All true. But where the two sides are very different is in the policies they’re offering. And, although the more unpopular of those policies may or may not make it through the Senate, this is one time I’m inclined to agree with Paul Keating when he repeats his saying that “when you change the government, you change the country”.
Since it’s true that governments lose elections far more often than oppositions win them, the standard practice is for oppositions to make themselves a “small target” – to promise little of substance – so all the focus is on the many things the government has stuffed up.
Not this time. This time it’s the government making itself a small target – running on its economic record, with few policy promises bar its $300-billion tax plan – while Labor has so many controversial policies to go with its popular ones the Libs have been spoilt for choice.
Only the naive believe the battle between the classes ever ended, but in this election it’s more in-your-face than any time since the days of Labor’s Arthur Calwell. The Libs say Labor wants to increase taxes rather than cut them, but it would be more accurate to say it wants to make the well-off (including the well-off retired) pay more tax, while using the proceeds to increase government spending on health, education, childcare and much else, with what’s left over used to repay some of the government’s debt.
Labor plans to abolish tax refunds of unused dividend franking credits for those not on the pension, wind back negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount, reduce superannuation tax concessions, tax family trusts and restore for four years the 2¢-in-the-dollar budget repair levy on income above $180,000 a year, not to mention cancel the second and third stages of the Libs’ tax cuts.
In other words, Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen plan to use both sides of the budget to affect the biggest redistribution of income from high income-earners to low and middle income-earners we’ve seen in ages.
By contrast, the Libs are fighting tooth and nail to protect the tax breaks favouring property investors, self-funded retirees, high-income superannuation savers and business people who’ve gone for years using family trusts to reduce the tax they pay – most of which concessions were introduced by the Howard government.
As well, the Libs’ seven-year, three-stage, super-mega tax plan would favour high income earners – individuals earning more than $100,000 and, particularly, $200,000 a year – to a degree more generous/blatant than I can remember.
The first stage, which is limited largely to middle income-earners, would give them an immediate cut in their average tax rate of no more than about 1¢ in every dollar they earn. That’s pretty much it for low and middle income-earners.
High income-earners have to wait for stage two (July 2022) and stage three (July 2024) before they get much. But then the heavens would open. Cuts in average tax rates would range from 1.5¢ in every dollar for those on $110,000 to 4.5¢ in the dollar for me and my mates on $200,000 and above.
Next, more than ever before, this election sees Labor going for the young vote (negative gearing, better childcare, preschool and universities) while the Libs defend actual and prospective self-funded retirees.
Except for Scott Morrison’s last-minute, few-details first home loan deposit scheme (which Labor matched within an hour or two). It sounds better than is, mainly because access to it would be limited. Further falls in house prices would do far more to help – but no pollie wants to say that.
Then there’s the minor matter of the adequacy of our contribution to the Paris Agreement’s effort to limit global warming. Here, too, the choice is wide, ranging from the Coalition (just pretending) to Labor (real but inadequate) to the Greens (full blast).
All that remains is a threshold question: will your choice be aimed at benefiting yourself and your family, or the wider community and “those less fortunate than ourselves”?
Ross Gittins is the Herald’s economics editor.
Ross Gittins is the Economics Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.