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Bill Shorten’s Address in Reply: Hope versus Opportunism and Elitism

By Denis Bright

In his Address in Reply Speech, Bill Shorten challenged the inherent opportunism in the LNP’s Budget Statement.

Labor still faces an enormous challenge in retaining four heartland seats in Fremantle, Perth, Braddon and Longman in the forthcoming federal by-elections. The SA Seat of Mayo in the Adelaide Hills is currently held by Nick Xenophon’s Party, and has not been held by Labor since its formation in 1984.


Big ticket items in the LNP Budget for new motorways are pushed into the future to offer token tax relief of up to $8.55 per week for workers in the $18,201-$37,000 income range.

The infrastructure promises looked good until the fine print of commencement dates and negotiations of partial funding by the states and territories were finalised. Nothing is offered for Brisbane’s Cross River Underground Rail Link with its capacity to revitalise inner-suburbs with Transport-Oriented Development Projects (ToDs) to ease housing shortages.

The capacity of states and territories to come up with matching funding is highly questionable. The variability in revenue assistance from the Commonwealth to the states and territories is quite appalling. The big losers are Queensland and the Northern Territory, with stationary allocations to the ACT and Tasmania. These allocations include both GST sharing and general revenue assistance (Budget Paper 3):

Variability in Federal Support to the States and Territories


One of the harshest financial cuts has been directed to the ABC Broadcasting Networks which are so important for families in regional areas:

Funding for the ABC has been cut by $84m with the treasurer, Scott Morrison, saying the reduction is justified because “everyone has to live within their means”.

The ABC’s managing director, Michelle Guthrie, told staff she was “very disappointed and concerned” about what amounted to a substantial budget cut and it would impact audiences.

“This decision will make it very difficult for the ABC to meet its charter requirements and audience expectations,” Guthrie told staff.

The cut comes on top of the government’s decision not to continue a further $43m targeted grant to support news gathering and after cuts of the magnitude of $254m since 2014.

Beyond the high-profile infrastructure items with a distant commencement date, the federal government is struggling to cope with social security expenditure associated with the ageing of the Australian population and high levels of regional and youth underemployment. Expenditure on TAFE and training programmes is obviously less important than protection of salaries of households from the LNP’s core support base.

Projections for spending priorities of future federal LNP governments offer no possibilities of real changes (Budget Paper No.1 2018):

Real Growth in Commonwealth Expenditure 2017-2021


Commitment to elitism justifies these warped priorities which will increase the income divide in Australian society.

Elitism in Action

The elitism in the LNP Budget is market by a flat tax rate of 32.5 per cent for 73 per cent of workers by 2024-25. Only 6 per cent of workers earning a taxable income of over $200,000 will have to pay a progressive tax rate of 45 per cent on income above that threshold now and in the immediate future to 2024-25. Legal forms of tax avoidance schemes are available to compress higher incomes into the 32.5 per cent threshold range. Just ask your nearest accountancy office and your expenditure will be a tax deduction.

The broad scope of the 32.5 per cent tax band will help to maintain tax coffers and may contribute to a return to surplus. Income tax and GST receipts as a percentage of revenue were lower twenty years ago as shown in the excellent graphics from The Guardian Online:

As pointed out by Bill Shorten, the federal LNP’s less publicized commitment is a reduction in company taxes for large and middle-sized companies. Most of this initial $80 billion hand-out will go to large companies and banking institutions. The capacity of this sector to avoid paying legitimate Australian taxation is legendary.

Commitment to Fairness

By restricting tax relief for the largest companies and banks, Labor has the capacity to spend responsibly on health, aged care, hospitals and infrastructure. It can ensure that wage theft is always challenged, and legitimate penalty rates restored.

It is a good sign that Brisbane’s Courier Mail decided to tone down its lead story in the morning edition (10 May 2018).

Offering tax relief of up to $928 a year for 10 million Australians in Labor’s Address in Reply had already gained some traction with the editorial staff (CM Online 10 May 2018).

Perhaps this is a sign of a fair assessments of Labor’s battle to retain four current heartland Lower House seats. In Brisbane’s Northern Corridor seat of Longman, the prospects for a swing to Labor must face the challenge of a new populist onslaught to distract constituents from real issues about living standards and quality of life in an electorate which is not famous for elitist pretensions.

