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Trending Issues: Address in Reply-Appealing to National Consensus

By Denis Bright   

In the traditions of outstanding Address in Reply Speeches from the Labor Party since the days of Andrew Fisher in 1909, Bill Shorten has delivered an outstanding appeal to a fractured nation with the politics of hope.

Supporting the Consumer Revolution and Save Medicare Initiatives

The Address builds on the positives in the federal LNP’s own budget with a commitment to fair wages and an extension of the federal government’s own tax offset. This will now benefit income earners to a taxable income of $48,000 with an additional $1,080 in annual take-home pay from 1 July 2019.

These changes alone will detract from the shrill appeal of cross-bench parties in the less affluent electorates in all mainland states. Labor vote cannot go higher in Tasmania without threatening the career of the left-leaning member for Denison who usually supports Labor on crucial economic issues.

Labor will oppose implementation of Phases 2 and 3 of the Federal LNP’s tax relief for higher income earners to the benefit of spending commitments in the forthcoming election campaign:

Labor has signalled it is likely to support doubling the offset, which Bill Shorten proposed in 2018 in his budget reply. But the proposal to flatten tax brackets beyond 2024 would provide a significant point of difference between the two major parties, allowing Labor to oppose high income tax cuts at the May election.

Flattening tax brackets in 2024, as proposed in the 2018 budget, and lowering the rate to 30%, as revealed on Tuesday, would contribute to a cumulative total tax cut of $1,205 a year for a person earning $50,000, $1,955 for someone earning $80,000, $3,040 for a person earning $100,000 increasing to $11,640 for those earning $200,000 or more.

Frydenberg defended the changes as a “long-term structural reform”, which would ensure that 94% of taxpayers paid no more than 30c in the dollar in tax and “incentivise and reward hard work”.

Funding accountability will be enhanced by removing the worst excesses of franking credit payments to retirees whose income from share portfolios does not exceed the current tax threshold of $18,200. The overall cost of franking credit payments has blown out to $6.6 billion. This is approximately one third of the cost of all payments to the NDIS in 2818-19:

Labor’s Fully Funded Plans for the Future

Labor extends the LNP’s commitment to end the freeze on increases in Medicare Payments to practitioners and specialists with a $2.3 billion commitment to reduce the costs of cancer treatment. Access to MRI Units to detect cancer will be increased with particular emphasis on outer-suburban and regional areas. Early diagnosis will also reduce the costs of cancer treatment and in the case of skin cancers these costs can be reduced by more adequate prevention programmes. Preventative programmes can also be extended to aspects of reproductive health to reduce the costs of STDs and abortion procedures.

The Plan for the Future will also address climate change with pragmatic carbon emission targets that can be reinforced by the installation of household batteries with appropriate subsidies to users of extensive solar units at a cost of up to $2,000 per household.

The energy initiatives will be supplemented by controls on clearing of native vegetation and planning measures to support transport-oriented development (ToD Projects) for our cities and the attraction of investment to the regions with particular emphasis on Northern Australia.

All these changes will require support staff in NDIS, aged care programmes, technical support for TOD Projects and other transformative ventures. This justifies Labor’s commitment to tertiary education with an emphasis on overcoming training deficiencies in the IT sector:

Bill Shorten will commit Labor to spend $200m on Tafe campuses and promise to almost double the number of new apprenticeship offered by the Coalition in Tuesday’s budget.

The commitments in Shorten’s budget reply on Thursday amount to $440m of new spending, including $330m to deliver 150,000 apprenticeship subsidies in areas with skills shortages.

The package builds on Shorten’s promise last year to waive fees for 100,000 Tafe students and doubles the investment in campuses from $100m to $200m.

Scott Morrison is expected to call the federal election shortly after Shorten’s reply and education is likely to be one of Labor’s strong suits because it is an area where it can offer higher social spending as a dividend for tax reform.

Labor has already promised an additional $14bn over 10 years to public schools, universal preschool access for three and four year olds, at the cost of $1.7bn, and to reverse the freeze on commonwealth grants to universities.

In Tuesday’s budget the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, promised a $525m skills package that contained $55m of new money and redirected $463m of unspent money from the Skilling Australians Fund.

