1. Bill’s bumblathon
In the Courier Mail the bold words leapt from the page:
It was page 2, and a full-page advertisement from Optus, apologising for its soccer coverage, not a front page treatment of Bill Shorten’s backflip on taxing small to middle companies.
Tim Colebatch at Inside Story asks Is this Bill Shorten’s worst week?
One would hope so. Colebatch asks:
- What on earth was Shorten thinking when he made this “captain’s call”? It offers no gain, and a lot of pain. It could cost him the election.
He points out, rightly I think, that an attempt to raise tax cuts already delivered would not pass the Senate.
Bill Shorten, having contemplated the carnage for several days, and having consulted cabinet, called a press conference in the garden, flanked by shadow finance minister Jim Chalmers and Chris Bowen, was very, very sincere:
Bowen looks very, very worried, Chalmers has a face of stone. Shorten does not have the Peter Beattie skill for backflips.
Shorten was actually very, very clear. As Phillip Coorey put it:
- Under Labor, businesses with turnovers capped at $50 million will have a tax rate of 27.5 for ever more. Larger businesses will have a rate of 30 per cent.
Under the Coalition, all businesses will have a rate of 25 per cent by 2026-27.
Labor will still rescind the reduction from 27.5 to 25 for small to middle companies, not due to be delivered until 2022.
Shorten made it clear that he supports company tax ‘reform’. However, for the foreseeable future we can’t afford the LNP company tax cuts and should preference maintaining and restoring essential services, plus paying down debt.
Turnbull will avoid engaging on this policy issue, preferring to denigrate Shorten as a person, casting him as a sycophant, sucking up to corporate heavies, as a person with no relationship to ordinary working people having attended a private school, a man who hates business, who would “attack” every hardworking family trying to run a business in every electorate, a man dangerous to the welfare and aspirations of ordinary Australians. If he makes a captain’s call he is arrogant and non-consultative, if he consults he is weak and not in control of his party.
Turnbull’s tax policy is based on trickle-down economics, discredited since the 1970s.
The best reporting, I think, comes from Laura Tingle and Phillip Coorey:
Tingle – Labor’s policy split with the Coalition is now the clearest in years
Coorey on RN Drive – Labor backs down on corporate tax
Tingle and Coorey are more in touch than most about what is going on inside the ALP parliamentary opposition.
A couple of points need to be made.
First, Anthony Albanese is a leadership rival, but not a challenger. Tingle says he is the ultimate loyalist. However, Labor is presently a party of cool-headed pragmatists, and if the coming bi-elections go badly there will be conversations about leadership. Sure the current party rules make it hard to change leaders, but the current rule is a caucus rule, and can be changed by caucus.
However, Turnbull would almost certainly pre-empt this by going to the polls. He does not want to face Albanese, or Tanya Plibersek.
Secondly, Shorten did not make a ‘captain’s call’. He enunciated a position the shadow cabinet budget committee had come to, but had not yet taken to shadow cabinet or caucus. The committee includes Bowen and Chalmers, of course, but also Plibersek and Jenny Macklin.
I think Shorten’s premature release of the policy was not a strategic error, just a slip of the tongue, a one-word answer to a question on the run.
So the answer to Colebatch’s question is that Shorten was not thinking at all, which is uncharacteristic, because his discipline is normally very tight.
2. Swan ascends the throne
I have a deal of respect for both Mark Butler and Wayne Swan, so in that sense I thought the ALP should be in good hands whoever won when Swan threw his hat into the ring in March for the party leadership. However, as Laura Tingle outlined the different and contrasting priorities of both candidates it became clear that much was at stake.
Butler wanted more party reform, to enable a category of ‘registered party supporters’ to vote on internal elections of candidates.
Swan essentially said this would devalue membership when the ALP needed it most. He did not dismiss party democratisation but argued Labor risked “getting too fixated on structures and not enough on the battle of ideas”.
Citing the phenomena of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, he said:
“what has inspired people to join their parties is their authenticity of belief and articulation of powerful ideas”.
- “What I didn’t realise until we got into the global financial crisis and attempted big structural reforms was just how powerful the gorillas are in the private sector”, he said.
These powers could not be beaten without big ideas, he said.
Prior to entering parliament, Swan was a lecturer at QUT, worked on policy advice to Bill Hayden, Mick Young and Kim Beazley and as the State Secretary of the Queensland Labor Party. Swan’s first bookPostcode: The Splintering of a Nation was published in 2005 (review by Farah Farouque). For Swan inequality is a central concern of the ALP.
John Davidson has drawn my attention to Andrew Leigh’s article in Inside Story Rising to the challenge of inequality, worth a post when I get time.
I think Mark Butler has the more persuasive personality, but I prefer Swan’s agenda. Certainly, the contest was not a right-left battle as far as I can see.
3. Liberal Party moving to the right
When the Liberal Party passed a motion to privatize the ABC, senior Liberal politicians came out strong saying “Never”, with Turnbull explaining that in Liberal politicians determine policy, not the party.
Former ABC Chairman David Hill said the ABC faces ‘most serious threat to its existence’:
- “It would be funny if it wasn’t so serious. This wasn’t the resolution of some radical branch of the Liberal Party. It is the national executive of the Liberal Party. It was overwhelmingly supported and nobody spoke against it,” Mr Hill said.
Laura Tingle in her Monday stint on Late Night Live said selling the ABC is not an issue now, but eventually it will be. She explained that many on the political far right rather than set up their own party were instead successfully penetrating and infesting the branches of the Liberal Party, and now dominated several states. The party may not determine policy, but they do preselect the party candidates for election. So in the longer run they will get their way.
4. Harley Davidson heads out of town
Trump’s Europe tariffs would cost the company $90 to $100 million per year. Not sure Trump understood that production of bikes for the American market would stay in the USA, where unfortunately sales are falling.
The company already has factories in India and Brazil, and is building one in Thailand to get behind their 60% tariff wall, and export from there to the rest of Asia.
Trump said it was easy to win trade wars. He may be learning the hard way.