Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Right up Greens’ alley
When it caves on policy, Labor gives the minor party a major boost

If Albanese Labor really is shifting right, as last night’s lower-house capitulation to vote for the government’s full $158 billion tax-cut package might suggest, then the big beneficiaries at the next election may not be the Opposition itself, but the Greens. Last night’s vote was tactical, and Labor may still vote against the tax cuts in the Senate – it is hard to see what possible political advantage there could be in supporting the government’s package, which is unaffordable and likely to pass regardless. The bigger picture remains: when it comes to opposing trickle-down economics, arguing for genuine climate action, or softening national security laws to allow greater press freedom or a more humane policy towards 800 trapped asylum seekers, the minor party will quickly claim any political territory Labor abandons on the left.

The contentious aspect of the government’s full tax package is the stage-three proposal to radically flatten and lower the income-tax scales so that taxpayers earning between $45,000 and $200,000 pay no more than 30 per cent in the dollar from 2024–25. Labor is quite right that the government did not spend much time talking about this idea during the election – the PM and his colleagues were too busy talking about retiree taxes and housing taxes and fictitious death taxes – but the Opposition can never win this mandate argument.

Labor doesn’t want to support stage three, and the government doesn’t appear to want Labor’s support anyway. It would rather paint Labor as aspiration-deniers, and work with the crossbench. Having all but closed a deal with the two Centre Alliance senators, the government’s focus is on independent senator Jacqui Lambie, amid speculation that forgiving Tasmania’s $157 million social housing debt may be the price of her support for the full tax-cut package.

Lambie issued a statement this afternoon saying that she was undecided, and: “There is no way in good conscience I can vote for substantial tax cuts without making sure that the people who so desperately need a roof over their heads aren’t left to go without.” If she was truly worried about people without a roof over their heads, she would not support the full tax-cut package, because once the unaffordable third stage kicks in, the government revenue to support services to those people will be $95 billion poorer. The government has steadfastly refused to explain how it will continue to balance the books and provide essential services… because it can’t.

Regardless of the election outcome, as has been argued here over and over again, and as Labor knows full well, the far-off stage-three tax cuts are terrible policy on multiple grounds. If the government won’t split them off and defer them, Labor should oppose the whole tax-cut package in the Senate. The government will attack Labor anyway, and that’s the kind of conflict that an opposition should relish. Silly stunts like moving an amendment to insert a joke into the title of the bill, which Opposition Leader Albanese tried on last night, don’t make parliament friendlier or less partisan, they just turn it into more of a farce.

The Greens’ Adam Bandt, along with the independent Andrew Wilkie, were the only MPs to vote against the tax-cut package in the lower house, and the Greens are dead against voting for the legislation in the Senate, because it will increase inequality and undercut services. It’s not difficult: Labor can’t afford too many images of itself joining the Coalition, with the Greens acting as the lone opposition.

“As a result of his vision and commitment, the tempo and direction of this economic reform agenda that, indeed, started under the Hawke government, has continued long after that to this day. Under my government, and beyond.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison leads this morning’s condolence motions on the death of former PM Bob Hawke.

“We must become a hard target. That demands much more be spent on defence and intelligence. Defence analyst Professor Hugh White has had the courage to open the debate on Australia acquiring nuclear weapons and that is what a realist would do. At the very least we should end the ban on developing a civilian nuclear capability.”

Nine News political editor Chris Uhlmann lends weight to the idea that Australia should consider a nuclear arsenal.

The sperm donor question
The high court has found that sperm donors can have fathers’ rights, but the ruling is inherently conservative. Bri Lee on what this means and the societal assumptions that underpin the court’s ruling.

The value of contracts between consultancy Palladium, which recently appointed former foreign minister Julie Bishop, and her former department of foreign affairs and trade.

“Woolworths Group is today announcing an agreement to combine its drinks and hospitality businesses, Endeavour Drinks and ALH Group into a single entity expected to be referred to as Endeavour Group. Following the combination, Woolworths Group intends to pursue a separation of the business through a demerger or other value-accretive alternative. The separation is expected to take place in calendar year 2020.”

Woolworths announces that it intends to split off its gaming division, ALH, so the supermarket giant will no longer own poker machines.

The list

“Hutchence was one of the few rock singers able to challenge Bono’s stadium-sized charisma, and his unashamed sensuality on stage and screen distinguished him from every other male Australian rock performer. He wasn’t blokey, but nor did he come wrapped in an aura of impenetrable, underground cool; ‘the language of his performance seemed to work everywhere,’ observes Lowenstein. To my mind, Hutchence is the only bona fide rock star that Australia has ever produced.”

“The idea of women confecting claims of sexual assault is despicable. [Australian Border Force] policy – stated or otherwise – means that the majority of women who travel to Australia to have terminations have been delayed by either ineptitude or viciousness. Most terminations are referred at around eight weeks, but they don’t come to Australia until around 20 weeks. So, they sat on those cases. If it’s ineptitude, it’s abysmal. And if it’s deliberate, it’s abysmal.”

“Blixa Bargeld, a founding member of both the industrial band Einstürzende Neubauten and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, hates saxophones. He especially hates soprano saxophones and sopraninos, and even has dreams in which steam rollers plough over them. But what about the banjo? To the surprise of many familiar with his penchant for the sounds of drills and scrap-metal percussion, he loves it.”

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Inside the Greens and the unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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