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Shorten’s backflip on tax cuts Volume 33 #04

July 4, 2018

Nats fail farmers On November 30, 1987 – thirty years ago – Monash University hosted the inaugural Greenhouse conference that was to start planning a response to the global warming that scientists had been warning of since at least the 60s. Yet it is only in recent weeks that the National Farmers Federation (NFF) has turned a corner on climate change. The NFF president Fiona Simpson was reported in The Guardian on Saturday saying that ‘people on the land can’t and won’t ignore what is right before their eyes. “We have been experiencing some wild climate variability… It’s in people’s face”.’ What boggles my mind is that the National Party – ‘the party for regional Australia’ – is only now beginning to address climate change and its impacts because it has been dragged to the table by its own grassroots support base. By systematically ignoring climate-change science the Nationals could not have done regional Australia a greater disservice. Farmers and graziers are and will continue to be on the front line of climate change. These are the people whose livelihoods depend on the right amount of sun and rain – arriving at the right time and in the right amounts for crops to grow and animals to thrive. By denying the clear scientific evidence and dire warnings that respected scientists worldwide have been putting forward for over 30 years the Nationals – through a lack of vision and foresight and in many cases wilful ignorance – have fundamentally failed those they claim to represent. Rather than helping Australian farmers build resilience and mitigate the far-reaching impacts of climate change they have undermined them at every level. The Nationals should be greener than The Greens. As soon as there was a possibility that weather and ecosystems could be affected they should have been taking the threat to their voters with the utmost seriousness. They should have been leading the debate on sustainable forestry, renewable energy, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and on how to reduce global warming. Instead they have supported coal mines, stripped away protections from old-growth forests and waterways and undermined the science that has been telling them what the impacts of these decisions are. By not being the leaders of the debate on climate change and ecosystem sustainability it is the future and livelihoods of their own constituents that they have failed. They had the opportunity and influence to bring genuine, considered and influential voices to the debate from the beginning. If they had, Australia could have been at the forefront of preparations for climate change. This was an opportunity squandered. They should have led the debate. They could have inspired a generation. Aslan Shand, acting editor News tips are welcome: editor@echo.net.au

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Bill Shorten’s decision last week was a real shock – but it was the second decision, not the first, that was the surprising one. For years Shorten had been committing his party to limiting company tax cuts to firms worth $2 million or less. This was his position before the 2016 election and it had not changed. Labor voted against the additional cuts, and although the government parleyed them up to $50 million with the aid of some of the senate crossbenchers, the opposition’s policy had not been revised. Thus when Shorten was asked unexpectedly if he was still determined to repeal cuts for those firms worth $10 million to $50 million, he replied simply: yes. No story, one might have thought – except for the press gallery, feverishly pursuing its latest whiff of a leadership dispute, any leadership dispute – party and personnel irrelevant. And of course, for The Australian, it was all shock horror. This is hardly surprising: our national daily’s default position is shock, horror, outrage, resentment, belligerence, and all were on offer for the next few days. Rupert’s minions urged Shorten to flip, to forget about his long-standing platform and give the hard-working family businesses (and anyone else who demanded it loudly enough) a tax break – and, after a hastily convened meeting of a somewhat panicked shadow cabinet, he did just that. If and when Labor attains government, the existing tax regime will stand; but what has not been implemented, even if it has been legislated, will still be subject to repeal. This means that the cuts that came in on Sunday, as well as those already churning through

the books of the smaller and medium sized firms, are confirmed. Immediate problem solved, but the cost for Shorten’s courage and credibility may be considerable. At one level the backdown was simple pragmatism. The view was that while it was fair enough to oppose and vote against the existing cuts, once they were in place, unscrambling the eggs was just too hard.

money without hindrance. The next lot – those up to $50m are certainly fewer; various authoritative estimates suggest anywhere between 10,000 and 20,000. Given that there are probably very few Labor voters among them, they could be considered dispensable. But some of them – those up to $25 million – were already trousering the money and the rest were pawing at the ground.

Saving face is what you do when you eat a shit sandwich by Mungo MacCallum The punters are rightly sceptical about Malcolm Turnbull’s long-term aspirations, the six to ten years for the bonanza he has promised. But what we are talking about now is not the pie in the sky but the money in the bank. They were ready to complain all the way to the ballot box if any bastard tried to take it away from them. While the threat remained latent and largely unspoken it could be managed. But to hear it uttered so bluntly and abruptly spooked them. So Shorten had to listen and he did. He flipped. The biggest problem – at least in terms of raw numbers – were at the bottom end, the $2 million to $10 million cohort. There were at least 80,000 of them, and they presumably all had friends, relatives and employees. Shorten’s throwaway line did not target them directly, but it did draw attention to the overarching policy, so it was comparatively easy to tell them that they were okay, that could keep their

In all the circumstances, the most important of which were the looming by-elections, the safest option was to fold. The explanation – that Labor had suddenly found that the cuts to date were affordable after all but that anything further would be irresponsible – fooled nobody. It wasn’t even meant to; saving face is what you do when you eat a shit sandwich. Mathias Corman has all but patented the technique; after yet another rebuff on the full corporate tax cuts package, he just bobs up like a Belgian jumping bean, eager for more. The theory appears to be that once the by-elections are out of the way, Pauline Hanson’s fear of losing votes in Longman will bring her back to the negotiating table, where the bribe of a brand-new coal-fired power station will get her and her sole remaining One Nation ally over the line. But even if such an economic, political and social travesty is in the pipeline, that would still leave Corman two votes short. There will

need to be more backhanders. The tax cuts have become something of an obsession on both sides of the aisle. For the coalition it is all about Labor’s politics of envy; for Labor it is all about the coalition’s politics of greed. Both Turnbull and Shorten have tried to widen the debate to include such things as education and hospitals, but only as either a result of or an alternative to the tax cuts: our civil society is in danger of becoming a purely economic battlefield. And it is in this context that Labor’s targeting of Turnbull’s wealth is significant. The TV ads about his banking career are hardly illegitimate, in spite of the limp-wristed protests of the right: our prime minister’s endless barrage of personal abuse and invective about Shorten’s alleged failings do not leave him a lot of high ground. And his defence – that he has worked hard to make a lot of money, just like all real aspirational Australians should – is a touch ingenuous; not a lot of other Australians start with a healthy seven-figure inheritance. Turnbull is not a candidate for a biography entitled Log Cabin to The Lodge. But he is, at least in his own terms, an unqualified success story. By making himself a role model for the aspiration of avarice he sells not only himself short, but all of us. And by playing the same game in reverse, Shorten is compounding the descent to the cesspool of greed, envy and division. Nothing will change for at least a month, until and unless the by-elections provide a circuit breaker, which, given the relative imminence of a national poll, they probably won’t. But at least they might be a distraction.

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The Byron Shire Echo – Issue 33.04 – July 4, 2018  

Free, independent weekly newspaper from the Byron Shire in northern NSW, Australia.

The Byron Shire Echo – Issue 33.04 – July 4, 2018  

Free, independent weekly newspaper from the Byron Shire in northern NSW, Australia.