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Seeking the Post-COVID Sunshine: Taking That Responsible Yellow Brick Road Towards a More Equitable Recovery

By Denis Bright

Labor has been more proactive this week in challenging those old policy assumptions from the Morrison Government on that bumpy track back to normalcy. The LNP’s media advisers are scanning the immediate future to plan the dash to a fourth term in government as planned on budget night by Josh Frydenberg.

But ahead during the LNP’s possible fourth term those rough times when the LNP will strive to claw back the federal deficit while recklessly offering more Phase 3 tax concessions to its support base.

Jim Chalmer’s address at the National Press Club on 19 May 2021 provided a real opportunity for readers to check the traction of Labor’s post-budget responses (Text is available from Jim Chalmer’s Media Centre).

What indeed are the alternatives to the LNP’s tax auctions when the electorate has been primed up to shout for the Money over essential social justice commitments?

Let the high profile accounting firms deliver evidence of the extent of social injustice in the tax concessions being offered to the LNP’s cherished support base.

For low income workers, the tax threshold is still stuck at $18,201. The current tax-offset is not guaranteed and is currently skewed in favour of the LNP’s middle income support base.

That Context for Jim Chalmer’s National Press Club Address

Anthony Albanese of course offered the guiding principles that drove Jim Chamber’s address at the National Press Club. In a country whose conservative leaders talk up market ideology and strong strategic associations with global military industrial complexes as normalcy Anthony Albanese address was as daring as any scene from the Wizard of Oz movie set as the USA struggled out of depression in December 1937 to prompt a movie sequel to L. Frank Baum’s novel (1900).

The BBC (12 August 2019) offered an informative deconstruction of the movie event which can be looked at by interested readers.

Comparisons of the paradigm changes in Anthony Albanese’s address in reply are worth considering in full without editorial comment (Anthony Albanese Media Centre 13 May 2021).

Now over to Jim Chalmer’s response to chip away at The Yellow Brick Road constructed by market ideology and proposed compromises with employers’ contributions to superannuation.

Jim Chalmer’s at the National Press Club

Like Dorothy Gale (portrayed by Judy Garland), Jim Chalmers acknowledged the impact of destructive forces on the social fabric. COVID-19 has cut Australians off from the normalcy of life in a market driven world.

The full text of Jim Chalmer’s address to the National Press Club is readily available and should be looked at in its entirety by interested readers.

In Wizard of Oz traditions, Jim Chalmer’s press club speech seeks to mobilise a cross-section of Australians in change strategies that take us out of under investment in the private sector. Signs of the approaching storm were apparent long before COVID-19 hit the global community.

Image from Trip Adviser

Ironically a replica of Dorothy Gale’s family house now attracts tourists to the town of Liberal in Kansas.

Few Americans have any longing for the return of such to Dust Bowl Kansas which was taken out of its slumbers by the unexpected tornado in that Wizard of Oz movie.

Australians too want some relief from the platitudes of the federal LNP whose hopes are now on an early election to steer a return to the old normalcy.

Supporting the LNP government’s long-term plan to return the federal budget to balance in a decade, Treasury Secretary, Dr Steven Kennedy warned of the challenges ahead (ABC News 19 May 2021):

Speaking to an Australian Business Economists lunch in Sydney, Dr Steven Kennedy threw his support behind the government’s tax cap, which aims to limit revenue collections to 23.9 per cent of the economy’s annual output (GDP).

However, even excluding all the one-off stimulus and support measures in response to COVID-19, Dr Kennedy said government spending was set to exceed that tax level in the longer term.

If unaddressed, that would leave Australia’s government in a sizeable budget deficit well into the next decade, even if the economy performed well.

As a loyal servant of the prevailing government, Dr. Steven Kennedy will have no difficulty in working with Jim Chalmers as Treasurer in a Labor Government to keep a larger than usual government sector for as long as necessary. Dr Kennedy’s own political bias might be showing up in his news release in support of the Morrison Government. If winding back the deficit is really so important just why is the Australian economy achieving such a rebound under the current deficit regime at a time when interest rates are at a record low and unlikely to rise in the immediate future?

One of the cruellest acts of a re-elected LNP government would be the implementation of Phase 3 tax concessions to comfortably off Australians at a cost of $17 billion to the budget deficit.

The Coalition is set to make the delivery of these tax changes a key election issue as noted by Finance Minister Simon Birmingham (SMH 13 May 2021):

These tax cuts have been legislated. The Morrison government’s position in delivering fully on our tax cuts is 110 per cent guaranteed,” he said.

But the tax cuts also create issues for the Coalition due to their interaction with the low and middle-income tax offset. The offset, which Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said this week was not a permanent part of the tax system, delivers up to $1080 as a refund to more than 10.5 million people. Once the offset ends after the next financial year, the take-home pay for millions of workers will fall.

The Coalition’s dash towards a spring election in 2021 on the issue of tax reform to support an unequal recovery is the fond hope of every member of the LNP ministerial team. Unsettling the momentum of the plan invites deferral of the election date until the 2021-22 budget strategies are more fully tested.

Michelle Grattan for The Conversation reviewed the state of play in Newspoll during budget week prior to the address in reply speech on 13 May 2021.

The government has failed to get any electoral “bounce” from last week’s budget, despite it being widely seen as good for the economy, according to Newspoll.

