With the imminent national election, so too come the same old tropes, platitudes and inanities around the mainstream political parties. What has become immediately obvious to me is that “they’re all the same” no longer qualifies as political commentary.
This instead constitutes an abstention from knowing what is happening in government. It represents neglecting your role as an informed citizen. It also signifies a lazy attitude in not looking beyond broad-stroke cynicism of politics.
While a jaded perspective on what occurs politically is nothing new, everyone who votes needs to at least understand how the two major parties will run the country. Everyone who votes needs to at least evaluate the party platforms and decide which will be most beneficial to themselves and those they care about, alongside the country at large.
Everyone who votes needs to treat their vote with respect.
This is because, put simply, your vote will affect those around you, if not you personally. This is why it is difficult to walk away from off-hand comments which profess political indifference: those who express these sentiments might want to seem politically disengaged, but it’s difficult to stomach when one considers the wellbeing of the society we inhabit.
How you should vote
No, not a step-by-step process on the mechanics of voting. Who you should vote for. Many people are precious about this issue – we like to hear the popular line: “I would never tell you who to vote for, only that you should vote”. Unfortunately this sentiment is misplaced.
Of course, you should tell people who to vote for. Not under the threat of violence. Not with intimidation or with malice. Not through guilting or shaming.
But if you care about government and how politics affect you, absolutely you should have the right to ask someone to vote a particular way. If someone in your house, in your workplace, or on your bus do something which affects you, you have a right to ask them to change their behaviour. Just so with someone’s vote.
I won’t be discussing the minor parties. I will also state that I’m not a member of, nor have ever voted for, either of the two major parties, and am not partisan.
If you have ever thrown out the line: “Both parties are just the same”, listen closely.
They are not.
On almost every issue (if not every issue), the Labor (ALP) policy is preferable to the Liberal (LNP) policy this election. Always put the Liberal Party last. They do not deserve your vote, and they do not deserve a say in your future or your society.
On Trust in Government
There is no denying that the Labor Party has a better track record than the Liberal Party in this area. While the first thing which springs to mind is Rudd/Gillard, Abbott/Turnbull backstabbing, in effect the Liberal Party has been less trustworthy that the Labor Party.
As of the 2013 election, only 30 of 78 promises made by the Coalition government have been delivered – less than 40%. Whether you agree with their promises or no, you cannot deny that a 40% track record is a poor excuse for three years of government.
Add to this quantitative scale the more anecdotal case of Bronwyn Bishop’s ‘Choppergate’ scandal, where the Speaker of the House claimed $5,000 to fly from Melbourne to Geelong. She was unconditionally supported by her party until they realised the tide of popular opinion turned against them. That wasn’t before other MPs – including Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne – had their own entitlement’s reviewed and were found to have been abusing the system.
The most recent example of the Liberal Party using the current Victorian CFA issue to fundraise “under-the-radar” is another troubling example of Liberal Party dishonesty and abuse of office. A website professing to “Save the CFA” had requested visitors to ‘donate’ to the cause, without disclosing that the donations went directly to the Liberal Party campaign headquarters.
Despite promising to lead a government which “respects the people’s intelligence“, Malcolm Turnbull has continued the umbrella of secrecy which overshadows Operation Sovereign Borders, preventing journalists from having access to Australia’s offshore detention system, and criminalizing doctors, nurses and charity-workers who disclose any information about how asylum seekers are treated.
And for a Prime Minister who promised “advocacy, not slogans”, the government has been running some troubling scare campaigns in the lead-up to the election. The more recent claims that Bill Shorten is “waging war on the economy and jobs” was repudiated as scare-mongering by journalists and economists. The repetition of the simplistic slogan “jobs and growth” do little to substantiate Turnbull’s earlier claims to respect society’s intelligence. And for a government which cut hundreds of jobs from the CSIRO, deregulated the tertiary system and cut education and renewable energy funding, the millions spent on the “Innovation Age” campaign should offend anyone’s sensibilities.
