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Aston By-Election: The Electoral Light on the Hill for a New Change Agenda?

By Denis Bright

Mary Doyle’s victory in Aston is another milestone in Australia’s emergence from the shadows of neoliberalism and frightening compromises with our national sovereignty within the US Global Military Alliance.

The extent and consistency of the swing to Labor have received saturation coverage. Absent, pre-poll and postal votes have yet to be added by the AEC. Latest AEC figures show a 7 per cent swing to Labor in Aston after preferences. No polling booth in Aston recorded a swing to the LNP after preferences. However, the extent of the swing to Labor varied across the electorate in a quite complex manner. Readers can check out this complexity though the AEC election site if they download the electoral map of Aston to complement the data from polling booths.

The significance of this result will be discussed well into the future. Previous by-elections have made it into the history books as barometers of longer-term changes in Australian politics. Readers may wish to comment on my take on the by-election in Aston. Eyewitness news covers the mathematics of election results exhaustively but the critical interpretation of elections is no exact science. This includes my take on the Aston result. Do not be afraid to make critical comments and feel free to use a pseudonym.

Younger applicants for jobs will have their personal profiles vetted by employment agencies and increasingly by security agencies. One younger programmer working for the defence department told me that his/her phone was surveilled by ASIO. This may or may not be correct as we all share a capacity for over-statement.

Australia is quite a secretive society with lots of quite para-military networks like Employsure which I visited in Brisbane for an article some time ago. Corporate Australia is quite media friendly but only inside journalists received comprehensive answers to enquiries and emails. This makes investigative journalism exciting. Something is lurking under friendly marketing structures if no replies are forthcoming. The companies on the ATO’s tax avoidance lists are indeed some of the most secretive. I love to be kept waiting for replies as it motivates my chases even further.

The map of the Aston electorate is an important resource. The AEC could assist with a more critical analysis of election results if a detailed demographic analysis could be available for each electorate. The Queensland Statistician’s Office makes this available for state and local government areas.

I have suggested that this could be extended to federal electoral districts in Queensland where some of the most disadvantaged electorates are the most conservative.

Readers might want to check out the web site of the Queensland Governments Statistician’s Office. It is an outstanding investigative resource.

As the 74th anniversary of the defeat of the Chifley Government approaches later this year, our ship of state has been in LNP hands after most elections since then. Apart from the Hawke-Keating era (1983-96), periods of federal Labor government have been largely short-term governments. Gough Whitlam’s agendas for change were snuffed out after less than three years through his dismissal in 1975 by the Queen’s Representative in Canberra despite his government’s narrow victory in the Double Dissolution election of 1974. The character of the senate was manipulated by the appointments of replacement senators in both NSW and Queensland.

Labor’s victory in 2022 was also a tight result. Insiders in the Albanese Government have moved cautiously on both domestic and strategic issues as the shadows of decades of LNP government hangs over Canberra. With the arrival of Mary Doyle in Parliament from Aston, the government should get the message that the electorate wants more changes in fundamental policies. Support for The Voice Referendum is now more likely to be successful.

The Albanese Government can afford to be less cautious about sharing the worst excesses of US economic diplomacy to contain the inevitable rise of China. Too much support from a Labor Government for the current US Administration will be an enormous financial burden for future generations who still live under the shadows of reckless policies from the old neoliberal order. Legalized tax avoidance by Anglo-American multinational companies is standard practice. Some US companies like Cubic Defense and Cubic Transportation of San Diego have no record of company tax payments at least since the Abbott Government was elected in 2013.

Under the previous LNP governments, initiatives by Cubic received favourable comments in the Australian Defence Magazine:

Townsville-based company Cubic Defence Australia has secured a $5 million contract to deliver training services for the ADF.

The contract is for the first stage of the Integrated Training Environment for Combat Training Centre 2025. The first stage of works will include new communications towers and the upgrade of existing equipment.

“Cubic Defence Australia will deliver a communications capability to support a blended live and virtual training environment for the ADF,” Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said.

