Promises, promises

The problem with the proposed tax cuts, the Jobs Summit, the emissions reduction target or any other policy that Prime Minister Albanese took to the election is that it was a promise that was made in the run up to the election. Certainly, the world has changed since 2019 and if really expensive tax cuts that benefit the better off were ever a good idea, there is even less evidence to suggest they are now. Greg Jericho, writing in The Guardian suggests the stage three tax cuts are a pile of garbage and everybody knows it, as does the Green’s Adam Bandt, a number of independent Senators and moderate Liberal MP Russell Broadbent.

Faced with a similar problem in 1983, then newly elected Prime Minister Bob Hawke fronted the media and started a discussion to demonstrate that the tax cuts promised by the previous Government were unaffordable. If Albanese did the same thing he would be pilloried, after all the ALP did support the omnibus legislation in Parliament in 2019. We're all partly to blame if that happens.

Since the 1980's, Australian society has changed. Rather than having a belief that politicians will attempt to do the right thing for most Australians (allowing for their political biases) we generally now have a belief that politicians are only there to look after themselves. There is little evidence to suggest most first-time political candidates are there to feather their own nests — even those that allegedly have the backing of industrial associations or religious groups to run.

Ironically, the introduction of a Federal anti-corruption commission with the actual ability to investigate and prosecute politicians as well as government employees — another promise by Albanese — may help. For someone like Albanese or Treasurer Chalmers to have a genuine conversation with Australians about the advisability of cutting billions out of the federal government's budget each and every year into the future, there needs to be trust. While it rightly has been thin on the ground over the last 10 to 15 years, addressing perceived issues, de-escalating the rhetoric from both sides of politics as well as re-assessing our expectations will help develop that trust. It’s not all about you or me, it’s about us.

The media also needs to allow the conversation to occur. At present our media won't. It's far easier to use an inaccurate and misleading claim as 'click bait' to get eyes on their website from social media. Those that choose to scroll on by tend to remember the headline as being relevant to the story which they don’t read. While the media is generally running the 'cut the tax cuts' line at the moment, there is no guarantee that that would continue if the government decided to 'break an election promise'.

It is guaranteed that the opposition would use the 'broken promise' as a political scoring point in the period between the timetabled implementation of the tax cuts in 2024 and the next election, scheduled for early 2025. After all, Opposition Leader Dutton claimed his job when he regained power in 2025 would be to reverse the decisions of a bad government. He made the statement a couple of days after the election — before any decisions, good or bad, had been released. Stopping the tax cuts would be the proverbial gift horse for Dutton’s ‘you can’t believe their promises’ campaign. Conversely, the Albanese Government would be hard pressed to make the connection between Morrison's 2019 poorly judged legislation and the cancelled implementation in 2024.

We employ governments to assess reactions to unexpected events that are yet to occur, then assess and make suitable decisions based on the evidence provided at the time. We should expect our government to support and fund ideas and programs that benefit all areas of our country without the pretence of large cheques or visits from political leaders with their accompanying media packs. Elections should be a contest of ideas, not two rival groups of people on an extended jaunt around the country doling out dollars at every opportunity to attempt to prop up votes in areas they think they can win. The discussion around the proposed 'Stage 3 tax cuts' are a perfect example of why the current system is broken. To fix the system we should demand better of our politicians, media and ourselves.

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