunity to use Husic).

Jim Chalmers, former finance spokesman, is set to be shadow treasurer. He’ll replace Chris Bowen, the architect of some controversial policies, notably the clampdown on franking cash refunds; in the pain of defeat, Bowen is being scapegoated by many. Chalmers, whom some wanted as a “new generation” leader, should be a credible economic face for the party.

Of particular interest will be what portfolio Shorten has. Of more concern, however, will be how the former leader sees his broad post-leadership role.

At this point, Shorten is not showing signs of taking much personal responsibility for the election disaster, although to be fair, he would still be in shock, and it is early days.

In the “grab” from his Thursday speech to caucus, Shorten lashed out. “We were up against corporate leviathans, a financial behemoth, spending unprecedented hundreds of millions of dollars advertising, telling lies, spreading fear.

“Powerful vested interests campaigned against us through sections of the media itself, and they got what they wanted,” he said.

“And I understand that neither of these challenges disappeared on election night. They’re still out there for us to face”.

To Labor voters he just offered “my regrets we did not win”.

Albanese, in his speech to caucus, struck a different note. “I accept my share as a senior shadow minister in the show, for the fact that we weren’t successful”.

Later at a news conference, he was open (as he has been since the election) in acknowledging the flaws in the franking policy, and the problem with “some of the language that was used” in the election (when Shorten targeted “the top end of town”).

More generally, Albanese’s emphasis before the election was different to Shorten’s and that’s also coming out in his early remarks as leader. He stresses his relationships with the business sector, the centrality of economic growth and jobs – and the importance of “aspiration”.

“ Labor will be seen, by all of us, our entire team, as being pro-business as well as pro-worker and I believe that’s exactly where Labor is and where we need to be,” he said.

Given Shorten has chosen to stay in parliament, it’s appropriate he has a shadow ministry and a substantial one at that.

But whether it is sensible for him, or good for Labor, that he remain in politics is another question.

He’s always been a factional player and he and Albanese have long been rivals. Adjusting to a diminished position, avoiding the temptation to criticise his successor even in private, being part of a team that has to move on from the Shorten-era policies – all that will be very hard.

If after a few months he feels he can’t do these things, Shorten should find another career.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How might Labor win in 2022? The answers can all be found in the lessons of 2019


If Anthony Albanese wants to lead Labor to victory in 2022, he’ll need to grasp the full suite of lessons from 2019’s shock loss.
AAP/Joel Carrett

Chris Wallace, Australian National University

The high tide of analysis concerning the Australian Labor Party’s shock 2019 federal election loss has been reached. It looks like so much flotsam and jetsam with the odd big log – leadership popularity, Queensland – prominent among the debris. Sorting through it, making sense of it, and weighting the factors driving the result really matters. It matters because decisions influencing the outcome of the next federal election will flow from it.

The learner’s error is to grasp onto a couple of factors without considering the full suite, weighting them and seeing the connections between them. What does the full suite look like?

1. Leadership popularity

Labor’s Bill Shorten was an unpopular leader, neither liked nor trusted by voters. The shift from Shorten in private to Shorten in leadership mode in the media was comparable to the shift in Julia Gillard when she moved from the deputy prime ministership to prime minister: the charm and wit went missing, replaced by woodenness and lack of relatability.

Shorten accepted advice to appear “leader-like”, creating a barrier Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who sought to directly connect with voters, was not hampered by. “It is often said of democratic politics,” historian David Runciman has said, “that the question voters ask of any leader is: ‘Do I like this person?’ But it seems more likely that the question at the back of their minds is: ‘Would this person like me?’” Morrison passed and Shorten flunked that test.




Read more:
Why the 2019 election was more like 2004 than 1993 – and Labor has some reason to hope


Shorten generally failed the “theatre of politics”. His suits often looked too big, making him look small. Television footage of him jogging in oversized athletic clothes during the campaign made him look small. Poor production of Shorten in these ways diminished perceptions of him as an alternative prime minister – a professionalism fail that could have easily been fixed but was not.