“Having visited Cubic Defence Australia with local MP Phil Thompson last year, I know they’re a very capable local company, employing Australians and strengthening our defence industry.”

Thompson said he was proud to see a Townsville company benefiting from the record investment in Australia’s defence industry.

“I congratulate Cubic Defence Australia on ensuring our ADF has the modern operational training they need to defend Australia’s national interests,” Thompson said. “This advanced training environment replicates the complex and challenging environments of current and potential conflict zones.

“I know from experience that having the opportunity for realistic training simulations can make a real difference for Defence members when faced with real-life situations.”

Cubic Transportation has lucrative contracts with Australian public transport and road traffic management systems. Its contracts extend to the Opal Card system in Sydney, SEQ’s Go Card and vast networks of government transportation and defence contracts internationally and especially in the USA.

The ATO latest tax list is essential reading in identifying the good, the bad and the ugly in corporate taxation payments to maintain a fair ship of state on behalf of the electorate.

Extract from the ATO’s Taxation Anomalies List 2020-21


ABC News is to be commended for its ongoing coverage of this issue from data released by the ATO:

Thirty-two per cent of Australian public companies paid no tax in 2020-21, according to Australian Taxation Office (ATO) data.

The ATO’s eighth corporate tax transparency report, which covers 2,468 corporate entities, found that 782 (32 per cent) did not pay any tax.

The report attributes that to various reasons, including companies making an accounting loss or claiming tax offsets that reduced their tax bill to nil.

“There’s legitimate reasons why companies may not pay tax,” ATO deputy commissioner Rebecca Saint said.

“You have to have made profit in a year to be subject to tax. There are obviously genuine reasons why companies may not be profitable during the year.

“There’s also other reasons why you may not pay taxes, you might be able to carry forward losses from earlier years to offset against income for that year.

“We do scrutinise why it is that [it’s] nil tax … that they are genuine losses, and that they’re not generated by uncommercial or artificial arrangements.”

The data comes as the ATO continues to battle large companies over unpaid taxes, with Ms Saint telling ABC News that 113 companies had assessments raised against them during the 2022 financial year, totalling about $3 billion.

The arrival of Mary Doyle in Canberra should give the government a mandate to go in harder against taxation anomalies and the delivery of those Stage 3 tax concessions which were summarized by Amy Remeikis for The Guardian:

Stage Three abolishes the 37% marginal tax bracket completely and lowers the 32.5% marginal tax rate to 30%. It also raises the threshold for the 45% marginal tax rate, meaning everyone earning between $45,000 and $200,000 will pay the same 30% tax rate.

At present, Australia’s tax brackets look like this:

  • up to $18,200 – no tax
  • $18,201 to $45,000 – pay a 19% tax rate
  • $45,001 to $120,000 – pay a 32.5% tax rate
  • $120,001 to $180,000 – pay a 37% tax rate
  • $180,001 plus – pay a 45% tax rate

Under stage three, the tax brackets would look like this:

  • $18,200 – no tax
  • $18,201 to $45,000 – pay a 19% tax rate
  • $45,001 to $200,000 – pay a 30% tax rate
  • $200,001 plus – pay a 45% tax rate

A marginal tax rate is how much tax you pay on income in that bracket. For example, if you earn $97,000, under Stage 3, you would pay no tax on the first $18,200 you earned, 19% for every dollar between $18,2001 and $45,000, and 30% on every dollar between $45,001 and $97,000.

The unkindest cut of all to our sovereignty and capacity for a more independent economic diplomacy in Asia comes from the AUKUS defence deals which have been well covered by The Guardian (14 March 2023). Just how many AUKUS commitments have been made into binding commercial contracts with British and US supplies of military equipment is still a matter for further investigation.