It is evidently clear that on the issue of trust, the Liberal Party has proven itself incapable of respecting the intelligence or wellbeing of the Australian people.
On the Economy
The Liberal Party has presided over the slowest wage growth since the 1980s. GDP per capita growth has plateaued since 2013, and the rate of wage growth has halved since 2012.
For a government which feels comfortable flaunting its economic credentials, the slogan of “jobs and growth” doesn’t hold up to scratch. The widespread idea of good Liberal economic management pervades as the most common misconception of the Australian political conscience. What’s more, this trend of declining wages is persistent, while housing prices have risen at roughly seven times this rate.
While iron, coal and other mineral prices fall on the global markets, the government has committed to literally hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies for companies, and has defunded one of Australia’s (formerly) fastest growing industries in wind and solar energy.
While Turnbull’s government is quick to tell anyone and everyone it has an economic plan, what this really translates into is a $50 billion tax cut for big business over ten years – the same amount of money being withdrawn from education funding over the next three years.
What’s more, the majority of economists have calculated that this tax cut will overwhelmingly benefit overseas investors. Income tax cuts have also been announced – for people earning above $80,000 (the top 20% of earners in Australia). The Turnbull government policy is classically neo-liberal, with the idea that this will encourage growth largely ignoring the well-documented evidence of leading economists saying this will contribute to inequality and will, in fact, arrest economic growth.
Turnbull’s overtures of a “strong” and “agile” economy do not hold up to what economic experts say on the issue, and yet most Australians believe the Liberal Party to be the pre-eminent authority on economic management. This is a mind-boggling cultural phenomenon which is entirely delusional.
It also bears noting that of the some hundreds of thousands of jobs “created” in the past three years, most have been part-time jobs, suggesting that full-time employment is actually (proportionally to population growth) decreasing. This can be mostly attributed to service cuts by the Abbott and Turnbull governments.
On Same-Sex Marriage
A recent poll found that less than 40% of Australians agree with the government’s proposal for a plebiscite on same-sex marriage, despite Turnbull’s assertions that the opposite is true.
It was also recently revealed that the Liberal Party views the plebiscite as non-binding, meaning members who disagree with the outcome can still prevent any Same-Sex Marriage legislation from passing parliament.
What this means is that if you want Same-Sex Marriage legalised, the Labor Party is the only major party which will guarantee this unequivocally. It’s understood now that the plebiscite has been conceived by the conservative right-wing of the Liberal Party as a “last-stand” against this inevitable and long overdue reform.
Turnbull is beholden to homophobes and bigots within his own party who have compared same-sex relationships to bestiality. While Malcolm Turnbull sought to assure voters last week that he had had “stern” conversations with these radical elements in his party, recent statements made by Cory Bernardi suggest that this was not at all the case.
What we’ve seen is a spineless attempt to walk the line on an issue which should have been Malcolm’s saving grace, at least insofar as people mistakenly believed he was a “social progressive”. Instead what this has shown is that Turnbull is happy to compromise his principles (if he has any) in order to hold power over his own divisive party-room.
Labor MP Penny Wong made an impassioned plea with the government to avoid the costly $160 million poll on same-sex marriage, asserting that such a plebiscite would only “license hate-speech“. In response, Scott Morrison proclaimed that he, too, was a victim of bigotry and prejudice for his religious views against the LGBTI community.
If Labor wins government, they will legalise same-sex marriage within the first 100 days of government.
Those are your two clear choices on this issue, and they are very different.
On Education and Health Funding
The Liberals have frozen Medicare rebates. This is a regressive measure that is set to continue (and therefore get worse over time). What this essentially does is force poorer people to pay more (as a percentage of their income) than richer people for medical services.
The Liberal policy on healthcare has also been to attempt to force a co-payment on basic preventative healthcare. This attempt has been thwarted a number of times by (justified) public animosity to a more expensive healthcare system, but continues to be reborn every few months.
