There’s something missing from this election campaign. It’s not missing in my mind, but it seems to be missing from 95% of the political coverage of this election. We finally have some policy discussion, and the Liberals are being forced to provide a few details for policies they’ve been talking about for years. We even have the ABC Vote Compass, to help people decide which party they should be voting for, based on their policy interest, which is a very welcome idea. But still, there’s something missing. Something is missing from the policy discussions; something is missing from the detailed analysis of who spoke better in the debate, who had the best three word slogans and who read off notes. Something is missing from the articles written by journalists following the leaders around the country, reporting on every gaffe, every hair flick and every baby kissed.
That something is a gigantic elephant in the room, which it would seem that our mainstream media doesn’t know how to, or doesn’t care to even think about reporting. This elephant is the core difference between the political parties’ philosophies, and the very bedrock of their plans and their vision for Australia;
Tony Abbott’s Liberals care about the rich getting richer, and the Labor Party aims to reduce the gap between rich and poor.
This stark difference is very important. You can trace almost all policies of the major parties back to these fundamental ideas. Do voters understand this? Unfortunately, I don’t see that many of them do. The politically engaged do. But the general population doesn’t. And this is very concerning.
Take, for example, the Liberal’s recent announcement that they are going to cut the company tax rate. This tax cut is blatantly designed to benefit the rich. Companies making a big enough profit for this tax cut to make any meaningful difference are owned and run by the very rich, and their shareholders. These are the people who will be pocketing the increase in profits that comes from this tax cut. These are the people who will be moving this profit to tax havens or investing it in unproductive speculation on money markets.
The Liberals like to say they are cutting the company tax to grow jobs. But this is a blatant election bribe which isn’t even true. It doesn’t take much analysis to realise there is absolutely no reason, rationally, why a company would hire more people just because they are making more profit. They might hire more people if the demand for whatever it is they sell increases, but a company tax cut doesn’t increase consumer buying power, it only increases profit for people who are already rich.
This is typical Liberal-looking-after-our-rich-mates-and-selling-it-as-good-for-the-community policy. And the ridiculous part is, anyone with any sense can see that a reduction in government revenue must always be replaced by increased government revenue from elsewhere, or cuts in spending – in the Liberals case, more than likely this will come from cutting essential government services which all Australians rely on and possibly increasing taxes on consumers – both rich and poor and everyone in between.
Unfortunately, the Liberals are very experienced at convincing the electorate that they are looking after ordinary Australians, when what they are actually doing is benefiting only the very rich.
Another perfect example of this is the Liberals’ popular opposition to the mining tax. I can’t for the life of me understand why so many voters think it’s a good idea to get rid of this Labor policy. The mining tax is designed to redistribute the wealth from the sale of natural resources which belong to all Australians. It’s a tax on super profits, ‘super’ being the important word. While there is money to be made by digging dirt out of the ground, people will dig dirt out of the ground. Mining companies can’t take this business to South Africa because the dirt is here. And these companies won’t stop running their business here because they are earning gigantic profits here. By taxing the very top bracket of miners’ earnings, the Labor government is receiving tax revenue from the very wealthiest Australians. This revenue is directly redistributed by increasing superannuation savings for all Australians, and by tripling the minimum amount the poorest Australians can earn without being taxed. So the poor take home more money, and increase their consumer buying power in the process, and Gina takes home very slightly less, which leaves her ever so slightly less ridiculously, disgustingly, greedily wealthy, a wealth she has earned by selling Australian owned natural resources.
So explain to me again why people don’t want to keep the mining tax? The Liberals want to get rid of it for the very obvious-elephant-in-the-room reason that doing so helps their rich mates, and in many cases, their generous donors. And they claim they’re looking after ordinary Australians, when really ordinary Australians will continue to work in mines while people like Gina can make any profit at all, let alone super profits. Should we mention Gina’s industrial relations policy of scrapping the minimum wage? How much does she need to donate to the Liberal party to bring about this outcome?
These are just two policy examples which show you the straight line you can draw from Abbott’s vision for Australia (the rich get richer) and Labor’s vision (to increase equity and improve social mobility for all). How about Abbott’s Paid Parental Leave scheme where the rich get paid more to have a baby than the poor do. I guess rich babies are more expensive than poor ones? No? What about the Liberal broadband policy – which will provide broadband only to businesses (rich mates) and to households who can afford a huge bill to connect it to their homes (rich homeowners). Whereas Labor’s NBN was always designed to go to all Australian homes and businesses, in metro and rural areas (in an equitable way).
I could write for days about all the ways that Liberal policies benefit the rich, reduce the power of government to intervene in greedy capitalism and generally con the electorate into thinking everyday Australians are the beneficiaries. I could also write for days about all the ways Labor policies are socially equitable and designed to reduce the gap between rich and poor. Perhaps some people don’t think there’s a problem if a society has a huge gaping gulf between rich and poor. But maybe these people should take a look at America and see if that’s what they want Australia to look like.
Then there are the voters who only care about one or two policies (you can guess which ones) and don’t want to know about the two major parties at all. They’re ‘sick of the lot of them’. I wish these people would take a longer look at the outcomes of all policies the major parties are offering, and try to understand what a future Australia might look like under a Liberal government, and under a Labor government. It that really so much to ask? Oh, but you don’t like Kevin? Say what you like about Kevin, but if he delivers me the Australia I want, he will be Saint Kevin. Yes, I care about social equity that much.
And ideally, a journalist somewhere, some time, might be able to make a connection between a policy and the vision the policy is trying to accomplish. Or does this sound like too much hard work?