A more than likely end to the strategic stand-offs with China under a long-serving Albanese Government might leave Australians with financial debts to commercial military industrial complexes for generations to come. Future governments with the permanent problems of managing high grade nuclear fuel wastes long after any nuclear-powered submarines fleets are retired in the 2070s. There is no certainty that visiting US naval vessels to our ports have parked their nuclear weapons in Guam prior to their transit through Australian waters.

Our future strategic history was outlined in San Diego in March 2023:

In a tripartite deal with the US and the UK, Australia has unveiled a plan to acquire a fleet of up to eight nuclear-powered submarines, forecast to cost up to $368bn between now and the mid-2050s. Australia will spend $9bn over the next four years.

From this year Australian military and civilian personnel will embed with US and UK navies, including within both countries’ submarine industrial bases. From 2027 the UK and the US plan to rotate their nuclear-powered submarines through HMAS Stirling near Perth as part of a push to step up training of Australians.

France was betrayed when the Morrison Government welcomed the ageing French nuclear powered submarine Émeraude on a fool’s errand of joint naval maneuvers off Guam and perilous jaunts in stealth mode through the South China Sea off Hainan. While these maneuvers were being filmed by their respective media units, the Australian government was secretly negotiating with Britain and the US to abort the deal for the purchase of those new French submarines.

There is a touch of sad irony in the public media hype which surrounded the epic voyage of the Émeraude. Details of these antics are available on You Tube to challenge the routine secrecy protocols of the Australian Government. The number of public relations videos available on these issues is too trivial to list and is readily available to readers.

Hopefully, the results in Aston will encourage a new phase of policy independence in Canberra against the self-perceived wisdom of intel and military insiders in Canberra and financial policy advisers who are still locked into the mindset of the Morrison Government and hopes of a New Anglo American Britannia which takes the world back to the age of King George III and his successor George IV whose logo still appears on the Commissariat Store in Brisbane right next to the Policy HQ of the Queensland Government at 1 William Street.

Cubic signed up to the first Go Card deal with the Q Government at least sixteen years ago. Cubic seems to be permanently in the loop of maintaining less than high technology equipment which often requires two card swipes particularly on train networks in Brisbane and SEQ to activate the ticketing system.


Denis Bright is a financial member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to consensus-building in these difficult times. Your feedback by using the Reply button on The AIMN site is always most appreciated. It can liven up discussion. I appreciate your little intrusions with comments and from other insiders at The AIMN. Full names are not required when making comments. However, a valid email must be submitted if you decide to hit the Reply button.

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  1. Marcia

    I think that a majority of voters showed that they were happy with the direction that the Albanese government is heading in by trying to address the issues that affect them – cost of living , climate change , insufficient and unaffordable housing stock to name a few .
    They are trying to bring about positive outcomes – the coalition appear to be totally negative .

  2. Leila

    Thanks for the timely article on the Aston by-election, Denis. The mathematics of the result has received saturation coverage. It is the significance of the result which needs more attention as your article suggests. One of the weaknesses of eyewitness news coverage is its emphasis on short-term events which need more contextual and critical analysis.

  3. Kathryn

    It was a foregone conclusion that the Albanese-led ALP were going to wipe the floor with the political psychopath, Peter Dutton. Dutton has proven himself to be a stone-cold, self-serving and very negative sociopath without one iota of compassion for anyone but himself! Dutton’s ongoing ruthless disregard for desperate asylum seekers, his callous attacks against the poorest most vulnerable members of our society, his smug sense of born-to-rule entitlement and his unwillingness to listen to ANYONE else – even disregarding members of his own party – in an attempt to rule over our nation like some monstrous autocratic narcissist is beyond acceptable. The huge majority of compassionate Australians now ask the question: “After being so convincingly REJECTED by the the vast majority of Australians and so soundly defeated by the ALP, the question on everybody’s lips is: “WHY does the LNP keep propping up Dutton, a man that is so despised by the huge majority of Australians?” …. the obvious answer is that the LNP irrationally believe that they haven’t got ANYONE to take Dutton’s place! WOW, are the LNP so bereft of decent, intelligent and compassionate people that they have to stoop deep down into the bowels of their pathetic party and drag up a notorious, totally heartless bully who is without one iota of charisma, compassion and/or foresight that they have to dredge up Dutton to mislead and mismanage their political party into yet another certain and catastrophic loss at the next political election? Not only does Dutton continue to live in a world of negativity where he – and the LNP – THRIVE on hate, fear, xenophobic racism and inherent misogyny, he hasn’t got one single positive policy, zero plans for Australia’s future and his ONLY political statements are vile, baseless attacks against the ALP and the Greens!