Lesson: Leadership unpopularity costs votes. Successful “theatre of politics” matters.

2. Supporting players’ unpopularity

Shorten was weighed down by frontbenchers in the key economic and environment portfolios who fell well short in the performativity stakes too. The camera is not kind to shadow treasurer Chris Bowen. While he developed serious policy chops, partly through sustained study of Paul Keating’s history as a reforming treasurer of historic stature, he also picked up Keating’s hauteur, but without actually being Keating and able to pull it off.

The arrogance of Bowen’s franking credits policy comment that “if people very strongly feel that they don’t want this to happen they are perfectly entitled to vote against us” was a defining misstep of the Shorten opposition. It made the leader’s job that much harder.

Shadow environment minister Mark Butler is another to whom the camera is unkind. He embodied the soft, urban environmentalist persona that is poison in those parts of Australia where Labor needed to pick up seats. An equally knowledgeable but more knockabout environment spokesperson – Tony Burke, for example – would have been the cannier choice in a “climate election” where regional voters had to be persuaded to Labor’s greener policy agenda.

Lesson: Appoint frontbenchers capable of winning public support in their portfolios.

3. Misleading polls
The maths wasn’t wrong but the models on which the two-party-preferred vote is calculated have been blown up by this election, an event foreshadowed by recent polling miscalls in Britain.

Long-time conservative political consultant Lynton Crosby’s presence in the Coalition campaign has been invisible except for the tiny but crucial, and completely overlooked, detail that the Liberals’ polling “was conducted by Michael Brooks, a London-based pollster with Crosby Textor who was brought out from the United Kingdom for the campaign”.

The Coalition had better polling. Labor and everyone else were relying on faulty polling that misallocated preferences and uniformly predicted a Labor win – false comfort to Labor, which stayed a flawed course instead of making necessary changes to avoid defeat.

Lesson: Focus on the primary vote, the polling figure least vulnerable to modelling assumptions.

4. Media hostile to Labor

The Murdoch media have created an atmospheric so pervasively hostile to Labor that it has become normalised. It contributed significantly to Shorten’s unpopularity and Labor’s loss. Its impact is only going to get worse with Australia’s nakedly partisan Fox News-equivalent, “Sky After Dark”, extending from pay-TV to free-to-air channels in regional areas.




Read more:
Outrage, polls and bias: 2019 federal election showed Australian media need better regulation


Lesson: Labor has to be so much better than the Coalition to win in this dire and deteriorating media environment. It needs a concrete plan to match and/or neutralise the Murdoch media’s influence.

5. Regional variations

Labor failed to win support in resource-rich states where it needed to pick up seats to win, and suffered a big fall in its primary vote in Queensland.

There is a danger of this being overplayed as a factor since, in fact, not much really changed at this election: the Coalition has two more seats and Labor two less seats than in the last parliament. Further, there are nuances to be engaged with even in hard-core resource areas. More Queenslanders, for example, are employed in the services sector in industries like tourism than are employed in the coal sector; and Labor has a strong tradition in Queensland and is capable of renewal.

The concerns of both sides need to be woven into a plausible policy path forward, with opportunities for different, deeply-held views to be heard and acknowledged as part of the process.

Lesson: Develop “ground up” rather than “top down” policies that integrate diverse concerns without overreacting to what was actually a modest change in electoral fortunes.

6. Weak advertising strategy

Labor’s advertising campaign was complacent, unfocused and completely failed to exploit the leadership chaos and chronic division in the Coalition parties for the previous six years. Why? Labor’s decision not to run potent negative ads on coalition chaos in parallel with its positive advertising campaign is the biggest mystery of the 2019 election – naive in the extreme. It left Labor defenceless in the face of a relentlessly negative, untruthful campaign from the other side.

Lesson: Have brilliant ads in a sharply focused campaign that doesn’t fail to hit your opponents’ weaknesses.