Denis Bright (pictured) is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in advancing pragmatic public policies that are compatible with contemporary globalization.



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  1. ajogrady

    Hypocrisy writ large by the L/NP. They are the masters of spending money twice even three times or maybe that should be announcing the spending of monies and not doing so. Could someone please direct me to where the L/NP actually costed their own budget and its breakdowns and what would be the outcomes.

  2. townsvilleblog

    Bill Shortens Budget reply speech was the best speech from an Opposition Leader in recent history bar none. He gave we wage slaves something to aim for (pardon the pun) some hope for the future. The ALP worked the politics well for a change, and Shorten said what needed saying. For a change the L’NP had nowhere to go, and were caught napping. It now comes down to a choice for the everyday people, do they want a government who tries to give the rich an $80 billion handout, or do they instead want to improve their lives and the lives of their children?

    It seems that Shorten has at last grown closer to the everyday Australian, it really does sound better to help 10 million everyday Aussies then to help a few thousand filthy rich in our community, and not before time.

  3. Jaquix

    Bills Budget Reply speech was SO different from Morrisons budget one. Here we saw a vision of an Australia some of us can remember, or at least it felt more like this at the time. The Liberals 7 year tax plan just entrenches and makes worse inequality. The poorly paid on $30,000 still gets a $200 tax cut in 2024, but the one on $200,000 a year, collects over $7,000. Only a Lib could think that one would pass muster. But out they come, last night Twitter lit up, with Peter Dutton and Mathias Corman getting increasingly shrill. Theyve been using the hashtag #shiftybill for some time, apparently, so out it came. So that started a funny exchange of tweets including this in a humorous way. My contribution was “Get used to it, Bill and Chloe Shorten will be shifting into the Lodge. Mal and Lucy will be shifting out.” Its all theyve got really. They cant produce 1 country that has lowered company taxes, where wages went up. Its quite obscene that such a great whack of $$$ should be handed over like this. It would limit the opportunities and innovation Malcolm used to go on about, for our children and grandchildren.

  4. guest

    There was a saying among teachers that if you send1 boy, you send a boy. If you send 2 boys, you send half a boy. If you send 3 boys you send no boy at all. The Coalition sent 3 boys (Turnbull, Morrison and Cormann).

    The ALP sent one boy and a united team. They demolished the muddle offered by the Coalition. The contrast between the two parties could not be more stark.

    Turnbull tried to buy his PMship with $1.75m at the last election and scraped in by a seat. This time he tries to use some $80bn to bribe the electorate. The Coalition was revealed for its meanness in the way Morrison spoke almost non-stop about money because that is all they think of. So we get the meanness of the tax cut which after 7 years become much more substantial for the monied urban people. And it is not just that kind of meanness, there is also the meanness, the leanness, the lack of real thinking.

    That is a major problem with the Coalition. Their belief in small government and their reliance on private industry (and overseas industry) means they do not have any policies of their own and must borrow or adapt policies from someone else. Meanwhile, they spend a great deal of time trying to demolish ALP policies and attacking anyone they see as opposed to them. It is a very nervous kind of paranoia.

    So they resort to name-calling such as “wily Bill”. But they ignore the fact that Turnbull is a windsock who aligns with the right-wing mob. He throws away his principles. Some say he has no principles. If they want to point to the removal of Rudd, so they must look at Turnbull’s treatment of Abbott.

    Bill’s accurately measured speech made them look like guilty schoolboys and school girls. The embarrassment was obvious. They had been outwitted and their policy muddle was revealed for the meanness it is.

  5. helvityni

    Well done Bill.

    Well said, townswilleblog: ‘It seems that Shorten has at last grown closer to the everyday Australian, it really does sound better to help 10 million everyday Aussies then to help a few thousand filthy rich in our community, and not before time.

  6. Myra

    A convincing case so why is One Nation proposing to direct preferences to return another LNP member for Longman.

  7. Tom

    Fremantle is the safest of the Labor seats up for re-election in June or July. Scott Ludlam was a Fremantle resident. Will Labor have to face a challenge from the Greens in Fremantle as in Batman from a high profile Green politician? What a waste of progressive resources if Labor has to defend its heartland.

