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Labor needs to get better at answering questions

I have never understood why Richard Marles is deputy leader of the Labor party – a factional payback no doubt – but his performance on Insiders this morning was a lesson on what Labor needs to get better at.

For pity’s sake, stop saying Labor won’t increase taxes. It is bleedingly obvious that revenue will have to increase to pay for an aging population, amongst other things, and categorically rejecting tax reform is madness. Sleep-walking along relying on bracket creep and hoping multinationals will cough up some tax is not what a proactive government planning for a better future should do.

If you are going to announce that all aged care homes will have a registered nurse on premises at all times when there is already a significant shortage of nurses, you need a better plan than just wage rises which are not up to the government to decide anyway.

How will private providers pay for increased staff costs? What is being done to train more nurses and to provide an ongoing career path for those who choose aged care? How will you attract health workers to regional areas?

Marles answer on public school funding was pathetic. ‘We’ll provide a pathway for them to get what they are supposed to in conjunction with the states’ means to me that they think public school funding is not a priority. That is immeasurably disappointing and short-sighted as public schools cater for the vast majority of the disadvantaged in our society and are hugely underfunded compared to the private sector.

When asked about what job he would like in the new government, Marles looked like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He could easily have talked up Labor’s wealth of experience and talent – make it about the team rather than individuals – and then segued into the Coalition’s squabbling and poor individual performances. But he didn’t. He just spluttered, as he so often does.

Labor needs to stress honesty, accountability and the importance of independent advice. There is a wealth of issues to address there – pork-barrelling, federal ICAC, nepotism in appointments, contracts without tender, infrastructure announced with no business case, scathing auditor general reports, reports not released, enormous cost of consultants, neutering of the public service, attacks on the ABC – the list is endless.

I sincerely hope Labor candidates are well enough informed that they do not endlessly parrot talking points. There is nothing more disingenuous than hearing the same phrase repeated by any number of talking heads.

Do not fall into the Morrison habit of talking in analogies about blank pages or family car trips or whatever other inane rubbish he goes on with.

Be honest about the real problems we are facing and the headwinds coming our way. Don’t be distracted by the ‘how will you pay for it’ diversion. It’s a ridiculous question from a government that has run up a trillion-dollar debt. The answer should be that there are some things that must be paid for and the times dictate priorities.

Morrison and Frydenberg are cherry-picking a few stats from a moment in time to claim they are good economic managers. Labor needs to be ready to answer that.

Unemployment is going to rise as foreign workers return. Interest rates are going to go up to curb rising inflation. Housing pressures, both rental and mortgage, will increase. Action on climate change becomes ever more urgent as the bill for natural disasters skyrockets. Inequality will worsen with a less progressive tax system. Poverty will increase with no changes to income support payments. Debt is rising and so is the interest bill. And there is no plan for higher wages.

As for national security, Morrison’s arrogant neglect of the Pacific region has opened the door for China. In three short years, he and his backroom buddy Alex Hawke have completely trashed our relationship with both China and our island neighbours. (not to mention what the same pair did to the NSW Liberal Party)

I sure hope Labor get this right because the country, and in fact, the world, cannot afford another three years of Scott Morrison and Barnaby Joyce – a more short-sighted self-serving pair would be hard to find.

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  1. Ron Lee

    Indeed a lesson in w.hat the ALP needs to get right. Marles needs to lift his game a lot

  2. Kerri

    Well said Kaye Lee.
    Marles does not impress me either. He waffles too much and that make him look ignorant of the issue.

  3. leefe

    Depressingly accurate.

  4. Ill fares the land

    I shudder at the thought that Labor can go into an election up against the worst PM In history (don’t believe me, the right-wing think tank the Institute of Public Affairs holds that view AND was willing to say that on Q&A) and could fail. To my mind, this coming election is one of the most important we have ever faced. It is implausible to think this government “deserves” to be re-elected. Those people who think Morrison is a good PM are simply wrong and that’s not my opinion – that can be shown to be factually true – this government had run this country into the ground pre-Covid and are now lying about how their genius is turning the economy around. We might lead the world in our “recovery”, but that’s only when Morrison and Frydenburger compare Australia to the worst global performers, not the best. The only people who continue to support Morrison, are Liberal or National barrackers and in that, hate Labor and think Labor will take Australia backwards. This, compared to a government with no climate change policy, who is presiding over INCREASES in emissions, not reduction, whose own modelling includes a carbon price and shows they will not get all the way to net zero. Labor – lift your game – you will need to be at your very best to make sure Morrison is gone after the next election.

  5. pierre wilkinson

    Seeing as how the government will follow its usual philosophy of blatant lying, trying to wedge Labor and continue to claim better economic management, why doesn’t Labor counterclaim with facts that are accepted by independent bodies?
    A simple google search proves that the highest taxing governments in our recent history are the coalition.
    Friedeggburger can claim anything he likes and it is simply accepted whereas Labor are forced to give detailed costings of anything they suggest.
    Morriscum is toxic yet he continues to push himself as saviour and Albo as unreliable.
    The media is complicit, the advertising unsavoury and bordering on ridiculous yet the general mug punter swallows all the lies.
    oh Australia, I despair that we will rectify this great wrong perpetuated upon us.

  6. Keitha Granville

    tbh I can’t stand Marles, he’s a dill. But make no mistake they MUST win or we are done.

  7. Phil Lohrey

    Kaye Lee, a wonderfully insightful article! Please copy and forward to the Labor leaders. Morrison looks so damned confident, because Labor are still trying to be a small target, missing the bullseyes, failing to call a spade a spade and not boldly advocating the anti-corruption, climate measures and care catch-up that we know they need to push. Oh please, Labor, read Kaye’s article and get it together. Australia needs a bold response from you! Otherwise, you are just feeding Morrison’s arrogance, so that his bullying and regressive policies are forgotten. We Australians give you permission to speak with authority, Labor!

  8. RomeoCharlie29

    Where’s the money coming from? $30 bn ( or whatever) in over-payments to companies which falsely claimed them would be a good start. The so-called better economic managers have put us in debt for decades so have no right to criticise Labor’s proposed spending, whatever it amounts to. Shorten’s over extravagance with promises last time is not a good enough reason to squib it now. Like all of the commentators here I want a bold Labor. And like PL I wish Albo and his team could read this excellent piece from Kaye Lee

    Michael can you find a way to stop the system capitalising the initial letter of my email address? It changes it even when I specify a lower case letter. My current is a case in point

  9. Kaye Lee

    If they want to pay for anything, they could abandon the stage 3 tax cuts which were agreed to when the government was forecasting ongoing surpluses. That would give them an extra $138 billion to spend.

    When the Coalition carry on about tax cuts, it’s worth remembering:

    Including all stages, the tax cuts disproportionately benefit high-income individuals and households:
     Most individuals on $30,000 or less, and the lowest 30% of households, do not benefit from
    the tax cuts because their taxable incomes are too low to pay income tax.
     A middle income-earner on $50,000 gains $1,205.
     A high income-earner on $200,000 gains $11,640.

  10. Paul John James

    I cringed at Marles’s interview yesterday. Labor should keep him out of harms way if he can’t answer the tough questions. But that panel was also a LNP fest to say the least. Did anyone notice Jenifer Hewitt slip up and use the word “we” referring to the liberals?

  11. Phil Lohrey

    Yes, they should have continued resisting the tax cuts for the rich. However, Albo has just handed the election to the Tories on day one of the (official) campaign. The media is already savaging him for not knowing the unemployment and Reserve Bank interest rates. How can progressive policies find the light of day in this atmosphere? I am afraid for Australia.

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