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Byron Shire
July 15, 2024

One year in, and federal Labor lacks the ticker for big picture challenges

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The budget didn’t cause a ripple of anxiety among well-heeled Australians, big business or Murdoch shock jocks, and that was the precise intention of Treasurer Jim Chalmers. It was basically business as usual, with a few slight tweaks and a handful of lollies thrown in the direction of the needy.

Mustn’t frighten the horses, must we? As a result, there were no banner headlines like ‘SPEND! SPEND! SPEND!’ or ‘Albo Does a Whitlam!’ and no thundering editorials excoriating Chalmers for profligacy.

As Albo has clearly stated, to make change you need to be in government and to be in government you need to appeal to the centre. The question is though – where is the centre now? While Albo is busy trying to make Labor the ‘natural party of government’ as he said, there are millions who are desperate for real change, not just a slight shift in direction.

The Medicare bulk billing changes were welcomed, as was raising the youngest child age-trigger for single parents to be moved to JobSeeker, from eight to 14. The extra rent assistance was welcomed but, in so many cases, instantly gobbled up by greedy landlords. 

The JobSeeker increase of $20 a week was pitiful and downright cruel. 

Every Australian knows it’s impossible to survive on JobSeeker. Rents are still rising, as are food prices and everything else. These clearly are the most desperately poor in our society. Many people are simply unable, for a variety of reasons, to hold down any kind of regular job. There are some on the right who still think of unemployed people as ‘undeserving dolebludgers’. There is almost no such person.

Why be so parsimonious towards the most needy? Possibly to stop the shock jocks baying about giving hard-earned taxpayers’ dollars to the ‘leaners’ in a time of supposed full employment? 

An accounting quirk gave Jim Chalmers a temporary budget surplus to prove Labor has the management skills to bring the budget back into the black, even if only for a single budget according to their own forecasts. As the end of the financial year is but weeks away it is very likely there will indeed be a surplus.

The truth is, this wasn’t an authentic Labor budget, even though Anthony Albanese is from the left faction. It did nothing to tackle the huge issues of tax reform, inequality, inadequate capital gains tax watered down by the Howard government, or getting anything like a reasonable return from our woefully undertaxed resources shipped overseas by largely foreign-owned corporations.

It said nothing about the massive multi-hundred billion dollar Stage Three tax cuts due to start next year.’

It said nothing about the massive multi-hundred billion dollar Stage Three tax cuts due to start next year. Apart from cruelty to the unemployed, the most glaring and unnecessary gap in the budget is the provision of accommodation for the homeless and those desperately trying to find affordable housing or recover from natural disasters.

With much fanfare the government has announced the $10 billon housing fund, supposedly designed to build 30,000 dwellings in five years. It’s like one of those fantasy ‘announceables’ in the ABC TV comedy Utopia and about as real. 

The ten billon will be invested to attempt to generate sufficient funds to build six thousand homes a year. If the legislation is passed, intact in the next few weeks, it will take a while to invest the money; and in what, fossil fuels, nuclear submarine manufacturers, gambling corporations?

There’s not a ghost of a chance that the fund will generate sufficient income quickly enough to build 6,000 homes by this time next year. Anyone who says so is either deluded or lying through their teeth. The building industry is in crisis with lack of building materials, tradespeople, and rising costs.

The Greens want to turn the government’s promise into a reality by negotiating a much better deal. To make it really happen we need innovative solutions; like energy efficient architect-designed prefabs, using sustainable materials. By now, we should have had a thriving hempcrete industry using locally grown hemp. Prefabricated factory built eco-houses could have been bypassing the shortage of tradespeople and traditional materials.

The Greens have resisted allowing speedy passage of the legislation while trying to negotiate a better deal that really would build thousands of homes quickly. 

Senator Pocock too has suggested doubling the fund to $20B.

Sadly, local Labor MP, Justine Elliot, has taken the opportunity to bash the Greens mercilessly in an advertising blitz.

Her message is so misleading: ‘The Greens, Liberals and One Nation have yet again teamed up to prevent a Bill on affordable housing and emergency accommodation for those fleeing domestic violence’. 

She knows the Greens and those others are worlds apart.

Labor cannot get elected without Greens preferences. Greens voters got them into office. Instead of bashing your allies, it would be better to sit down and negotiate a much better, genuine, housing deal. Playing dirty party politics at such a time is inexcusable.