  8. Leila

    Great article, it is just so obvious we need a federal election as soon as possible and a Labour Government in power which has the backbone to take Australia forward .
    We need the hard decisions made ,welfare of all Australians supported Nd major infrastructure projects commenced as soon as possible . By not improving our infrastructure we are costing the nation a fortune in lost revenue with workers sitting in their cars.
    Great budget reply by Bill Shorten

  9. Shutterbug


    Because One Neuron by name – One Neuron by nature.

  10. Kaye Lee

    “why is One Nation proposing to direct preferences to return another LNP member for Longman”

    Let me speculate on that. Pauline has made millions of dollars over the years, even when she loses, from payments from the AEC.

    Pauline is looking to pick up the votes of pissed-off conservatives who cast a protest vote with the idea that Pauline and her bunch of crazies won’t actually win….but they make a motza out of losing.

    Since 1994 Senator Hanson has contested so many state and federal elections that before the 2016 federal election it was estimated she had received $6 million in combined public funding.

    At the last federal election, PHON collected $1,745,369.28. The West Australian election netted them $220,801.20 and the Queensland election, where they won no seats, earned them over a million.

    Did I mention that she sacked the long time treasurer and installed her brother-in-law to oversee their funds?

  11. Matters Not


    and the Queensland election, where they won no seats, earned them over a million.

    Actually, PHON won one seat. Mirani.

    Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party has claimed its first seat in Queensland’s 2017 election with the electorate of Mirani, which spans from Rockhampton to Mackay in central Queensland.

    One Nation candidate Stephen Andrew looks set to become both the first South Sea Islander ever elected to Queensland Parliament and One Nation’s only joy after up to six One Nation seats were predicted before Saturday’s election.

    As for Hanson and her ability to scam big dollars from failures – the evidence abounds..

    As I have argued elsewhere, the incumbent Mirani ALP candidate was a political lightweight while Stephen Andrew’s victory can be better explained via means other that PHON membership.

  12. Kaye Lee

    Thanks for the correction MN.

  13. Paul

    Thanks Denis,

    Great insight into the budget.

    A real shame about the ABC cuts. It’s such an important source of independent current affairs and news.

    The infrastructure upgrades will be good. Sunshine Coast motor ways in Qld are desperate for capacity upgrades.

    Some more innovating thinking would be welcomed by the government. For example, rather than simply making cuts to those in needs, let’s try to reduce government spending through behaviour change programs to improve health and well being, which will reduce huge health and justice costs.

  14. Maria H

    The LNP can cut funding from basic services but find millions to commemorate the voyage of Captain Cook.

  15. Denis Bright in Brisbane

    Always pleaed to hear from Matters Not.

    One Nation (ONP) is always a challenge across Queensland particularly in diasadvantaged areas in metropolitan, regional and rural areas: That a lot of Queensland including some of the conservative heartland areas like Tara on the Western Downs.

    Some of the worst social divides are in outback towns. Cutting back on government services with more market ideology only makes the situation worse. One day the LNP will wake up and drop its old-styled Thatcherism.

    This market ideology is tearing up the consensus-fabric of Australian society which has stood the test of time in war and peace.

    Visit some communities like Almaden or Chiiagoe in the Cairns Outback and the social divide is so apparent. Great to visit Doomagee to note the work which is being done by the Queensland Government in health, education and community development.

    In my previous article on regional volatility, I covered the ONP challenges and noted the high ONP vote after preferences in Charleville North and Wallangarra Booths at the last federal election in 2016 within the Maranoa Electorate.

    ONP definitely made it across the line in Mirani in the last state election.

    “Real efforts were made in ONP campaigning which secured the seat of Mirani in Central Queensland on LNP preferences. 78.49 per cent of LNP preferences in Mirani went to the ONP.” (Regional Volatility Article)

    Labor was the recipient of significant ONP preferences in Longman, Herbert and Flynn (where the LNP margin after preferences was reduced to 1.04 per cent).

    Labor should and can come up with alternative policies to contain the challenges posd by ONP.

    Most of my articles talk up the positive alternatives to the combined challnges of ONP and the LNP in volatile times in both domestic policies and international relations.

    Crude market ideology has failed Australians and the LNP efforts to stoke up the social divide in the current budget are far worse than could possibly have been expected.

