This Week in Politics
The scene for this week in politics was set by Bill Shorten’s address to the National Press Club last week.
In his speech the Opposition Leader laid out a new election manifesto based on improving the lives of “the left behind.”
These were defined as the families who earned less than the median level of household income.
Mr Shorten proposed to improve the lot of the “left behind” by reforming the industrial relations system to end job insecurity, while increasing the minimum wage to establish a living wage of 60% of the median wage.
Labor has also proposed to ease cost of living pressures by capping the increases in private health insurance to 2% for two years and by reducing electricity costs through the introduction of more renewable energy into the generation mix.
The government’s response was to point to the 400,000 jobs created in the last calendar year, the rise in business investment and the fact that tax cuts will create more jobs and lead to an increase in wages.
Treasurer Scott Morrison pointed to Treasury modelling which showed that two thirds of the tax cuts would flow through to wages while German studies confirmed that this was the case in practice.
The Week in Parliament
The government legislative programme was focused on business this week with the passage through both Houses of Parliament of the Regional Investment Corporation bill.
The bill establishes the Regional Investment Corporation to administer farm business loans and financial assistance granted to states and territories in relation to water infrastructure projects, and any future programs prescribed by the rules.
This is colloquially known as ‘the Barnaby Bank’ and its passage gave the Deputy Prime Minister a win in a week when he hit a political low as news broke of his affair with a staffer and his impending fatherhood.
The passage of the legislation for the tax cuts for businesses with a turnover of more than $50 million was more contentious.
Labor argues that this constitutes a $65 billion handout to the big end of town which will be paid for by an increase in taxes on low and middle income earners and that it comes at the expense of a proper level of funding for health and education.
During question time on Thursday, question after question about the $65 billion handout for the big end of town was put to the Prime Minister and the Treasurer.
How, the opposition wanted to know, could this could be justified to those who are being “left behind”?
Labor forced five divisions on the bill before it was passed and will clearly try to use it against individual Liberal members at the next election.
The Prime Minister was asked by Bill Shorten whether he would take the cuts to the next election.
Predictably Mr Turnbull said that he believed that they would be law by then but that he would campaign on the basis of them.
The government also introduced legislation to regulate the salaries of bank executives.