  4. Phil Pryor

    Peter Duckwit-Futton.., a wart on a pimple on a boil on a carbuncle on an abcess on the BUM of Australian conservative degraded politics, and the ultimate handbrake on National progress…

  5. Stella

    Thanks for an interesting article about the Aston by-election.

  6. Burleigh Waters

    Mary Doyle MP should be a lighthouse for change that helps to define Australian politics to make public life a little more dinky-di in representing our concerns. Thanks Denis for your timely article.

  7. rubio@central coast

    The enthusiastic crowd of supporters on election night in Aston were a hopeful sigjn for renewal of the Labor Movement. This might be the Labor comeback if Albo can become less Gun Ho about ties with the American military, I don’t like the American military arriving in our ports with staches of nuclear missiles to rattle our best trading partner on their jaunts into the South China Sea and the Taiwan Straits. How would Australians feel if Chinese vessels went through Bass Strait with similar weapons? These hostile vessels will not protect Australians from any Wall Street led recession based on higher interest rates to protect the greenback. The higher US inrterest rates go, the more pressure on the RBA to raise interest rates in May if there is a welcome pause in April to assist mortgagees who have taken out million dollar loans in Sydney.

  8. Marcia

    Australians do love the dinky-di in their politics, Burleigh Waters. It worked in Aston. The LNP candidate was lampooned as the born to rule candiate from Brunswick who was prepared to move east with the middle classes to Aston only if she was victorious.

  9. Burleigh waters

    Neoliberalism has divided our society into a new generation of have and have nots. John Curtin used class politics to restore the standing of the Labor Movement after a whole generation in the wilderness from the conscription split of 1915 which broke up the Labor Party in government.after its 1914 landslide and the appointment of Andrew Fisher as High Commissioner to London.

    Today’s disadvantaged are often attracted to far-right politics particularly in regional areas of Q and NSW where most seats are held by far-right MPs.on preferences from One Nation or the Shooters Party. in NSW.

    Chifley was not as skilled as Curtin in consolidating the Labor landslide from the 1943 election when Australia was in a life and death struggle with Japan and those directives from Winston Churchill that compromised our national sovereignty over the return of our troops from Egypt and Libya.

  10. Pat

    Lovely topical article Denis. A worthwhile read!

  11. Ryan

    This event and outcome shows why it is so important to continue to have faith in the democratic process!

  12. New Paradigms

    Aston was one of the sweetest victories in recent times for the Labor Party. This was an outright gain for Labor in primary votes and not generated by favourable flows from a rising Green Party vote. These preference flows are always welcome but still not a good sign of vitality or political stability.

    Voters may be learning to question the value of negotiated government from an array of Green and independent members in the crossbench.

    Thanks Mary Doyle for your impressive result which might help to consolidate Labor’s influence in Australian politics in the traditions of great leaders like Curtin who brought Labor out of the wilderness and the hegemony of the United Australia Party in the late 1930s.

    Hopefully, younger members will take up the challenge of revitalizing the Labor Movement at a trade union and political level. it is best to work within the Labor Movement to restore its old vitality.

  13. Florence nee Fedup

    I wonder if Albanese planned to have Labor in the position it is now in. Maybe it could be, as the likes of Dutton & co believe, it has all been luck on the PM’s part. I like it when Mary pointed out that the PM & herself are cut from the same cloth—similar backgrounds.