    Given the pre-budget hype last weekend on mainstream news television services to raise expectations about the visionary nature of LNP economic strategies, I too was expecting something better.

    My own Q Super Account from a lifetime of work in teaching has reovered a little this month but it is still down by $4,000 in one of the best performing superannuation funds in Australia. Superannuation schemes are of course embedded in market ideology to replace unaffordable pension schemes.

    Superannuation does not guarantee a sustainable income. The LNP has tightened the Assets Test for Part-Pensions. The full pension for a married couple is $1,368.20 per fortnight.

    Despite full private health insurance, I was out of pocket by $300 for an X-ray and outpatient visit. For eye lens replacements, the out of pocket expsneses amounted to $3,500 at least for a job well done.

    I really identify with Bill Shorten’s commitment to Medicare and TAFE Programmes for under-employed people of all ages.

    ONP shares similar complaints but then supports LNP with official preference allocations and parliamentary votes on key issues.

    I am sure both Matters Not and myself both work for change in the status quo posed by the strength of market ideology in the LNP’s approach to politics at all levels.

    In researching the Regional Volatility Article, I was introduced to the Regional Profiles which can be customized on the Queensland Statistician’s Site to cover local authorities and state electorates. Reoports are generated at no change in 30 seconds from an interactive map that can combine districts and regions.

    I have lobbied the AEC in Canberra to assist in adding federal divisional boundaries to this outstanding QSO site which offers an objective snap-shot of our times:

    I phoned the AEC on Friday to see how my request was going, just in case it had been deleted. I was told that my email was still in the Loop.

    The QSO site does not appear to be replicated in NSW but it is worth copying. I have not had time to check the other states and territories.

    Let’s keep working for the positive changes that Australians deserve as custodians of an entire continent, care-takers in one third of Antarctica and mentors for sustainable development and peace in the nearby Indo-Pacific Hemisphere.

  16. Matters Not

    Denis Bright in Brisbane – here’s a question that investigative journalists might pursue.

    Who funded Hanson’s Fish and Chips establishment in Ipswich? The how, when and why might be of interest to those who want to delve into her verbal versus lived ideologies.

  17. Denis Bright in Brisbane

    Well the fish shop is part of history and folklore. Times has moved on and after 20 years of far-right populism, the life of people in Ipswich has not improved. Its esteemed leaders are facing criminal charges. We have to move on and think about today’s priorities. My high school education was down the road at Brener SHS but I never noticed the fish shop.

  18. Matters Not

    Dennis, re:

    the life of people in Ipswich has not improved. Its esteemed leaders are facing criminal charges

    Indeed! Mayors in particular. Not sure if you have ever read Stephanie Bennett’s book The Gatton Murders (and I know it’s stupid to generalise) but perhaps it’s in the genes? (Just jokin.. )

    Lots of incest – at any number of levels – including criminal ones.


    Matters Not. Why are you so uninformed? Hansen bought her fish and chip shop from her parents who used to run it themselves


    Turnbull, Corman and Moriscum have today accused Bill Shorten of being a liar and are claiming that Labors alternative budget programs and higher tax cuts are ‘unfunded and uncosted’. How absurd. Shorten made it very clear in his reply speech that the programmes he intends to implement are to be funded from funds that have otherwise been dedicated in the budget to the $80 bill corporate tax cuts and by other savings measures. Calling Shorten a liar outside of parliament where parliamentary privilege does not operate is defamation. Shorten should sue


    From Matthias Cormann and the organisation that gave you Tony Abbot. This is defamatory “Bill Shorten lies.”

  22. Denis Bright in Brisbane

    Apologies for the typo in my favourable comments on Doomadgee. This indigenous community is located right near Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill Gorge), a site of extraordinary beauty and cultural identity in the Outback federal electorate of Kennedy. Indigenous tourism could be an important draw-card to this region which basks in lovely mid-winter sunshine. Normanton is well connected to Cairns by Trans North Bus Services. There is a need for a bus from Mt Isa to Normanton, at least during the dry season when all the roads are open. Bus Queensland is performing a remarkable service in connecting outback areas with Queensland Government subsidies. The affordable Spirit of the Outback train is an alternative to the Ghan. Bus Queensland offers Outback connections from either Longreach or Winton. A first class ticket offers access to Silver Service Dining Facilities at affordable prices but the state LNP cut the Motorail Service during the Campbell Newman era (2012-15). Hopefully, the Motorail vans are still in storage for special events in the Outback like the Cloncurry Show as most of the rolling stock has been sold to the highest bidder.

