A year since his election, it’s clear Anthony Albanese wants to avoid serious change. Instead he is appeasing the rich and powerful to keep Labor in power for as long as possible.
This was dramatically on display in the budget. Even the easiest openings to tax the rich went begging. Gas companies were let off with a pathetically small tax increase of $600 million a year, less than the increase in tobacco taxes. Yet they gouged an extra $40 billion in profits last year.
Labor’s climate policies are also aimed at keeping big business on side—allowing coal and gas companies to open new projects and pump out more pollution.
Labor’s efforts to position themselves as “economically responsible” with a budget surplus and claims that more spending isn’t “affordable” will tie their hands into the future.
But it’s nonsense. The big banks have seen profits soar 20 per cent in the last six months. Mining companies are swimming in profits. But Labor made no effort to use this to fund much-needed services or welfare.
It is letting the rich keep the Stage Three tax cuts at a cost of $313 billion over a decade, handing those earning over $200,000 a tax cut of $9000.
Albanese has justified his hopeless moderation as necessary to ensure a long-term Labor government, claiming the Liberals will tear down Labor’s reforms unless it has ten years in power.
But it’s Albanese who has embraced the bulk of the Liberals’ policies.
This is most obvious over the nuclear submarines—now estimated to cost half a trillion dollars by the time they’re all finished.
Labor is locked into hundreds of billions in military spending as part of an arms race with China.
The Quad meeting in Sydney may have been cancelled but Albanese was in Japan to join the G7 meeting in Hiroshima—which was equally devoted to confronting China. The statement from the US, Japan, European leaders and Canada expressed “serious concerns” about China’s actions in the East and South China Seas and warned against “attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion”.
Albanese added his support, saying he wants to act for peace and stability in the region. But the truth is the US is marshalling its allies into encircling China with a string of military bases and alliances at the same time as it sets out to cripple the Chinese economy. This is a dangerous game that holds the threat of war—and Australia is doing everything it can to encourage it.
While Albanese hints at plans to offer broader change after the next election, his backing for the Stage Three tax cuts will already shovel $20 billion to the rich before then. And Labor is “hardening its resolve against calls to abolish or amend” them at all, according to the Financial Review.
The result is that Labor is failing to address any of the big problems working class people face.
Rents are skyrocketing and buying a house is increasingly impossible. But Labor has offered nothing to rein in the tax breaks for investors or to build public housing on the scale needed.
It claims its Housing Future Fund will build 6000 homes a year when there is a public housing waiting list of 170,000.
Grocery prices jumped almost 10 per cent in the last year but Labor offered only modest relief on the cost of living, limited to pensioners and people on income support.
Its pathetic $2.85 a day boost to JobSeeker does nothing to lift people out of crushing poverty. Hospitals, aged care, childcare and the NDIS are all desperate for funding.
Peter Dutton went for a racist scare in his budget reply, saying immigration would worsen the housing crisis. Dutton’s right-wing posturing is keeping the Liberals marginalised. But it creates space for racists and the far right if there is no left-wing response to Labor’s failures.
One lesson from the budget was that campaigning and protest works. In the lead up to the budget it looked as though there would be no increase to JobSeeker at all. Calls from welfare sector and the unemployed to raise the rate of JobSeeker forced Labor to respond.
A renewed wave of protests could force further increases.
The United Workers Union is also campaigning for a 25 per cent increase to childcare workers’ wages, following the 15 per cent boost for aged care workers in the budget. This needs to be backed by serious strike action.
More protests and pressure can also stop new coal and gas projects and stop the increases to military spending and the nuclear subs. We can’t accept Labor’s backing for Liberal policies—it’s time to fight for the urgent action that’s needed.