♦ Richard Jones is a former NSW MP and is now a ceramist.


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38 COMMENTS

  1. Lacks the ticker or realises that effective and lasting change will take more than one term in government. One step forward then 20 back when the Tories get back for a decade or two is not a sound way for a country to make progress.

    No difference between the two anyway? That is the most dangerous and destructive narrative for any genuine progressives to push. Can you imagine a coalition government delivering that budget? Compare it with the first one the other mob gave us in 2014.

    It’s fine and admirable to have ideological purity but perhaps balance the smugness with some balancing nod to political reality.

  2. Yep comments from an ex green says it all. Want everything but offer nothing. One thing is this government is avoiding the traps put out by the greens over a decade ago, and then the greens do it again by voting with the Tories, what did that last input by the greens achieve, 10 years of do nothing coalition government and now they want it all done overnight. Remember the labor party is trying to bring a greater majority forward not just the 12% of greens voters.

    • I’m not an “ex green”. I’m an ex Australian Democrat / independent. Labor is sadly behaving like Liberal Lite. Such a wasted opportunity to make real changes.

      • What would be a REALLY wasted opportunity would be to get tossed out after one term and “Liber Lite” is such shallow jingoism – I’m disappointed

  3. Lizardbreath
    No one’s talking about “ideological purity”.
    The political reality is that the Albanese government has the numbers to make significant reforms that the majority of Australians would support- and applaud.
    He wouldn’t lose any votes increasing JobSeeker to a level that people could actually survive. He wouldn’t lose votes with a windfall tax on gas exports.
    There are multiple reforms that could be passed without losing a single vote.
    With such a pusillanimous conservative budget Albo risks losing support long term. He won’t lose support doing the right thing by his voters.

    • Richard Jones, a great article, 100% spot on.

      Albanese to Australia, “No one left behind, no one held back”.

      The JobSeeker thing, it is a disgrace the ‘PovertyKeeper’ is allowed to just keep rolling on under an ALP government.
      We get the usual platitudes from ALP MP’s that they couldn’t survive on ‘PovertyKeeper’ but what do they do about…$40pf increase. Really.
      I’m no champion for the former Morrison / LNP Goverenment but Scotty found it within him to raise ‘PovertyKeeper’ by… $50pf!
      One can only guess that Albo and Jimbo reckon that the ‘PovertyKeeper’ task was basically sorted by Scotty. Greta work Team ALP.

      The single parent payment (SPP) thing, the ALP couldn’t even get their ‘clawback’ right.
      When ex-PM Gillard / ALP Government ( of which PM Albanese was a then cabinet minister ) changed the SPP and chucked tens of thousands single parents onto the lower Unemployment Benefit once their youngest child turned 8 years of age, the SPP payment was for children up to The now restoring of SPP is up to 14 years of age of the youngest child….best not talk about missing 2 years!
      This from the PM that keeps telling us about his personal story of growing up.

      The ‘windfall tax’ thing.
      Will never happen under either ALP or LNP, that have been bought off by $’shundredsofthousands Fossil Fuel Industry political donations.
      The piper calls the tune!

        • Lizardbreath, where was I wrong in what I wrote?
          My typos – I need to be better -were the only bits of ‘destruction’ that are evident.

      • Pontificating Joachim regarding
        insufficient payments the various
        Forms of welfare recipients get ?
        No Resource industries
        No welfare..you can waffle on all you
        Like the N01 revenue for this country
        Gos ..what then Joachim ?

        • Barrow, “No Resource industries”, huh.
          That’s you making up stuff again.

          Aussie Green Hydrogen exports, Barrow – South Korea, Germany, India all partnering with Australia to get Aussie Green Hydrogen. Its beginning Barrow, the replacer for “Gos” ( sic ), is coming.

      • Joachim, more piss and wind again, seriously, how about you stop Greenspinning and tell us what actually happens with all these populist ” Green initiatives” when the Greens struggle to occupy only four seats in a 150 House of Reps, and only then with ALP preferences, and readily vote with the Coalition and One Nation in the Senate to block Labors election commitments that it has a mandate to implement?, that is political grandstanding at its worst.

        • Keith, as usual, when an ALP policy is drilled into and critiqued you come back with.. nothing..but your anti-Greens phobic dribbling drivel. It impossible for the Keith to actually engage in a policy critique.