7. Massive advertising spending gap

Along with the hostile media environment created by the Murdoch press, the unprecedented spending gap between the Labor and anti-Labor sides of politics and its role in the Coalition win has passed largely unremarked.

The previous election was bought by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with a $1.7 million personal donation that boosted Coalition election advertising in the campaign’s crucial last fortnight. That now looks like small beer next to the 2019 election’s anti-Labor advertising spending (approximately $80 million when one adds the Coalition’s $20 million spend to the Clive Palmer-United Australia Party spend of $60 million-plus). This is four times the size of Labor’s $20 million ad budget – a huge disparity.

Palmer’s gambit, which creates a friendly environment for him to gain regulatory approval for a Queensland coal mine vastly bigger than Adani’s during this term of parliament, takes Australia into banana republic territory in terms of money politics.

Lesson: Australia already needed campaign finance laws to stop the purchasing of elections. It needs them even more urgently now.

8. Large policy target

Misleading polling showing it was persistently ahead gave Labor false comfort pursuing a “big” policy agenda – that is, making policy offerings normally done from government rather than opposition. If everything else goes right in an election, and with a popular leader and effective key supporting frontbenchers, this may be possible. That was not the case in the 2019 election.

Lesson: When in opposition, don’t go to an election promising tax changes that make some people worse off. Save it for government.

9. Green cannibalisation of the Labor vote

The primary vote of the Labor Party (33.5%) and the Greens (9.9%) adds up to 43.4% – a long way off the 50%-plus required to beat the conservatives. For a climate-action-oriented government to be elected in Australia, Labor and the Greens are going to have to find a better modus vivendi.

They don’t have to like each other; after all, the mutual hatred of the Liberals and Nationals within the Coalition is long-standing and well-known. But like the Liberals and Nationals, though without a formal agreement, Labor and the Greens are going to have to craft a way forward that forestalls indulgent bus tours by Green icons through Queensland coal seats and stops prioritising cannibalisation of the Labor vote over beating conservatives.

Lesson: For climate policy to change in Australia, Labor and the Greens need to strategise constructively, if informally, to get Labor elected to office.

10. Every election is winnable

Paul Keating won an “unwinnable” election in 1993 and pundits spoke of the Keating decade ahead. John Howard beat Keating in a landslide three years later, despite being the third Coalition leader in a single tumultuous parliamentary term.

Morrison won the 2019 election despite internal Coalition leadership turmoil, political scandals and a revolt of the party’s women MPs against the Liberals’ bullying internal culture.

Lesson: Every election is there to be won or lost. Take note of Lessons 1 to 9 to do so.The Conversation

Chris Wallace, ARC DECRA Fellow, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Frydenberg declares tax package must be passed ‘in its entirety’


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The government’s tax relief package is shaping up as the first test of incoming opposition leader Anthony Albanese, with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg declaring on Friday it must be supported “in its entirety” when put to the new parliament.

But Albanese has only guaranteed support for the first tranche. As for the later cuts for higher income earners, “we will consider that,” he said on Friday.

But let me tell you, it is a triumph of hope over experience and reality that the government knows […] what the economic circumstances are in 2025 or 2023, in the middle of the next decade.

Appearing with Albanese on the Nine Network, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said:

Albo, it would be remarkable if your first act as leader of the opposition was […] to oppose a long term package of tax relief – that would show a real tin ear for the Australian people”.

In an interview with The Conversation, Frydenberg refused to be drawn on what the government would do if unable to get the whole bill through.

It would, however, be hard for it to avoid splitting the bill – to hold out would deny the immediate relief pledged in the April budget.

All or nothing

Nor could Frydenberg say when parliament will meet to consider the legislation, although the government has effectively conceded it will not be in time for the promised July 1 start of the additional tax offset promised in the budget. (A smaller offset from last year’s budget will be paid from then.)

But Albanese said the tax cuts could be passed in time for July 1, because it would only need a couple of hours of sitting. “We’ll do a deal. I can do that. One speaker a side, and Bob’s your uncle.”

Frydenberg said Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe had highlighted the positive impact the tax cuts would have on household incomes.

