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Attacking the ‘socialist left’ is a hard sell

The Coalition have made their strategy quite clear. They are delving back to the 50s for a reds-under-the-bed scare campaign.

Turnbull said Shorten was “thoroughly Stalinist”. Matthias Cormann waffled on about Cold War socialism and “socialist revisionism”, whilst, ever the adherent to today’s talking points, Dan Tehan accused Shorten of being a “would-be East German” who’d “be perfectly happy as a Castro-era Cuban.”

Morrison says we have the most left-wing Labor movement Australia has seen in generations.

“The neo-socialists in the Labor party have joined forces with the cynical opportunists to create quite a deadly faction and they are running the Labor Party and if Bill Shorten gets to slither into the Lodge then this will be wreaked on Australia,” he told reporters after his Bloomberg Address in Sydney.

This childish advertising strategy of ridiculous hyperbole ignores the fact that it is the socialist parts of our economy that people care most about.

Medicare, the PBS, education, the age and disability pensions – all are examples of socialism. The police, the fire brigade, the ambulance service, the SES all come when you call for help. Socialist bastards. We used to own our utilities, we even owned a bank, but that sort of public ownership has gone out of favour.

The government is trying to sell the idea that Labor is anti-business and anti-investment which means anti-jobs.

But the headlines show that it is businesses that are not fulfilling their part of the bargain.

“An audit by the Australian Tax Office (ATO) shows rogue employers short-changed staff by an average $2.81 billion every year between 2009 and 2015, hitting a peak of $3.3 billion in 2014-2015.

According to the ATO audit, the worst offenders include small-to-medium businesses in the construction, retail, food services and accommodation sectors.”

These industries have already had tax cuts, the superannuation guarantee increases frozen, the benefit of instant asset write-offs, penalty rates cut, record low wage growth, the right to employ 457, student and backpacker visa holders, and the power of unions to take industrial action criminalised.

Despite all this government intervention, not to mention removing the carbon price to supposedly make their power bills cheaper, they still choose to rip off their employees.

Large companies, despite record profits, still choose to take aggressive tax avoidance measures. They do not see an obligation to contribute to the society that provides them with a skilled, well-educated, healthy workforce, the infrastructure for them to get supplies and distribute their product, the stability provided by our security, legal and political systems.

Malcolm Turnbull himself wrote a tax reform paper in 2005 where he cautioned that overly generous tax concessions for property investment were skewing investors away from more productive enterprises.

As the Coalition try to scare us with boogey men, we should be asking them for the evidence that increasing profits for businesses will translate into benefit for the broader community. As they talk about the “politics of envy”, we should be pressing them about the tax advantages available only to the wealthy. Compare the rates they pay to what workers pay.

The Coalition is fond of saying “you can’t tax your way to prosperity.” What they fail to add is that taxation can’t make a profitable business unprofitable.

If public or collective ownership is now seen as such a dreadful thing, are we relying on the integrity of private businesses to willingly share the wealth created by their workers, their customers, and this country?

Shareholders are removed from personal accountability, as our PM has shown us time and again. Should they be encouraged to have more of a social conscience rather than a focus on the bottom line?

Name-calling and scare campaigns cannot hide the reality that inequality is one of the greatest challenges facing the world.

The World Economic Forum said “rising income inequality is the cause of economic and social ills, ranging from low consumption to social and political unrest, and is damaging to our future economic well-being.”

Giving rich people more money hasn’t worked so far. They choose to exploit the system regardless of what you do for them.

It’s time for the umpire to blow the whistle.


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  1. pierre wilkinson

    Love your well researched informative posts, Kaye.

  2. etnorb

    What with ALL these stupid, lying, inept, obscenely overpaid (& also a lot of really wealthy) so-called “Liberals” continually crying about the “reds under the bed” & the “socialist party” Labor lot, what happened (again) to the real TRUTHS about any of this? Bill Shorten has only voiced what a lot of “ordinary” people have been thinking & saying now for some time–DO NOT “allow” any of these multinationals, corporations etc to get away with paying very little (or even no!) taxes whatsoever! But then again with this rabble we have so-called running the country–& they are the “best friends” these corporations could ever have. It is past time that they were all made to pay back to the Australian Government & of course all we taxpayers & people on Welfare etc, just what they should have been paying for years–an “adequate” or fair tax rate. Cannot wait to hear all these multinational whinge when the Labor Party gets elected at he next Federal elections!