          Regurging the talking points that are copied to you each day from ALP HQ is quite comical.
          Grandstanding, lol, you should try harder to be less Penelope (completely lost it in the Senate, lost the debate and the issue when she played the man ) Wong and focus on getting the right policy action done.

          Oh and by the way, it explained to you before, Parliament is made up of two houses – House of Representatives and the Senate.
          Again, I detect you not liking the Senate and its ‘house of review’ function.
          Keith, we feeling your pain, when ALP is in government but in minority in the Senate, the Senate needs to just sit back quietly ( forget about doing any reviewing ) and rubber stamp every piece of ALP proposed legislation, yeah.

      • Joachim I believe Richard was addressing this comment to me. When I subsequently replied to him you felt the need to respond on his behalf. Do you think that he lacks capacity and needs a bit of help of did something pull the string and off you went?

        • Lizardbreath I feel your pain.
          Quibbling over where I came in with a post as you ignore the substance of the post, lol.

          • Don’t worry, I’m not in pain. Whose post of “substance” are you referring to – yours or Richard’s. I did reply to Richard but it gets a little tiring replying to the same old same old – and you don’t listen!

    • Thanks Richard, for a greater increase to jobseeker (without going back on commitments this term re tax), from which budgetary area would you take the extra cash – education, the NDIS …? Or do you think that in a high interest rate environment the government should simply be mindless of debt.

      Remember that raising the money in your pocket is one measure but another is reducing how much you need to fork out. There are additional measures designed to ease the burden on the pockets the lowest income earners and the most disadvantaged – increased bulk billing incentive (yes I know you like that) cheaper medicines, increased rent assistance, power bill relief, lowering the trigger to 55 for additional jobseeker support … “ parsimonious towards the most needy?”

      No mention of the difficulties facing a government in an environment where any rises in inflation give the Reserve Bank a trigger to keep raising interest rates which, with inflation, ironically has the greatest impact on the most needy? Or the debt left over from a financial crisis and a pandemic? The balancing act that also involves managing “the baying shock jocks” and the conservative media in general and the huge power and resources behind the corporate sector. No genuine move on tax reform? Do you recall 2019? Imagine the fodder they would give the Murdoch press if these changes were introduced despite saying they wouldn’t.

      Ever consider that this (“ non- authentic Labor”) budget is very different from anything the coalition has done for the last decade and that Labor realistically might be playing a long game and might have some success if given half a chance by their “allies”? Ever think of acknowledging that Labor faced a bloody hard job and the resulting budget was not a bad effort?

      The HAFF is one measure to provide some long-term ongoing certainty and stability. There are other agreements with the states for more immediate initiatives. There’s also a bit of a contradiction about complaining that it will be invested in fossil fuels, gambling etc at the same time as suggesting we’re not gambling enough and the fund should be tenfold.

      Given that our housing and homelessness crisis didn’t appear overnight do the Greens have a fully thought out semi-costed and strategic plan for the “energy efficient architect-designed prefabs, using sustainable materials”, “ thriving hempcrete industry using locally grown hemp to hand the public? Why did we hear so little over the last decade of the “prefabricated factory built eco-houses (that) could have been bypassing the shortage of tradespeople and traditional materials”. No concerted effort at selling this plan and convincing ScoMo et al? Too distracted criticising their supposed own side?

      You’re very optimistic Richard about no losing one vote. There’s a core for whom this is true but elections turn on fine margins. The Teals have sound environmental credentials but you don’t foresee the prospect of an alliance with the Tories to implement a way more conservative economic and industrial agenda?

      But I do admire your brazenness Richard in concluding with statements about bashing your allies and playing dirty politics. Did you keep a straight face?

      • Lizardbreath, money issues you posit means those living in Poverty need to know their place and just stop begging for a decent ‘PovertyKeeper’ payment.

        -Apparently a lazy $’s313billions can be spared for the Stage 3 Tax cuts. Those on ‘PovertyKeeper’ just need to be quiet, be so grateful for their “No one left behind” $40pf increase and watch on in horror as those earning $200,000 pa plus are set to collect $9,000 pa tax cut from the Stage 3 Tax Cuts. At least ex-PM Morrison found it in him to lift ‘PovertyKeeper’ by $50pf in 2021 which the ALP at that time complained that it was still keeping people in poverty.