The centrepiece of the Coalition’s package is $200m to create 80,000 apprenticeships by doubling incentive payments to employers to $8,000 per placement and giving $2,000 payments to new apprentices. Labor’s policy matches the amount of those subsidies but extends them to 150,000 places.

Labor’s $200m building Tafe for the future fund will be spent to re-establish Tafe facilities in regional communities that have lost campuses or courses, build new facilities in growing areas, provide new equipment and expand course offerings.

Shorten said the budget was a “cynical pea and thimble trick” which had cut Tafe, skills and apprenticeship programs despite the fact Australia has 150,000 fewer apprentices and trainees than when Labor left government in 2013.

Labor’s Plans for the Future consolidate the LNP precedents and should be a safe bet for voters in swing seats.

Beyond Precedents: The Need for Sustainable Investment Multipliers

Short-term economic development initiatives aside on both sides of the political aisle, Australia has not come to terms with initiative to attract the right mix of investment in both public and private sectors to sustain a balanced development agenda.

The federal LNP’s plans for a consumer revolution to extend the mining boom and the property market brings too much uncertainty investment for the future in a middle ranking Australian economy which is no global financial hub like Wall Street, the City of London, Beijing or Tokyo.

The consumer revolution might bring more investment in online warehouses, tourist infrastructure and Uber food outlets, but not the balanced investment to bring consensus to a more fragmented and stressful society.

The latest RBA Chart Pack shows the extent to which new age investment based on market-forces, favours the capital cities in Eastern Australia from Brisbane and the Gold Coast to Adelaide with a preference for Sydney and Melbourne:

Mainstream politics is not yet rectifying these financial blind-spots which require a new range of commercial investment sources as recommended by the Business Council of Australia (BCA). The BCA is still too conservative to extend its vision to Asian Belt and Road Investment and Infrastructure Options which need not be unilaterally from China but from China as the vibrant financial hub of the Indo-Pacific Basin. China has been willing to repair its old disputes with Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam and turn them into trading and investment partnerships.

Ironically, this engagement with the Indo-Pacific would save Australia in billions of unproductive defence investment in favour of ports and regional investment projects across Northern Australia about which the federal LNP and populist cross-benchers have fantasized for decades.

Bill Shorten’s address in reply offers a conventional start to a better orientation with closer immediate engagement with New Zealand and the Pacific Islands on a transformation which requires an extended period of Labor Governments at federal and state levels along the Scandinavian development model which reaches beyond the nasty politics of debt and division (Matthias Cormann in The Australian 24 August 2017, pay-walled):

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has laid down the economic gauntlet to Bill Shorten, describing Labor’s policies as akin to communist East Germany’s, in a speech to the Sydney Institute last night designed to set the philosophical and political battleground for the next election.

In one of the most direct ­attacks on the Opposition Leader by a Turnbull cabinet minister since last year’s election, Senator Cormann accused Mr Shorten of being an economic charlatan attempting to take Labor back to the era of socialism by committing to more than $150 billion worth of new taxes.

He accused the Opposition Leader of a shameless descent into the politics of envy used by past socialist leaders. “As he looks ahead to the next election, he has made the deliberate and cynical political judgment that enough Australians have forgotten the historical failure of socialism,” Senator Cormann said.

“The Berlin Wall came down 28 years ago, which means roughly 18 per cent of Australians enrolled to vote were born after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the failure of a system of government that destroyed the economies of eastern Europe.

“Bill Shorten now believes the politics of envy will work for him politically if not economically; that people will believe him when he pretends that the path to a better life for them is to tax their neighbours, their friends and their family members harder; to demonise aspiration and go after hard-working Australians and successful businesses.

“His rhetoric is the divisive language of haves and have-nots. It is socialist revisionism at its worst.”

Let the unproductivity of this rhetoric speak for itself as the federal LNP in 2019 adopts many of Labor’s tax package suggestions in its own consumer revolution strategies.

Denis Bright is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is committed to citizens’ journalism by promoting discussion of topical issues from a critical structuralist perspective. Readers are encouraged to continue the discussions in this current series of Trending Issues for Australians in this election year.

