Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Fair gone
The Coalition’s aspirational pitch worked a treat


Aspirational politics isn’t dead – far from it – at least in this country. The backlash against neoliberalism? Seems like it’s fizzled out. Real and dubious why-I-voted-Liberal takes suggest there are more socially progressive yet economically conservative voters than anyone thought. A majority of Australians just voted against tax reforms that would have benefitted the many at the expense of a wealthy few – apparently that’s the politics of envy and class warfare. They’re on the make, aspiring to have their own discretionary trust, negatively geared property portfolio, well-stuffed SMSF … and devil take the hindmost. The acceptable form of class envy in today’s Australia, as Ross Gittins wrote yesterday, is downward envy. That means punishing the poor with manifestly inadequate welfare payments and humiliations such as income management, drug testing and a draconian penalty regime. Fairness? It’s on the same dusty shelf as human rights.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has scared his way back into office with the shameless lie that Labor was going to slug Australians with $387 billion of higher taxes, repeated so often it sounded true. It’s untrue, by any definition of the word “tax”: abolishing refundable franking credits was not a “retiree tax”, as Insiders host Barrie Cassidy insisted in his interview with the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, on Sunday. Nor was introducing a National Energy Guarantee or higher Renewable Energy Target an “electricity tax”. Nor was winding back negative gearing and capital gains a “housing tax”. Australians pride themselves on having strong bullshit detectors but … the scare campaign worked. The unfairness of getting a tax refund when you haven’t paid tax – who cares? “I should be so lucky” seems to be the general attitude, as though taxing the wealthy or the top end of town is evidence of bad faith. It’s the prosperity gospel, alive and kicking in Australia. If you’ve got the money, ipso facto you deserve the money. As one Labor source told The Sydney Morning Herald, “I don’t think it’s a western Sydney problem. It’s a suburban problem, it’s a religion problem.”

The Coalition’s own tax cut agenda, which was so central to its campaign, is quickly becoming another optional extra – already, the prime minister is flagging [$] that his plans may have to be put back a year. Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen, announcing he will run for the Labor leadership this morning, called the PM out: “Here we go. The election is not even a couple of days over and Scott Morrison has broken his promise. And it’s worse than that. He lied about it … He’s now said the parliament won’t come back and they won’t pass the tax cuts and they might need to wait a year.” Bowen continued, saying that Morrison “said back then, ‘It doesn’t matter. Parliament doesn’t need to sit. You just do it administratively.’” Bowen said that he pointed out that this was wrong, “and the ATO pointed out that was wrong, and the government just denied it. Well he wasn’t telling the truth. Now, that I think says a lot about this government.”

Both challengers for the Labor leadership, however, are talking up the politics of aspiration. As Anthony Albanese told ABC TV’s 7.30 last night, “We care about the distribution of wealth but we also care about the creation of wealth”.

That trickle-down era kicked off by Hawke and Keating? Looks like we’re still in it.

“I’m happy to concede Albo probably goes in the favourite but the Labor Party went in on Saturday as favourite, too. I’m a bit over favourites.”

Labor’s Treasury spokesperson Chris Bowen confirms he will be a candidate for the party’s leadership.

“What the front page seeks to highlight is the fact that Labor’s poor performance in the federal election in Queensland means the State Government is now in the political sights of the conservative parties in Queensland. On that basis, we do not intend to pull down the front page from online, nor apologise.”

In response to a complaint from the Queensland government, News Corp’s Sunshine Coast Daily initially refused to apologise for a front-page image of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s head in crosshairs. The paper subsequently apologised for the image after a storm of community protest.

The increase in future wholesale power prices in NSW and Victoria on Monday morning as the electricity market factored in the federal election result.

“A lower cash rate would support employment growth and bring forward the time when inflation is consistent with the target. Given this assessment, at our meeting in two weeks’ time, we will consider the case for lower interest rates.”

RBA governor Philip Lowe gives a crystal-clear indication of what’s going to happen on the first Tuesday in June.

The list

“Early one morning in April 1984, a rower discovered the body of Stephen Docoza in Adelaide’s River Torrens. It had been submerged in the water for several days. It was already beginning to putrefy. The following year, Derek Bromley and John Karpany were convicted of Docoza’s murder. Critical to the prosecution’s case was the evidence of Dr Colin Manock, SA’s chief forensic pathologist, who performed the autopsy on Docoza’s body and concluded he had been severely bashed and then forcibly drowned. This finding has since been disputed.”

“At a time when liberalism and democracy are under strain, the Uluru Statement from the Heart provides a glimmer of hope. It speaks against the age. How remarkable that people historically locked out of the Australian dream can believe in the constitution – can have faith that our nation’s founding document can work for them.”

“‘No, no, no,’ my roommate insists, ‘you must wash your hair now!’ I’d only met the woman a few moments ago, through the curtained partition separating our beds, when I walked over to the bathroom as my contractions began. ‘Didn’t your mum teach you? You can’t wash your hair for 30 days after you have a baby, so you must do it now. This is your last time!’ I smile and thank her for her advice, then slink back to my side of the room. She has a Thai accent, and I know exactly what she is talking about, but pretend not to.”

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is also the author of three books, including a recently updated unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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