“Let’s too not forget that $7.5 billion will flow to households in the coming financial year, as a result of these tax cuts,” Frydenberg said.

Tax cuts as good as rate cuts

“This benefit to households and the economy is equivalent to two 25 basis point interest rate cuts and is one reason why growth and household consumption is projected to pick up,” he said.

“The tax reforms we are putting to parliament are not just providing immediate relief, but leading to long term structural change. This will tackle bracket creep and reward aspiration.

“Earning more is nothing to be ashamed of and should be encouraged not punished. Rewarding aspiration is in the Coalition’s DNA and will be a fundamental driver of our policies in government.”

In his assessment of the economic outlook, Frydenberg had two messages.

He said in his discussions with some of Australia’s biggest employers, “I’ve been buoyed by their confidence and their desire to work with the government, to support continued economic growth and job creation”.

Headwinds worsening

But the economy “faces significant headwinds. Trade tensions between the United States and China have increased, with the potential to negatively impact global growth.

“Were there to be another round of US tariff increases, the potential for which has been flagged publicly, the proportion of global trade covered by recent trade actions would double from 2% to 4%.”

Also, flood, drought and fires had taken a toll and the housing market slowdown was hitting dwelling investment and having an impact on consumption.

The challenges made the government’s agenda for growth, including tax relief, so important and time critical.

Asked whether the “headwinds” faced by the Australian economy were stronger than at budget time, when he also spoke of headwinds, Frydenberg said: “I think the tensions between China and the US have increased”.




Read more:
Their biggest challenge? Avoiding a recession


Frydenberg spoke with the US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin this week and the two will meet in Japan at the G20 finance ministers meeting in a few weeks. Frydenberg stressed in the conversation the importance of free trade to Australia and its wish to see disputes resolved as amicably as possible.

Asked whether, if the economy deteriorated further, the government would be willing to live with a smaller surplus next financial year than the $7.1 billion projected in the budget, Frydenberg said, “that’s the amount that we’re committed to”.

He would not be drawn on the signal this week from Lowe that an interest rate cut was coming.

The Treasurer said the current unemployment rate of 5.2% reflected “strong labour market performance”.

While there are no plans for an overhaul of federal-state relations by the re-elected government, Frydenberg said he would work closely with the states on infrastructure and managing population.




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He said he would respond fully to the Productivity Commission report on superannuation, although he had not set a date for this.

“The issues that were raised through the Productivity Commission report which we need to have a good look at are about the unintended multiple accounts and the under-performing funds,” he said.

“The royal commission [on banking] recommended having a single default [account], which we accepted and Labor accepted, so we’ll go ahead and do that”.




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The Conversation


Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why the 2019 election was more like 2004 than 1993 – and Labor has some reason to hope


Frank Bongiorno, Australian National University

I recently had cause to look at a large file of material I collected about Mark Latham during 2004. It is full of many of the same columnists who have just campaigned successfully for the return of the Morrison government. They were buzzing with excitement and hubris. News Corps’s Miranda Devine saw an omen in the news that arrived from Paris as the polls opened in Australia:

Jacques Derrida, the father of deconstructionism, died in Paris of pancreatic cancer, bringing to a symbolic end a destructive era of postmodern truth-twisting.

While no one else seemed to draw a bow quite so long, almost everyone could agree that John Howard’s victory was “historic” and that Labor was in “crisis”.




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But The Australian’s Janet Albrechtsen’s response to that election brings us closest to the present. Howard’s very lack of a grand vision was precisely what had attracted voters to him, she claimed:

While the Left aches for a top-down vision imposed from above by some Whitlamite, Keatingesque leader, the rest of us prefer the bottom-up Howard version where we get to choose our own vision.

With Scott Morrison, we also have little choice but to choose our own vision if we want one. But Howard, it turned out, had plans if not a vision. He would use the Senate majority voters had sent his way to deal with Australia’s unions once and for all, through WorkChoices. At the 2007 election, Howard lost government as well as his own seat.