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28 comments

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  1. RomeoCharlie29

    As a pensioner there is little of economic benefit for me in either of the major parties’ policies so it comes down to the contest of ideas for the long-term benefit of the rest of the people, for the country and for the planet. I see a coalition doing nothing real about either energy policy or global warming, persisting with its persecution of those on welfare, doing nothing about wages stagnation and intent on bolstering further the already wealthy. In contrast I see a Labor Government addressing real community needs, doing something about wages, removing some of the Howard/Costello Investor rorts and addressing climate change. One offers more of the same which has tanked the economy and inflated our debt enormously while the other offers a modest start to reducing inequality. No prizes for guessing where my vote will go.

  2. Alcibiades

    RC29,
    Same situation, concur wholeheartedly. What is best for the greater societal good, especially the demonised & disadvantaged denied even a voice at the table. A faint hope the tactical evasions of ‘necessity’ as part of the overall political strategy re avoiding specific issues ‘verboten’ by corporate MSM may be resurrected post election.

    The choice is stark. Endemic systemic corruption does not lead to prosperity.

    Time for some serious ‘trickle up’ from the bottom, methinks. Oh, say the next 40 years at least ?

  3. terence mills

    Anybody who has had any experience of cancer treatment, particularly those who have to travel from rural areas for treatment, know about the massive out-of-pocket expenses incurred even when they have full private cover.

    I had to travel to our nearest town to have an MRI at a private facility how mercenary it was : I had no sooner arrived after a two hour drive when I was asked for $550 upfront (no Medicare rebate). I joked to a stern faced receptionist , first you scan my credit card and then my prostate, eh ?

    Shorten has hit on a very raw nerve and one that many will recognize as a deficiency in our universal healthcare system.

  4. Alcibiades

    Unless I’m mistaken, by rejecting the two later phases of the Coalitions tax cuts for the rich, Labor has been gifted an ~$150Bn to toss around over the campaign, in further ‘breathtaking’ announcements ?

    Whereas the Coalition is locked in, fully committed, to it’s failed tax cuts for the wealthy budget. This is a repeat of the previous elections proposed tax cuts for the rich & Banksters, which cost ’em 14 seats and almost re-election. The second & third phases of that planned rort were widely rejected by both Australia & Parliament.

    Upon reflection … this ‘plan’ of the coalition seems to talk directly & really only, to their supposed ‘base’. An indicator they have all but given up, and merely seek to save some of the furniture ? Given the Morrison faction holds only ~12 members in the party, Shouty McShoutyFace may have very great difficulties indeed in running a managed/co-ordinated campaign. Can’t shout down & walkout on the Press through the campaign … either.

    As it unravels before our very eyes ?

  5. Florence Howarth

    PM said there is nothing wrong with Medicare. Claimed that the hospital system provides free care.

  6. whatever

    The PM was “choking up” because the BBC cameras were there.

  7. Patagonian

    He oozes ‘fake’ from every pore..

  8. Henry Rodrigues

    This creature of the Liberal party who is not only incompetent and actually quite stupid, views this as a last gasp attempt to salvage some fleeting sympathy from a cynical and wise public. Good bye Scummo and take your band of dickheads with you. He finally realizes the immense torrent of public anger that is about to engulf him and his government.

  9. Mia

    Chris Pyne told us he was a fixer but his grimaces showed no bipartisanship towards Labor’s full funded alternative to the antics of the LNP

  10. paul walter

    BUT WHAT ABOUT DOLE PAYMENTS????

  11. Leila

    I agree Denis, great Budget reply by Bill Shorten
    Hopefully, Labour will be successful at the Federal Election & able to implement their policies, creating a fairer nation for all

  12. Jaquix

    Predictably Scott Morrison comes out swinging today saying “Labor is lying” (Mmm Projection?) and “All the treatments they mention are available already in public hospitals for free.” Cue a deluge of tweets disavowing him of that notion!
    Obviously Morrison hasnt been touched by cancer in his family – so far. But so many have.
    Another issue raised is the way this callous government set about moving everybody it possibly could off Sickness Benefits (because they were higher than Newstart) and onto Newstart. So thousands and thousands of Australians have suffered under the Liberals, while sick, and supposed to be “looking for work”, attending interviews, keeping job provider appointments. One slip by a very sick person means instant stopping of their benefit.
    Yet today we had the Royal Command Performance of Morrison in announcing the RC into Disability. Had to be dragged there kicking and screaming when he lost the numbers in the House, and did not consult. Disabled Senator Jordon Steele-Johns is absolutely furious, and says 2 of the commissioners have a conflict of interest because they will be investigating the departments they have themselves overseen. Plus one was an ex Liberal MP.