  3. etnorb

    Forgot to add Kaye, how appreciative it is to read yours, & the others, contributions to the AIMN site, thank you!

  4. Alistair

    As I said on another post:

    ‘I hope that Bill Shorten and the rest of the ALP embrace the ‘socialist’ epithet being thrown at them and that they will do it in speech after speech after speech (and adverts) over the ocming months.

    Something along the lines of:

    “Socialist? If to be a socialist means to be in favour of greater equality, then I’m a socialist.”
    “Socialist? If to be a socialist means to enure a decent income for all, then I’m a socialist.”
    Socialist? …. (fill in the blanks ad nauseum)

    Go on, Bill. Call their bluff.

  5. QAndreas Wagner

    Great comment again, Kaye Lee.
    Any thinking person would have to agree.
    Oh for a government of THINKING and CARING members, other than for their own interest.

  6. Ill fares the land

    Unfortunately, the terms “left” and “right” tend to have lost their actual meaning. For the Facebook generation, any political position they disagree with is one of the “left” . Even when people are actually describing policies of the right, they still seem to find a way of associating them with the “left”.

    The absurdity of voters is evident when I watched part of a “debate” between Australia’s greatest political nong (Pauline Hanson) and Sarah Hanson-Young on the question of cashless cards for welfare recipients. Now, Hanson just raved in her her usual quivering monotone – she was belligerent and insistent that she has been told that the Indigenous communities were crying out for the introduction of the card. Naturally enough surveys from towns where the cards have been implemented gave mixed results, although there are positives. But the Facebook crowd were not critical of Hanson for her failure to calmly argue her case – they instead, and irrationally vented their numpty spleens at Hanson-Young, accusing her of rudely interjecting (Hanson was, in her usual blustering fashion trying to dominate the debate with her deluded rantings disguised as facts [although in fairness, she is such an idiot that she no doubt believes everything she calls a “fact” to be “factual”]). In Hanson’s minimal intellect, she only needs to think something for it to be a fact – a failing of her supporters as well. The point is that the vitriol directed at Hanson-Young was mostly that she is a “lefty” or a “lefty-greenie”.

    I am not so sure that the typical voter is anywhere near smart enough or sufficiently well-informed to understand that the LNP’s shrieking is confected hyperbole and they are relying on that lack of reasoned thought and intellectual vacuity in the hope that merely using the term “left” will raise fear levels. It is therefore plausible that the attacks, despite being total nonsense will cut through, although probably (one hopes), not sufficiently to reverse the current political polling.

  7. Andrew J. Smith

    I cannot condone this childish or cartoonish political narrative coming from the LNP, but many Australian voters are ageing and susceptible to old nostalgic tropes (in addition to many younger and middle aged fed tv diet of tabloid news, Footy Shows etc.); remembered by all including those suffering from dementia.

    It’s copying the South Park version of political PR and communications ie. an episode around Trump’s election spoke of ‘memory berries’ which after being eaten evoked nostalgic images of the past, one guessed with an endorphin release too.

    This included Libs vs. reds under the bed, everyone going to church, ‘new Australians’ now ‘immigrants’, were less educated southern Europeans who flew under the white Australia radar and knew their place in the WASP order (while those of Irish Catholic and Jewish background became more accepted as Australian ie. WASP).

    Think it’s a bit of subtle positioning ie. referring to the potentially dystopian future in terms of past fears.

  8. Andreas Wagner

    Ill fares the Land @5.47:

    I fear you might be onto something there – frightening, if this should turn out to be correct…
    One shudders…

  9. Nearly Normal Frederick

    Speaking of Ill Fares the Land why not check references to the book by Tony Judt. He was of course writing about waste-land Amerika but what he wrote is applicable to the land of Oz too.
    Re the much hyped supposed threat of North Korea we should obviously all be given new hi-tech fridge magnets, and posters urging us to stay calm, trust the “authorities” and their propaganda machine, of course and carry on.

  10. Miriam English

    The LNP must be feeling very threatened to be launching into such a an attack. Failing to raise fear of the gays they’re now trying to raise fear of socialists (despite socialist capitalism in northern European countries producing some of the highest standards of living on Earth). They seem to feel a desperate need to divide our society and generate fear and hate. I hope they don’t succeed.

    Great, to-the-point article, Kaye.

  11. @RosemaryJ36

    I am 81 and as big a critic of the Coalition government as you will find anywhere. So please, Andrew J Smith, do not over generalise about the elderly and their foibles! If you were to read my letters, which are regularly published in the NT News, you might change your mind!