  23. Peter F

    Dennis, I once worked in the schools section of the Qld Works Department. We ‘managed’ construction and maintenance of State Schools. Regular inspections and reports were submitted to show the maintenance needs of each school. Under the ‘Coalition’ Government (Joh’s era), your school was completely neglected because it was in a Labor electorate. I speak from personal experience having inspected the school and reported my findings, which were ignored.

  24. Peter F

    OTMP: The fools do not appreciate that Bill Shorten has linked his savings to their Tax Cuts for big business. If his proposals are unfunded it is because their Tax Cuts are unfunded.

  25. guest

    The reason why the Coalition want to call Bill Shorten “UnbelievaBill” is because they themselves cannot believe that their wonderfully sneaky and mean Budget has been torn to threads by Bill’s brilliant, measured and targeted speech. They have nowhere to hide. They thought they had it all sewn up with their clumsy ideology.

    A commentator this week said that it does not all end there. We can expect adjustments and additions leading up to the election.

    Can you imagine how the Coalition might try polish up its ridiculous economics to match Labor’s budget for common good? It would have to start again – with what?

  26. Stella

    Denis, thanks for your article on the budget and reply speech. More funding is required for health, education and foreign aid in the pacific region, including PNG. The ABC cuts are disappointing. It’s time for a federal election.

  27. rubio@coast

    The LNP’s budget opportunism seems to have back-fired. Wishing Justine McKeay and Susan Lamb success in the most difficult electorates where the budget reply speech has been a morale booster for Labor’s support base. Labor is offering better tax cuts and better service delivery with the $80 billion of revenue lost to tax cuts for large companies and banks.

  28. Denis Bright in Brisbane

    Thanks Peter F.

    The QTU at Innisfail became active in relation to neglect of school buildings and budget cut-bacls at federal and state levels of government. I did teach at Innisfail SHS which was demolished by Cyclone Yasi in January 2011. It has been rebuild as Innisfail State College.

    Most students still spent only three years at high school and went on to permanent employment in a variety of government and private sector jobs.

    Politics had a respected profile in the local community which welcomed the QTU Campaigns and even the Moratorium Campaign with paid advertisement on 4KZ in 1970.

    Ironically, there were potential health problems in the local community from the testing of Agent Orange for jungle warfare but this issues took a generation to receive national media attention.

    To me, Cowley Beach was a tropical paradise by the Estuary of Liverpool Creek. I was told to keep a watch out for crocodiles there but I was totally unaware of the significance of the Tropical Trials Unit at the nearby Defence Installation at Lower Cowley.

    These issues are worth investigating by readers despite denials from the Australian Army About the Accuracy of this report from the Sun-Herald Online (2008):

    “Military scientists sprayed the toxic defoliant Agent Orange in the jungle that is part of the water catchment area for Innisfail in Queensland’s far north at the start of the Vietnam War.

    The Sun-Herald last week found the site where military scientists tested Agent Orange in 1966. It is on a ridge little more 100 metres above the Johnstone River, which supplies the drinking water for Innisfail.

    Forty years later the site – which abuts farmer Alan Wakeham’s land – is still bare, covered only in tough Guinea grass, but surrounded by thick jungle.

    “It’s strange how the jungle comes right up to this site and then just stops. It won’t grow any further,” Mr Wakeham said.

    Agent Orange was sprayed extensively in Vietnam to defoliate the jungle and remove cover for North Vietnamese troops. It contains chemicals including the dioxin TCDD, which causes forms of cancer, birth defects and other health problems.

    Researcher Jean Williams found details of the secret Innisfail tests in the Australian War Memorial archives.

    “These tests carried out between 1964 and 1966 were the first tests of Agent Orange and they were carried out at Gregory Falls near Innisfail,” said Ms Williams, who has been awarded the Order of Australia Medal for her work on the effects of chemicals on Vietnam veterans.

    “I was told there is a high rate of cancer there but no one can understand why. Perhaps now they will understand.”

    Is all this secrecy still justifiable after 50 years or is it just an acceptable cost of participation in the US Alliance?

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