Labor retains a two-party lead of 51-49%, although there was a 2 point fall in its primary vote, to 36%. The fall was matched by a 2 point rise in support for the Greens, to 12%. The Coalition was stable on 41% primary vote.

Publishing the results, The Australian reported it was the most well-received budget since the Howard-Costello days, with 44% saying it would be good for the economy, and only 15% believing it would be bad. This was the largest margin since 2007.

Scott Morrison’s political strategies are as changeable as any bad tornado in the Kansas Dustbowl. These are volatile times and today’s political resistance can have a great impact on his choice of election dates. Building a coalition of concerned voters to walk The Yellow Brick Road out of market ideology and militarism in this once in a century opportunity to change Australia for the better.

Labor needs a primary vote approaching 40 per cent with add-on Green preferences to achieve these outcomes. Its support base needs to be widened to challenged entrenched political elites in the spirit of Jim Chalmer’s finale to his performance at the National Press Club. Will this be of Judy Garland’s performance standards?

No Labor Budget would miss the chance to reinvent and reimagine a new Australian economy – more diverse, and more resilient.

An economy where technology is driving the creation of new jobs, not the replacement of workers.

An economy that’s bringing jobs and infrastructure and the opportunities of renewable energy to the regions.

An economy where concentrated and cascading disadvantage is addressed with investments in education, training and decent housing.

Where women know true equality – in participation, in opportunity, in leadership and pay.

No Labor Budget would cut higher education and thieve opportunity in the middle of a recession.

No Labor Budget would borrow $100 billion and not invest a dollar in public housing.

No Labor Budget would treat the crisis in Aged Care as a political problem to be managed, instead of a human crisis to be alleviated.

No Labor Budget would ignore the jobs and opportunities that come with cheaper and cleaner energy.

No Labor Budget would treat women’s economic policy as a patronising add-on.

No Labor Budget would passively accept a cut in real wages for the workers who got Australia through the pandemic.

And no Labor Budget would ignore the extraordinary opportunity of this moment we’ve been through, or the responsibility to do it justice.


Denis Bright is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to citizen’s journalism from a critical structuralist perspective. Comments from insiders with a specialist knowledge of the topics covered are particularly welcome.


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  1. New England Cocky

    Finally some LABOR economic thinking that Australian voters can understand as benefiting Australian citizens rather than the foreign owned multinational corporations making ”political donations” AKA ”political bribes” to rip off Australia’s natural resources whiue paying little/no taxation in Australia for the privilege.

    Australia needs a feral ICAC NOW!! Promising the establishment of a Feral ICAC within the first 100 days of an Albo Federal Labor government after the early 2021 elections would bring thinking Australian voters to the polls with the knowledge that ”government by rorts” has been killed off by the people worst hit by this corruption.

  2. Williambtm

    The best interpretation for a corporation: no matter if it is an overseas Headquartered corporation or an Australian registered corporation. E.G. a mining sector corporation, a Banking corporation, in fact, every corporation, does not give, it just takes. Imagine a giant Vampire Squid with its tentacles wrapped around the face of humankind, its blood-pump poised aloft ready to strike into the nearest smell of money?
    The charter of a corporation is to generate greater and greater profits. This analogy is per a description published in a copy of Rolling Stone magazine many years ago.

  3. Maxine

    Phase 3 tax cuts defy logic . Giving away almost another $20 billion in tax relief to comfortably off families can be challenged. It can turn the Debt and Deficit politics from the LNP in Labor’s favour this time .

  4. Leila

    Thanks Denis. Pleased to hear that Judy Garland is still relevant to new times of crisis for humanity some 52 years after her death. The Yellow Brick Road must become the resistance highway for a new generation of activists.

  5. totaram

    Maxine: They are already saying that government debt is not bad if it is Coalition debt, and that too at such low interest rates.
    You can keep playing this silly game till the cows come home. Unless you really try to understand what is “government debt” and how different it is from “private sector debt”. Oh, and also remember that these two debts are actually complementary, unless you have huge trade surpluses. In other words, a government “surplus” implies a private sector (aka households) debt.
    But never mind, it’s all too hard to understand.

  6. James Robo

    High standards are needed if Jim Chalmers has to compete with Judy Garland on the resistance road

  7. Ivy

    Denis, thanks for a great article on the budget reply. Some interesting insights about the budget.

  8. Tessa_M

    I looked at the web site of the local National Party member for Page for his take on the Budget. The latest press release dated 29 April was about $885,000 grants for a drill hall in Casino. Is this state of the art politics when there are so many local employment, housing and environmental problems? Surely Labor can do better and has held Page in the recent past.

  9. Joel

    Lovely perspective Denis. Who’s up to that hike on the resistance road? Count me in doing a canter on the Gold Coast. Hopefully, Judy Garland’s ghost might be outside the local federal LNP members office at Varsity Lakes in the McPherson electorate will be outside the local re-election headquarters there.

  10. Chris

    Commitment to social justice should motivate our resistance

  11. Pat

    Australian politics has certainly become a horse race to talk up the LNP as the favourite which offers bad dividends for our future

  12. Paul

    @newenglandcocky looks like you are on the same wave length as Denis on this one!!! So am I. Great article Denis.

    Hopefully we can get some moment and cause some political change for a much better future.

  13. Lara G.

    Cheers to the rising star of Australian Labor politics from the Philippines: Jim Chalmers is your hope in Australia as a future treasurer.

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