  13. Stella

    Denis, thanks for your article on Bill Shorten’s budget reply speech and the policy initiatives being put forward. A great article.

  14. Kronomex

    Paul,

    “BUT WHAT ABOUT DOLE PAYMENTS????”

    Broom.
    Carpet.
    Forget.

  15. Alcibiades

    Kronomex,
    With a mere stroke of a pen they could eliminate the bipartisan policy of artificially enforced unemployment entirely. Thence there would actually be, no Newstart, at all.

    We have a ~$150Billion kitty gifted by dumping the Coalitions 2nd & 3rd phase tax cuts for the wealthy, their ‘base’. That would fund a whole lot of FDR style, partially ‘managed economy’ projects. With a Return on Investment(ROI) if carefully planned/managed of ?. Let alone ~70%(?) of actually wages paid would flow straight back into the economy as spent wages, direct & indirect, revenue collection …

    However, since Neoliberalism is externally imposed upon us by our ‘buddies’, the Good ol’ US of A, we’re gonna get a, review.

  16. Christopher Davis

    Paul and Kronomex – the ALP has committed to a full review of Newstart if elected, just as they did for pensions when last in. They will raise it but they will not make it a wedge election issue and allow the LNP to further demonise the unemployed to get votes.

  17. Kronomex

    My comment was aimed at Scummo and the LNP. Labor is going to have a “review”. Yay for them, how about increasing the unemployment payments, just to start with, by $50.00 until the review is finished then go from there. Any increase, as long as it’s not some piddling amount like the cost of a couple of Freddo Frogs, has to be a help for the unemployed.

  18. paul walter

    They dont want reviews, they want an increase.

  19. paul walter

    Thanks, Kronomex.

    Christopher, we did watch Yes Minister years ago.

    We know “review” is code for brushed under the carpet when it is after an election.

    Really, DEEPLY insulted by that comment.

  20. Alcibiades

    A perfect example of a manipulative headline that is not fully supported by the facts buried deep in the body of the article. Sadly most people only read the headlines, maybe the first paragraph. 🙁

    Average full-time workers to be $1000 a year worse off under Labor – The Age

    … While the typical Australian (median) full-time worker earns $78,268 a year, according to the Grattan Institute, those on higher incomes pull the average earnings of a full-time worker up to $90,300 a year. When all workers, including part-time employees and casuals are taken into account the average is much lower at $67,243 a year.

    Associate Professor Phillips and Professor Gray said Labor’s plan so far, which includes low-income tax offsets of more than $1000 a year, would “very modestly lower income inequality” while the Liberal plan “will modestly increase it,” particularly after 2024, when high-income earners get the largest share of the benefits because they pay more tax.

    They said Labor’s plan was “clearly more progressive but smaller”…

  21. RosemaryJ36

    We live in a society.
    Many of us are helped – or even totally supported by – social welfare payments.
    Many of the population struggle to find money to cover their needs yet the wealthy have no concerns for their future.
    So what is wrong with socialism if it ensures that the government transfers funds from the rich to help the poor, Josh Freydenberg?

  22. paul walter

    James Chessell seems to be the apparatus Nine will use for dumbing down Fairfax.

    Pity.

    The Age was once a fairly good newspaper.

  23. paul walter

    Rosemary, you are such a lovely person but gee, dont talk sense again… still recovering from the agony of those stitches of laughter you put me into, that last.

    (Thinks, guffaws..falls to floor, rolls doubled up)

  24. rubio@coast

    Australia needs more of the Politics of Hope as promoted by Bill Shorten. The address in reply has magnified the prospects of a change of government. Due to deteriorating living standards linked to wages and housing costs, the swing should be back from minor parties to Labor. What really is the advantage of having a sprinkling of eccentric populists with subtle alliances to the Morrison Government.

  25. Paul

    Great article Denis! !

    So many issues to consider for the new government. I hope they act consciously.

  26. Tessa_M

    Offers great moral support for the enthusiastic campaign of Labor’s Patrick Deegan in Page electorate but how much further can the National Party vote fall in Nimbin where the National Party vote was just 17 votes ahead of the Animal Justice Party in 2016?

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