False premises

If amending the Stage Three tax cuts was the ‘right thing to do’, why doesn’t the same go for other abandoned Labor reforms?

The “expectations management” game is fully underway ahead of Saturday’s byelection, as both major parties try to position themselves as the underdog in Dunkley. Anthony Albanese and Peter Dutton are citing wildly different stats to claim that theirs is the weaker party in the swing seat, previously held by the late Peta Murphy on a margin of 6.3 per cent. The PM notes a 7.1 per cent average swing against Labor governments in byelections (since 1983), while the Opposition leader would have us know that the average swing away from governments (since 1945) is just 3.6 per cent. None of it really matters; it’s all just posturing aimed at setting a narrative to claim a win either way. (Or as Crikey’s Charlie Lewis puts it: “If we win, it will be a major achievement that endorses my every move as leader. If we lose, it’s no big deal because everything was against us.”) That said, neither leader sounds terribly compelling as they argue that the other is definitely in the driver’s seat in this all-important outer-suburban race.

That’s not the only posturing going on here. Both the government and the Opposition are desperately spinning over Labor’s changes to the Stage Three tax cuts, which passed the Senate late last night – much to the government’s delight. Coalition members have continued their awkward dance, attacking the PM for a “broken promise” over changes they themselves waved through. But Labor’s position is starting to look almost as awkward, as ministers insist this wasn’t about the byelection, while also desperately trying to promote the changes ahead of the byelection. (The PM told caucus yesterday: “there’s still people out there who don’t know about the tax cuts”.) Almost every Dorothy Dixer of today’s Question Time was about the cuts (surely those Labor backbenchers have their questions answered by now?), and independent MP Allegra Spender spoke for all of us when she raised a point of order on “irrelevant and tedious repetition”. 

Albanese has taken part in several media interviews about the tax cuts since their passage, and has continued to push the line that the changes were not about politics, but about struggling families. “We made not an easy decision,” he told ABC’s News Breakfast, when pushed on how the “broken promise” was affecting his credibility. “We made the right decision for all the right reasons.” It’s curious that this “right decision” was made right before a byelection – which is not to say that it wasn’t the right thing to do. But if this call was truly about the government’s “responsibility” to do what is correct, even when it’s politically hard, why then does that not apply to other reforms they have promised not to make? The PM has been quick to again rule out any changes to negative gearing – that sacred cow of Australian politics – in response to the Greens’ demands over Labor’s “Help to buy” shared equity scheme. Never mind that many experts say that, too, would be the right thing to do.

Only time will tell if the changes to Stage Three end up benefiting Labor politically. But there’s little point pretending that this wasn’t the point of the changes, or of the Coalition’s decision to fold over them. Let this be a reminder that good policy and good politics can go hand in hand. Posturing or not, Albanese has clearly enjoyed going out and selling the fairer and more equitable tax cuts. Perhaps there’s something to that. Because if he’s truly interested in making “the right decision for all the right reasons”, there’s no good reason why he shouldn’t be open to reconsidering tax concessions like negative gearing. Other than politics, of course.

“Any suggestion that Palestinians arriving from Gaza are a threat to Jews is outrageous … It is unacceptable to use racist and dehumanising language to argue against providing safety to those fleeing overwhelming violence.”

Executive officer of the newly formed Jewish Council of Australia, Dr Elizabeth Strakosch, rejects claims that those fleeing Gaza are a threat to the Jewish community, as the council calls for an investigation into how the details of Palestinians who obtained Australian visas were leaked to Sky News.

“Given that it has been illegal for more than 50 years to pay men and women different amounts for the same work, WGEA is clearly not interested in genuine pay equality. Its aim is to confect and cement an emotive-sounding cause to justify massive social change that suits its vision of a modern society.” Columnist Janet Albrechtsen says the gender pay gap comes down to women's “choices”, as she rubbishes yesterday’s damning stats. Leading female directors have rejected this, arguing women in family units are simply acting rationally in a system where men are paid more."

Columnist Janet Albrechtsen says the gender pay gap comes down to women's “choices”, as she rubbishes yesterday’s damning stats. Leading female directors have rejected this, arguing women in family units are simply acting rationally in a system where men are paid more.

$917 million

The value of a contract the Australian army has awarded to a controversial Israeli weapons company, whose technology was stripped from Australian equipment three years ago.

Further vaping reforms announced

Health Minister Mark Butler has announced new anti-vaping legislation, saying the government hopes to outlaw the sale of vapes from July 1. The latest bill would make vaping illegal without a prescription, and would essentially shut down retailers selling vapes.

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