There’s now a real chance the Liberals will lose the election on 2 July. As the election campaign has dragged on, it’s become clearer and clearer that Malcolm Turnbull stands for handouts to big business and the top end of town.
Multimillionaire Turnbull’s new advertisement claiming he and his father “didn’t have much money”, an attempt to shift his image as wealthy and out of touch, has backfired. Turnbull went to an expensive school on Sydney’s North Shore and inherited millions from his father.
The lynch-pin of his “jobs and growth” slogan is to hand big business $50 billion in corporate tax cuts. But a Sky News poll found just 3 per cent rated corporate tax cuts as a priority for government. Polls show childcare is the most important issue in marginal seats, and Bill Shorten’s promise for a small increase funding has struck a chord, as have promises to spend on Medicare and schools.
The polling turnaround is all the more remarkable considering Turnbull was riding high as recently as November. Since then disapproval of Turnbull has risen from just 16 per cent to 42 per cent, according to the Fairfax/Ipsos poll.
In a sign of their desperation, the Coalition has increasingly resorted to stunts and scaremongering. Both Peter Dutton and Barnaby Joyce clumsily tried to incite fear about more refugee boat arrivals under Labor, in a calculated effort to win votes by scapegoating refugees for job losses and the strain on services. But their crude, racist comments also backfired.
Treasurer Scott Morrison and Mathias Cormann embarrassed themselves with some creative accounting, claiming Labor had a funding black hole of $67 billion. When questioned however, they backed down, saying the figure was “more like $32 billion”!
The Liberals have denounced Shorten as “anti-business” and the chief executive of the Business Council of Australia said she was “gobsmacked” by the “anti-business” and “dangerous” Labor campaign.
If only Labor’s promises were that good. Their rhetoric is a lot stronger than the detail. Shorten has rejected Turnbull’s corporate tax cuts as based on “theories tested before by Thatcher and by Reagan”. But these are neo-liberal ideas that Shorten basically supports. The Liberals have used the fact that Shorten argued for corporate tax cuts while a Minister in the Gillard government in 2011.
In the Treasurer’s debate, Labor’s Chris Bowen stressed Labor’s economic conservatism, saying that, “a surplus can only be earnt through tough decisions”, attacking the Liberals for running up government debt by over-spending and pledging “a credible pathway back to [budget] balance”. In other words, Labor supports cuts, too.
Labor was forced to admit it would not restore the cuts to the Schoolkids bonus, after promising to do so for the last two years. It also revealed it will keep the Liberals’ $2.5 billion cuts to pensions over four years. Bowen justified the cuts by saying Labor was being “responsible”.
The Greens have managed to embarrass Labor over penalty rates, promising to legislate to maintain them. This exposed Labor’s unwillingness to do anything should the Fair Work Commission decide to cut penalty rates. The Greens received support from the head of Victorian Trades Hall, the AMWU and the ETU.
While The Greens are threatening Labor in seats like Grayndler in Sydney and Batman and Wills in Melbourne, some unionists will go back to voting Labor this election. Some will vote Labor just to be sure to kick Turnbull out. Others will vote Labor because The Greens alienated many unionists by giving Turnbull a greater chance of passing anti-union ABCC legislation, when they made Senate voting reform a higher priority than opposing the ABCC.
But those who do vote Green usually do so on the basis of their policies on refugees, health spending, public transport, climate and ending tax breaks for the rich like the capital gains tax discount and negative gearing.
Solidarity supports voting 1 Greens 2 Labor. The Greens should be directing their preferences to Labor across the board, to make it clear that they support a Labor government over a Liberal victory, instead of allowing talk about running “open tickets”.
Kicking out the Liberals after one term will be a blow to Australia’s ruling elite. But no matter who wins, it is the struggles outside parliament that will determine whether we can close the detention camps on Manus Island and Nauru, defend penalty rates and reverse all of the Abbott’s cuts to hospitals, the public service and welfare. We need to build socialist organisation that takes building such movements, and class politics, seriously.
There will be rallies for refugees, and for equal marriage, before the election. These will help force the issues into the campaign and keep up the momentum for the fight that will certainly be needed after the election.