Turnbull has called an election on the back of a budget tailor-made for the rich. While there is less open savagery than in Tony Abbott’s hated 2014 budget, the priorities are clear.
Turnbull’s tax cuts for corporations and the rich are designed to send a message to big business that the Coalition will deliver for the top end of town. After, ridiculously, refusing to name the figure, it’s now come to light that Turnbull’s corporate tax cuts are worth nearly $50 billion over ten years.
Jennifer Westacott of the Business Council of Australia approved, saying, “what the government has put forward is probably the most comprehensive plan to reduce business taxes.” Of course, business wants more cuts, but as Westacott says, “There isn’t the political appetite.” That’s what’s behind Turnbull’s multiple backflips on unpopular reforms like increasing the GST—he needs to deliver for business, but get elected, too.
Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison hope that positioning themselves as better economic managers and repeating the slogan “jobs and growth” will be enough to get them across the line at the election. If they do we can expect cuts to Sunday penalty rates and the reintroduction of the construction union police, the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).
In decrying Labor’s criticisms as “class warfare”, Millionaire Malcolm is only further entrenching the image of himself as a top-hat wearing toff. It seems like every week, he demonstrates how out of touch he is—like his recent comments that parents should just “shell out” to buy their children houses. Scott Morrison did his part by claiming those making $85,000 a year were “average” income earners.
Meanwhile all the illusions that Turnbull represented anything different from Abbott—on climate change, refugees or LGBTI rights have been well and truly put to bed. Turnbull is fundamentally loyal to the conservative social and economic interests that the Liberal Party represents.
With offshore processing in crisis, Turnbull used his election announcement to reassert his commitment to stopping the boats.
The election is now a real contest. Labor leader Bill Shorten has cut through with attacks on the negative gearing tax rort, and a budget reply that zoned in on Medicare cuts, education and taxing the rich. He has promised to legislate for same-sex marriage within 100 days, and stop Medicare privatisation.
Don’t rely on Labor
Labor needs to win 19 more seats to kick the Coalition out after just one term. But there are limits to Labor’s promises to reverse the Liberals’ cuts. In his budget reply speech Shorten pledged to “turn around these Liberal deficits and deliver Budget repair”—code for cuts—promising only that Labor’s cuts would be “fair”.
Shorten made a point of declaring Turnbull’s superannuation reforms, that take back some money from the wealthy, as “chaotic” and risking investment certainty. He has refused to put back the whole $57 billion the Liberals are cutting from hospitals, promising only that Labor would offer higher funding than the Liberals.
When the Papua New Guinea courts declared Manus Island detention illegal in late April, Labor Shadow Immigration Richard Marles put on a disgraceful display, calling for Peter Dutton to demand a law change or offer money to Papua New Guinea to keep the centre open. Labor are committed to maintaining offshore detention.
We can’t rely on hoping for a Labor win. Turnbull’s agenda needs to be fought, and we will need to continue that fight regardless of whether he wins or loses.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is mobilising their “secret army” to doorknock in marginal electorates. It is a far cry from the Your Rights at Work campaign and the mass mobilisations that saw the back of John Howard in 2007.
If unions, Labor and The Greens were serious about building grassroots movements, they could have people on the streets against the Medicare cuts, Turnbull’s $4-an-hour internships and university cuts. This is where there is real power to defeat Turnbull and step up the fight against the bosses.
Greens leader Richard di Natale has focused his budget response on climate action. There’s no doubt that Turnbull is ignoring the climate emergency.
But in an election about “class warfare”, The Greens should be putting their commitment to workers’ rights at the forefront, and calling for real funding for climate jobs, not market solutions. They need to give a clear commitment that they will direct preferences to Labor to start to undo the damage of the Senate voting reform debacle that broke trust between The Greens and unions.
Everybody needs to get active to make sure we get Turnbull out. There are refugee rallies in major cities at the start of Refugee Week to help push the issue into the election campaign.
But if we want to make the rich pay and free the refugees, we need a socialist alternative that’s committed to fighting the system that both Liberal and Labor want to run.