• Hannah Phillips

Labor Enters the Danger Zone

On Monday, the latest Newspoll showed the two party preferred gap between the major parties narrowing to Labor 51% and Coalition 49%, a 1.36% swing to Labor since the 2016 election. More importantly if this swing is uniform across the country it will result in Labor having 77 seats with the Coalition holding 68 seats and 6 going to minor parties and independents. Labor needs 75 seats to form government and 76 if they want to provide a speaker. As things stand they are three seats away from a hung parliament. It is possible that the swing will not be uniform and the Coalition will manage to sandbag some of the seats Labor needs to win. If, as a consequence, Labor ends up in a minority government then it may have difficulty getting its agenda through the Parliament. Most of the independents have indicated that they will oppose Labor’s franking credits policy and they are ambivalent on the negative gearing and capital gains policies. This could mean that a Labor Government will have problems getting some of their tax measures into the Reps. On the current numbers there is no chance of Labor controlling the Senate even with Greens support. So even if Labor gets its tax bills through the Reps they will struggle to get them through the Upper House. They have said that they will try and have them passed by the current Senate before it changes over on 1 July. Parliament resumes in June but unless the Coalition agrees to wave the legislation through, it will probably be sent off for examination by the Reps Economics Committee so they can examine Labor’s costings and any possible unintended consequences. This will mean the bills will end up in the next Senate where the independents are likely to comprise Cory Bernardi of the Australian Conservatives; Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff of the Centre Alliance; Clive Palmer, Pauline Hanson and an independent from Tasmania. All of these are likely to have reservations about Labor’s taxes. If Labor can’t get its tax measures through the Parliament then the question is, what will Labor do with its spending promises? Will it cancel the childcare subsidies or the dental care for pensioners, or the pay rises for childcare workers or the spending on health and education? Some of these questions were almost mentioned in the Leader’s debate last night but as usual anything pertinent was deflected by spin. As one commentator said, the debate had all the thrill of a lame Sunday dinner. Bill Shorten listed all the things he was going to do for the voters while Scott Morrison pressed him on funding. The audience obviously preferred Mr Shorten’s positive approach to Mr Morrison’s negative one and awarded the debate to him by a substantial margin. If the voters are prepared to elect Mr Shorten on the basis of his promises they are going to be bitterly disappointed if he can’t deliver them. This is the real danger for Labor now, they will get into Government but will be impotent once they are there.

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