Tax Cuts Reveal Albanese Is Brazen And Cynical

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1 February 2024
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Originally Appeared In

This article was originally published in Australian Financial Review on or about 1 February 2024 and was written by the author in their capacity as a contributor for that publication. 

It has been republished on the IPA website with permission. The views expressed are those of the author alone.


After this, the suggestion that now is a good time to start a discussion about the development of a broad agenda for tax reform is naive.


There’s one election promise Anthony Albanese has delivered in spades. He said he wanted to “change the way that politics operates in this country” – and that he’s certainly done.

Politicians break their promises all the time, and there’s nothing new about that. What’s original about what Albanese has done is that when he declared he was abandoning Labor’s commitment to the stage three tax cuts he announced it with relish.

It’s not what he did that’s the story – it’s how he did it.

None of the array of broken promises from previous Labor and Coalition governments cited this week as precedents for the PM’s actions, from Keating’s L-A-W tax cuts, to Turnbull’s retrospective changes to superannuation, to Gillard’s carbon tax pledge, were announced with the sense of self-satisfaction displayed by Albanese.

Albanese showed the kind of brazenness and opportunism some of his supporters (many of whom are in the media) have been waiting to see since his election. He didn’t explain or apologise for his broken promise – he just told everyone of his decision, said circumstances had changed, and he moved on. It was all done without an ounce of shame, as if he had never uttered the memorable line “my word is my bond”.

To describe a politician as ruthless is probably a compliment. To describe a politician as cynical is something altogether different. It might be that Australia’s PM, and the one before him, are two of the most cynical political leaders this country has ever had.

Many things can be said about the two Liberal and two Labor prime ministers before Morrison and Albanese, but they weren’t cynical. Or if they were, they hid it better.

In the lead-up to the 2022 federal election, when he talked about how different his administration would be from Morrison’s, Albanese might have been protesting a little too much.

After what Labor did on IR, and after what it’s now done on tax cuts, it might be thought business had learnt its lesson.

The sad thing is that in the short term, what Albanese is doing might work.

There are many more winners than losers from his broken promise, and how the Coalition should respond is not straightforward. If the Liberals are to find a new heartland, it’s in the seats of middle-income earners directly targeted by Labor’s new package of tax cuts.

It’s not obvious what the electoral benefit to the Liberals would be if they went to war with the ALP to defend tax cuts for high-income earners who vote teal and “yes”, and who support climate change action.

The reality is the Coalition will most likely end up supporting (or at least not opposing) Labor’s changes and will then also commit if elected to implement the remainder of the stage three tax reductions.

The risk for the Coalition is that it has backed into a corner defending a package designed five years ago in a completely different economic and political environment by a PM and treasurer, one of whom is no longer in parliament and the other that is just about to leave.

Albanese is breaking a promise to pick a fight with the Coalition and to help Labor hold the Victorian seat of Dunkley at next month’s byelection. The ALP’s margin in Dunkley is 6 per cent, and at the Voice referendum, the electorate voted 56 per cent “no”.

With four weeks still to go to polling day, a swing away from the government of, say, less than 3.5 per cent, is a win for Albanese, and anything more than that is a win for Peter Dutton and the Coalition.

A nationwide swing of 3.5 per cent to the Coalition at the next federal election doesn’t win it power, but depending on redistributions, it could cost Labor up to a dozen seats and put it into a minority government.

The suggestion that now is a good time to start a discussion about the development of a broad agenda for tax reform is naive.

After what Labor did on industrial relations, and after what it’s now done on stage three tax cuts, it might be thought business had learnt its lesson.

Business groups and CEOs should be hoping that the Albanese government should stay as far away as possible from anything to do with tax reform.

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This article was original published in The Australian Financial Review and was written by the author in their capacity as a contributor for that publication. It has been republished on the IPA website with permission. The views expressed are those of the author alone.

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