ALP to play offense as it seeks to build majority to protect tax plans


Pressed on why he was starting his campaign at a family home in a relatively safe Liberal electorate, Mr Shorten denied it was evidence that he was the election front-runner.

“We made a conscious decision to start the 2019 campaign in the family lounge room of an everyday Australian family, two marvellous kids going to the public school,” he said.

“My feet are firmly planted in the backyard of a Mitcham house because I understand that politics should be about the people, it’s about cost of living, education, health, good jobs, renewable energy.”

While Mr Shorten denied he was favourite to become Labor’s 13th prime minister, betting agencies believe the ALP is at short-odds to replace the Coalition.

The start of the Labor campaign also points to confidence within the party about its chances.

Senate leader Penny Wong ventured into the South Australian seat of Boothby which is held by Liberal Nicolle Flint, senior frontbencher Anthony Albanese was in the Sydney Liberal seat of Reid while Labor’s deputy leader Tanya Plibersek started the day campaigning in Chisholm.

Chisholm was lost by Labor to then Liberal Julia Banks at the 2016 poll before her decision to quit the Coalition. She is standing in the seat of Flinders, held by Health Minister Greg Hunt.

Even in Western Australia, where the ALP believes it can win at least three seats, it started the campaign by announcing funding for playing fields in the electorate held by Attorney-General Christian Porter on a margin of 3.6 per cent.

The push is being aided by the ACTU which started its own campaign in the NSW marginal seat of Gilmore on Thursday night as part of a broader effort that will sweep through more than 20 electorates across the country.

Mr Shorten said voters wanted a strong and united team in parliament.

But the ALP also needs a solid performance, especially in the Senate, where its tax agenda could be blocked by a combination of the Coalition and conservative independent groups.

Its plan to grandfather negative gearing to existing investors and those who build new dwellings from the start of next year is one policy that could be stymied in the upper house.

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NAB’s quarterly measure of the property market on Thursday forecast falls in Sydney of another 8.4 per cent in Sydney and by 8.8 per cent in Melbourne. That would take Sydney’s values down by more than 20 per cent since its peak and by 15 per cent in Melbourne.

Mr Shorten sought to downplay fears that Labor’s plan could exacerbate the falls already taking place across the Sydney and Melbourne property markets, saying it would deliver extra revenue for services.

“There will be more money for children’s education, more money when their children are sick and
need to go to the hospital. More support for their parents in aged care, more support in the community to put downward pressure on energy and investing in renewables,” he said.

Some of Labor’s tax policies, such as an increase in the top marginal tax rate to 47 per cent and the proposed increase in the tax rebate for low and middle income earners, need to be passed by the Senate as soon as practicable.

That could lead to the Senate meeting in the last week of June, before new senators elected at next month’s poll take their positions.

Shane is a senior economics correspondent for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

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