  14. andy56

    New Paradigms, i for one don’t want us to go back to old ways of thinking. The reason we moved away was because they didnt suite the times and we chose the wrong options. . I dont cheer on because i want the labor movement to be great again. I want the labor party to get with modern ideas on improving the nation , socially and economically.
    Pining for glory days will only invite the devil back in. the devil is not the LIBS. no matter how it appears. The libs are trapped in their own cult. We need to free them so that they can grow up. A wipe out should do the job.

  15. rubio@central coast

    Progressive Labor people are with you andy56 The horrors of US economic diplomacy with its militarism and neoliberalism have Australians in the grips of successive US Administrations. Ignorant commentators make the mistake of thinking that the problemscommenced with Trump. Hawke in particular on the Labor side was a willing accomplice. Australia could have been out of the US Alliance like NZ. Now we are trying to woo our neighbours back into the Loop of the Alliance in the name of more democracy and freedom. There is not much of this freedom in the USA with all its household personal weapons, crime, vice, drugs etc Taking up the invitation to Walk in Memphis at night as the lyrics suggest would probably be life threatening and you might end up in a box rather than a night club on the Beale.

  16. wam

    The median taxable income is mid $50k (The median salary refers to the middle value of all the salaries considered. “considered” is not a bad confuser when there is no explanation of the ‘considered’? Google answers to ‘median’ is clear then muddy with the use of ‘average’?? Ask google “What is the median salary of a teacher in Australia? answer: “$85,259 per year. The average teacher salary in Australia is $85,259 per year or $43.72 per hour”) Anyway 50% of earners will range from nothing to $250, (2.5% of $10k above $45k) and the median/average teacher will get a $1000(2.5% of $40k above $45k) So who are the winners? The packerites and frankers will get nothing? The ‘professionals’, I know, will get nothing. My skin cancer doctor and I are friends and although I have no health card, he has one, he charges me nothing. He has the $18k income so no tax and no medicare levi that pays him for the work on me? The high earners with deductions and tax avoidance schemes will get next to nothing My guess is the pollies are the only winners?? ps “Australia’s politicians, state governors and local councillors claimed six times as much in work-related tax deductions than the national average of every other occupation in the country,”. Work-related deductions Average claim for pollies and Rank (out of 439) Other $6424.57 1 Travel $1001.62 5 Car $1331.60 34 Education $139.40 103 Uniform $77.36 321 Total $8974.55 1 There is a $46,817 gap between MPs’ total income and their taxable incomes(my guess, $200K after deductions), reflecting a combination of deductions, losses from earlier tax years, and the potential payment of exempt income and non-assessable non-exempt income Occupation ▼ Average work-related expense claim 1 Legislator $8975 2 Surgeon $7041 3 Other medical practitioners $6801 4 Land economist or valuer $6749 5 Internal medicine specialist $6676 6 Anaesthetist $6458 7 Real estate sales agent $5988 8 Shearer $5882 9 Air transport professionals $5570 10 Psychiatrist $5555 11 Technical sales representative $5242 12 General medical practitioner $5188 13 Carpenter and joiner $5146 14 Structural steel construction worker $4959 15 Railway track worker $4957 16 Doctor – specialist – type not specified $4644 17 Crane, hoist or lift operator $4635 18 Apprentice or trainee – bricklayer, or carpenter and joiner $4580 19 Consultant – real estate representative $4422 20 Plumber $4351 (sources Finacial review and the australian) pps probationary police start at at $80k but they get penalty rates and take home considerably higher paypackets than most teachers (one of my pet theories: the end of the automatic respect for high school teachers was 3 fold no exams to deselect 15 years olds, the introduction of an education degree allowed un mathed/science/english literature into high schools and the fact that coppers, whose base wage in the 60s was under a $1000, actually took home more than a high school senior master.)

  17. leefe

    On the taxation issue, it’s also time the laws were changed to tax churches and other religious institutions on all assets and income except that which is provably directly used for charitable purposes.

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