  12. Andrew J. Smith

    Bully for you 🙂 I am referring to demographic and political research, exemplied in the following about ageing – voting correlations and trends; following presents well the dynamic with median voter age increasing (while calls for electoral franchise opening up to 16-17 year olds to rebalance the age spread, are ignored):

    I am not referrring to any specific voter. In the UK seems many of the older Labor voter demographic support Brexit like the Conservatives; while in Oz the LNP’s anti-Labor messaging, using language of the past, would be incomprehensible to most young people.

  13. Sam

    I find it interesting that while it is true that all too many people will label those that disagree with themselves politically as being leftist, it is equally true that the same people are eager to avoid anyone thinking of themselves as rightist.

    Even the hardest of the right wingers seem to laughably try to claim themselves as centrist as if they know being right wing is bad.

    Who exactly do they think the right wing is, if not them? Do the hard righties not think that the right wing is something that exists in Australia?

  14. Peter F

    “Reds under the bed” got us into the Vietnam war.

  15. Jack Straw

    It won’t be a hard sell because it will disguised as a Socialist issue but the true Campaign will against Labor and the fear that the comfortable ignorant middle class will loose out on $$ if Labor win the next election and it will most likely succeed.By Joe ! they could loose their Capital gains Tax discount.

  16. James Cook

    Great article Kaye, as usual. I think Labor need to be careful with jumping on a Socialist bandwagon because it can easily backfire. Fort example, if Bill tries to use say, Sweden, as an example of democratic socialism that works well [and it does!] the Libs will immediately jump on the high rates of taxation and use this to beat the electorate mercilessly right up to the next election. “High Taxing Bill!!!”

  17. totaram

    “High Taxing Bill!!!”

    They are saying it already, so there’s nothing to do about it, except to point out that high taxes do not destroy the economy, if they are used for providing the investment in public infrastructure, health, education and welfare.

  18. Pappinbarra Fox

    It seems obvious but the spokespersons for the progressives do need to define “socialist” in simple terms. I doubt not one in ten people could tell you what a socialist is. John Howard said that basis of Australian society was the nuclear family. I disagree with him. Our society is the extended family,our close friends, our neighbors, our community, on up to Wider Australia. We need to understand the nature of our society to understand the concept of socialism. We need to understand the tapestry that holds us all together, the connections we weave in our daily lives to grasp what socialism is. We need to understand that Australian society has woven the basic principle that we should not leave people behind to languish in poverty uneducated and unhealthy on their own. This is socialism.
    Define socialism in these simple terms as already existing in Australian society. It is not some scary bogie man from the past if explained properly and importantly people need to be told we are exploring the meaning. We are defining it

  19. Kaye Lee

    Pappinbarra Fox,

    Engels posits that monogamy and the nuclear family was the start of capitalism. We used to live as tribes who shared everything and then, as people started collecting possessions, they wanted to keep them for themselves and their offspring and the only way a man could know a child was his bloodline was if the woman was monogamous. As the nuclear family evolved, we got more selfish. Instead of using resources to benefit all, we hoarded them for our family alone.

  20. Jack

    totaram, that’s naive. Voters want all those things, they just don’t want high taxes to pay for it. The majority expects it to come magically. Any connection to higher taxes is election suicide, and higher taxes is what socialism is associated with.

  21. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Well said, Alistair on September 4, 2017 at 4:55 pm,

    but I would add for our message to an emboldened Labor to be …

    … ‘Mean It’ when saying you support Socialism coz it works for the Common Good …

    and how could the LNP argue with that?

  22. Jane Filipovski

    As the rule of business is to maximise shareholder profit, I cannot see how concessions to big business will abate our widening inequality. Am I missing something? Bring on the socialist left, it has been absent for too long, and I believe we need it!

  23. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    100% correct, Jane

  24. silkworm

    If Bill Shorten knew MMT, he would be saying that increased spending does not necessarily lead to higher taxes. What is important is how productive that spending is, because, by directing it at the less well off, who are more likely to spend that money back into the economy, they are increasing employment in the retail sector, and higher employment means more taxes collected, even though the tax rate remains the same.

    There are lots of arguments from MMT that Bill could use, but he just doesn’t use them.

  25. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Spot on, silkworm

  26. townsvilleblog

    I don’t see anything wrong with a fairer distribution of wealth the 0.1% of the global rich have wealth they could never use on three lifetimes whilst we have in excess of 3 million people living below the poverty line, this is hardly fair or acceptable.

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