        -Apparently a lazy $’s368billions ( before the inevitable cost blowouts ) can be afforded for 8 new beaut nuclear subways. Again, those on ‘PovertyKeeper’ watch on in horror as that they cop another PM Albanese dagger in the heart.

        -Apparently a lazy $’s240millions can be afforded for a new AFL football stadium in Hobart. Great news for AFL fans, they’ve got another ground to kick the sherrin on – Launceston and Hobart have host AFL games and been doing it for some time. Again, those on ‘PovertyKeeper’ watch on in horror as they cop another PM Albanese dagger in the heart.

        Dare we hear it again, Albanese to Australia, “No one left behind, no one held back”….except of course if you someone that receives JobSeeker payment.

        • Joachim do me a favour. Stand with your back to a mirror and glance over your shoulder. Do you happen to have a string in the middle of your back? Or a button? Is it triggered by the word “Labor”?

          Something sets off the same old refrain that follows.

          • Not so much wrong as just the same stuff on high rotation regardless of any nuances as to where the discussion’s gone.

            I think rather than outright contradict or disagree with you Joachim, my comments often just attempt to add some balance or perspective to the unrealistic expectations you express when it’s so easy to sit on the sidelines and criticise.

            Tell me, did you agree with everything the last Greens dominated Byron Council did? Even just in microcosm did you see the way things can happen in real life when your decisions actually have repercussions?

          • There’s a little clue in one of your favourite intro: ——( insert appropriate name) 100%. I rarely agree 100% with a detailed opinion piece and I reckon, if it appeared anti Labor, you’d show the same unqualified enthusiasm regardless. It’s what I’m getting at when I suggest it’s not a football match!

    • Perhaps think about where that horrible term “lacks the ticker” came from: John Howard’s chest beating assessment of Kim Beasley. Now there was a wily Polly, not beyond a bit of politicking!

  4. Until such day that vested interest groups with bags of money can not influence the policy makers, it will not matter who is in power.The people will always come second.
    The allowance of this tainting of our democracy is a national disgrace, unfortunately the apathy of the masses to this issue facilitates its continuation ad infinitum.

    • Sadly yes. Our democracy had been corrupted by industry lobbyists. Who pays the piper calls the tune, as the old saying goes. While we continue to vote slavishly for the major parties, it will continue.

      • And if large numbers swapped to voting Green do you really think that, as a major party, they would try to implement all their policies? Just look at Byron’s previous Council.

    • No matter the type of government, ruling is nothing but balancing vested interest groups. youtube ‘Rules for Rulers’ for a summary of political science.

  5. I was told this new utopian regime would be stimulating. I’m completely un-stimulated. Not even a simulation of stimulation.

  6. How are you going to increase jobseeker when the very thing you need to achieve this is what you would so like to destroy. I know, throw a few more lefty slogans at it. That will surely work. What is our economy without large company’s, oil , coal, gas ?. Third World, which the lefty’s are aiming for. Albo has thrown a few scraps to the poor, patted himself on the back and resumed his incompetent promise breaking leadership. The most hideous situation resulting from the last election is labor stole power with green preferences and only received 32.58% primary votes. Nothing to be proud of or to be claiming a mandate to do anything with.

    • How did the Liberal Party go with 23.9% of the vote Greg?, no wonder they have to suck up to the pork-barrelling Nationals, and they only got a meagre 8%, totally wasted space.

      • Keith, primary votes and preferences, all the parties are winning seats with a combination of both.

        In case anyone missed it, 2022 Federal Election result, only 15 HoR seats were won on Primary Vote alone – 8 to ALP, 7 to Liberal Party.
        The 2 major parties have been bleeding votes to ‘Others” at successive elections, preferences is what is becoming more and more important in bringing it home for them.

  7. You say Jim Chalmers achieved a budget surplus by useing an accounting quirk. Are you serious?. I and many would call it a dirty sneaky dishonest and unprofessional trick. You bloody leftist’s will back any low down disgusting abomination and say, nothing to see here. They have been caught out busted and proven to be slimy grubs. Try to defend that sunshine.

    • You mean you and a dwindling minority of righty’s would call Jim Chalmers budget a “dirty dishonest and unprofessional trick”, you just can’t get there can you “comraid”.

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