Labor supporters despairing of the result of Saturday’s election would do well to recall 2004. It is, to my mind, the closest parallel with what we have just seen. Labor took bold policies to the voters in 2004 and 2019. A Coalition leader managed to persuade enough voters that Labor couldn’t be trusted in economic matters.

Resources industries mattered for both elections, Tasmanian forests in 2004, and Queensland coal in 2019. Labor fumbled each, just as housing – interest rates in 2004, and property values and rents in 2019 – caused Labor grief on each occasion.

Shorten is no Latham, but there were question marks hanging over both leaders that told against their party. Shorten made his mistakes but ran a solid campaign in 2019, gradually hitting his stride.

Latham was no slouch in 2004, either; there has been a conflation of his behaviour after the campaign with that during its course. Writing straight after the election in The Australian, Paul Kelly had many criticisms of both Labor and Latham. But he also thought Latham had campaigned “very well” personally.

The more common comparison of 2019 has been with 1993, John Hewson’s “unlosable election”. There is, of course, something in that and, again, some hope for Labor.

There were reasons to imagine after the 1993 election that Labor was in for the long haul – that it would be the modern equivalent of the post-war Coalition with its 23-year run. The Liberals continued with a broken Hewson, had a brief and disastrous experiment with Alexander Downer, and then settled on a failed leader from the previous decade, Howard.

Few saw the Coalition’s future as bright after Keating’s win. But Labor fumbled its post-1993 election budget and, for all of Keating’s bravado in the house and all of his “big picture” hobnobbing with world leaders such as Clinton and Suharto outside it, the foundations of Labor rule were crumbling.

Is Labor’s “crisis”, if it is a crisis, worse than that faced by the Coalition in 1993 and Labor in 2004? If the ultimate test is electoral success, only the next election will allow us to answer that question.

But there are some alarming indicators. Labor seems to have lost votes to the far right in Queensland and preferences then flowed helpfully to the Coalition. Morrison was able to have his cake – getting the Liberals to put One Nation last south of the Tweed – while eating it north of the Tweed, where he had no sway over LNP preferencing and the Coalition reaped the rewards.

There is an emerging narrative that Adani mattered in key Queensland seats, not so much in its own right but for its wider symbolic significance for the future of coal mining in Queensland and Labor’s commitment to traditional blue-collar jobs.

If so, Labor has a lot of work to do to clarify its policy and messaging, in a state where coal has formed one of the foundations of the economy since the 1960s.

And it needs to do so without damaging its prospects elsewhere by equivocating on commitments to renewable energy and vigorous action on climate change. The old calculation that alienated Greens votes will come back to Labor might still be largely correct, but Labor has never won from opposition when the electorate votes for it only grudgingly.




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It was ironic, in view of Labor’s problems in some regions and outer suburbs, that the two front-runners who initially emerged as Labor leadership contenders were members of the Left faction representing neighbouring seats in oh-so-hip inner Sydney. With Tanya Plibersek withdrawing – and another Sydneysider, Chris Bowen, also bowing out – the leadership is now likely to fall to the Left’s Anthony Albanese. Queenslander Jim Chalmers, from the Right, is considering whether to run.

The terms in which the post-election debate about Labor’s future has been carried on could have occurred after any election defeat in the last 50 years. But the foundational issue for Labor is not where it places itself on the political spectrum, or even whether it can win back voters in the regions, but whether it has any capacity to grapple with the inequalities and frailties that lax, opportunistic and unsustainable policy – much of it dating back to the Howard era – has embedded.

At the 2019 election, Labor proposed chasing revenue by winding back tax concessions to some categories of shareholder, property investor and superannuant. This approach was rejected at the polls. But economic growth and productivity seem unlikely to provide an alternative pathway for a future Labor government, unless there is a miraculous turn-around in the global economy.

No prospective Labor leader should be taken seriously unless he – and it seems it will indeed be a “he” – is at least able to articulate this dilemma.The Conversation

Frank Bongiorno, Professor of History, ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.