Friday, June 21, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Labor frays on tax
The Opposition risks becoming a rabble

Source: Twitter

Labor was so over fighting itself in 2013 that, once the party resolved its leadership, Bill Shorten was blessed with unprecedented loyalty and internal discipline for the next six years. It is already clear, barely a month after the May election, that Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese will not be afforded the same luxury. Today’s headlines playing up internal party differences over whether to pass the Coalition’s tax cut package in full when parliament resumes in July are an ill wind if the Opposition wants to continue looking like an alternative government. This comes as the federal party faces a genuine test on the repeal of the medivac laws, and the looming expulsion of the CFMEU’s John Setka threatens to blow back on Albanese himself. Journalists have been briefed that Albanese will tolerate a level of frank debate and does not want his MPs reading out rigid talking points dictated by the leader’s office. But there is a line that should not be crossed – somewhere between letting flowers bloom and talking at cross-purposes – lest the perception take hold that a dejected party is becoming a rabble.

Backbencher Peter Khalil was the first to break ranks this week, telling The Herald Sun [$] that Labor should pass the full tax cut package if the government refused to split off the radical flattening proposed in stage three. This stage is the only contentious element in the package, lowering the tax rate to 30 per cent in 2024–25, for everyone earning between $40,000 and $200,000. It’s imprudent and a long way off, but nobody seems to care about good or bad policy anymore, and the Opposition has a gun to its head in the form of the $1080 refund that most taxpayers were promised and have probably already spent in their minds. Another MP was more forthright, telling The Herald Sun off the record: “People don’t give a f--- about the budget – they just want to see the money in their pocket.” The MP went on to say that “Albo has to be careful – there’s a lot of risk attached to this, a lot of risk”.

This morning, The New Daily reported that Joel Fitzgibbon, who seems to be shaping as a latter-day Peter Walsh, had told colleagues that “We’ve got to stop being a government in exile”. The New Daily also reported that there were at least another four Labor MPs of the same view, with one saying: “We’ve got to stop saving the government from themselves.” (That assumes that the stage-three tax cuts will prove unpopular come the next election – by no means clear.) When asked about the tax package on Nine’s Today this morning, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton reiterated that there would be no negotiations, and added: “Albo is barely keeping this car on the road at the moment, but we’ll see what happens, because internally they are trying to tear him apart.” There was a ring of truth to it.

The Setka situation is delicate. Clearly the renegade Victorian CFMEU secretary is going to fight to the end, including what may be a drawn-out legal challenge to his looming expulsion from the ALP, upon which Albanese has staked his leadership. The weight of the union movement is behind ACTU secretary Sally McManus’s calls for Setka to resign from the union, as The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald reported yesterday. However, it does not help the federal Opposition to have certain quarters of the union movement threatening an audit of Labor MPs for any history of domestic violence allegations, or a withdrawal of donations, or even calls for Albanese himself to resign, as the MUA national president Christy Cain did on the ABC last week.

Shadow finance minister Katy Gallacher was asked today whether Albanese’s call to expel Setka from the ALP was premature. “Absolutely not,” she replied. “As far as the matters relating to Mr Setka and the Labor Party are… those decisions have been taken. In the short term there is a meeting of the national executive on July 5, where this will be dealt with. In terms of matters for the union movement, they are matters for the union movement.”

All this comes before the Opposition has really been tested, with the government sure to try and turn up the heat over the medivac laws when parliament resumes. So far, it seems, after a moment of unity as Labor chose its new leadership team without contest, the Opposition is not travelling all that well.

“I would like to think that Jacqui will recognise how vulnerable these people are when we already have so many reports of self-harm since the election. We should be the good samaritan here and I find it quite disturbing that after all this time we are still having such a fear campaign around this legislation.”

Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie urges fellow crossbench senator Jacqui Lambie, who holds the balance of power on repeal of the medivac laws, to withstand the Coalition’s “scare tactics”.

“Things like reservation are short-term and then we come back to exactly the same problem, but we’ve done some irreparable damage to the investment framework in Australia. That’s a spiral I don’t think anybody is helped by.”

Oil and gas lobbyist Damian Dwyer responds to reports that Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick wants the east coast to replicate WA’s domestic gas reservation policy as a measure to lower gas prices.


The amount of money that sacked rugby player Israel Folau is seeking to raise in a GoFundMe campaign for his lawsuit against Rugby Australia.

“Monetary policy is not the only option, and there are limitations to what can be achieved. As a country we should also be looking at other ways to get closer to full employment. One option is fiscal policy, including through spending on infrastructure. Another is structural policies that support firms expanding, investing, innovating and employing people. Both of these options need to be kept in mind.”

Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe, at a CEDA lunch in Adelaide yesterday, suggests that the government can do more to reduce unemployment and raise wages.

The list

“Andrew Scott plays the man Fleabag falls for, the priest who has agreed to officiate the wedding of her father and her terrible stepmother (played with brilliant spite by Olivia Colman). Or, as he has become universally known on the internet, the Hot Priest. Not since Colin Firth as Mr Darcy stepped from a lake in a wet white shirt have women gone so totally crazy for a television love interest.”

“An independent review of residential colleges at Australia’s “most dangerous university for women” has found student leaders stand accused of several sexual assault and sexual harassment offences. These student leaders are the same people victims are expected to turn to for help when they have been sexually assaulted or harassed.”

Oslo Davis presents an alternative cinematic universe very much like our own.

Double bluffs and Cory Bernardi
As Labor and the Coalition explore a double bluff on tax cuts, Cory Bernardi wants back into the Liberal Party.

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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