The Liberals have made it clear that they intend to turn the healthcare system into a pay-as-you-use private network. They will make the cost of medical emergencies soar, and will force poorer and sicker people to pay more money. This is why the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has campaigned against the Liberal government in recent months.
In addition to health, the Liberals have also taken over $50 billion from education funding. Particularly in Victoria, where student funding is the lowest in the country, this should be a concerning figure. Last election, the LNP proclaimed that there would be “no difference” between Labor and Liberal education funding – this was a patent and pathetic lie which is only now fully realised.
In contrast, the Labor Party has fully pledged to fund the Gonski reforms.
The Liberals have also made adverse changes to the superannuation system which mean sizeable voluntary contributions have been taxed at a lower threshold, essentially giving tax-cuts to those who can afford voluntary contributions.
The Liberals have cut tens of thousands of jobs in the public service – over 10,000 in Canberra alone. One organisation where this is most felt is the ATO, at a time when the government is experiencing a sharp decline in tax revenue. This is calculated to have cost tens of billions of dollars to the government.
The Liberal Party represents foreign investors in the property market. Their scare-campaign that property prices will collapse if Negative Gearing is removed has been debunked by experts.
In contrast, the Labor Party will slow the rapid growth of the property market and make it easier for younger people to access the property market. As it stands, the average age at which one enters this market has been increasing for decades.
What Negative Gearing essentially does is privilege investors at the expense of prospective home-owners. When a young family bids for a home on the market, they are bidding against a developor/investor who is financially backed by the government. Their plan is to rent out the house, which now the family cannot afford, to the family.
The average tax-payers contribution to this program on a yearly basis is $310. $310 of your income goes directly to investors and developers who are pricing you out of owning a house. The electorates which benefit from Negative Gearing are held by Liberal MPs, and are overwhelmingly richer than those electorates which don’t.
This is an unjustified and ludicrous policy which needs to be done away with, and the Liberal Party’s continuing support for it demonstrates their contempt for young people in particular.
On the Deficit
While many economists argue that deficit is not in fact a big problem, we do need to consider it an issue, since it sways votes.
Australians pay over $10 billion a year on interest on borrowed money. If the government did away with Negative Gearing and the Capital Gains Tax, the interest on borrowed money would no longer be an issue.
If we did not have Negative Gearing and the Capital Gains Tax, the deficit would be costing us nothing.
If the government did not subsidize big business, coal and mining companies on top of this, we would be in surplus.
While Labor’s policies will cost more in the short term, both major parties have promised to be back within surplus in five years.
On the NBN
The Liberal Party has replaced the prospect of a world-class internet service with an outdated copper network. This network is 200% overpriced and 10 years out-of-date.
The Liberals have claimed to have connected more households to the network in two months than in Labor’s two years on the project, but this is misleading. The network was designed to reach rural and regional Australians first, and considering 90% of Australians live in cities along the coast, it is no surprise that more people are now connected to a (markedly worse) network.
Labor will instead install fibre-optic cables which won’t undermine the IT/tech industry for the same price.
On the Environment
This is an issue which also speaks to trust, as much as anything else. The Liberal Party has frozen the renewable energy industry over the past three years, delaying prospective economic growth in this promising area.
Direct Action has provably not worked and in doing so has cost billions to the Australian economy in the future.
Labor will create a market-based ETS which has worked in Europe. The Liberal Party has attempted to mislead the public by calling this a “carbon tax”, without making the distinction between a corporate (ETS) tax and a private tax.
The Liberal Party has denied that the majority of the Great Barrier Reef is now bleached, and spent millions of dollars on a campaign to have the information censured in the UN.
Who to vote for
If you don’t care about politics, or “don’t have the time” or the “patience”, do your friends, family and society a favor by putting the Liberals last.
It is clear that on almost every issue the Labor Party is preferable to the Liberals. I won’t tell you who to put first, but I’m more than happy to tell you who to put last.