Remember the light on the hill?

At the 1949 ALP Convention, then Prime Minister Ben Chifley delivered the ‘Light on the Hill’ speech. The speech is seen as a declaration of ‘traditional’ ALP values
as a movement bringing something better to the people, better standards of living, greater happiness to the mass of the people. We have a great objective — the light on the hill — which we aim to reach by working the betterment of mankind not only here but anywhere we may give a helping hand. If it were not for that, the Labour movement would not be worth fighting for.

If the movement can make someone more comfortable, give to some father or mother a greater feeling of security for their children, a feeling that if a depression comes there will be work, that the government is striving its hardest to do its best, then the Labour movement will be completely justified.
There is also a dictum that suggests if you walk into a shop and the marketing material boasts about the great service by brilliantly trained staff, the reality is completely the opposite. So when the ALP waived through the Coalition’s Treasury Laws Amendment (Tax Relief So Working Australians Keep More Of Their Money) Bill 2019, you would have to wonder if the thought had crossed the collective minds in the brains trust of the ALP Parliamentary party that the majority of ‘working Australians’ probably won’t be keeping more of their money as a result of this legislation. (You could also ask what people in the future will think of a Government who produced legislation with such a lame name.)

Which brings us to the problem with the ALP. While it is fair to suggest that in absolute dollar terms, people on $200,000 per annum will pay more to the Australian Taxation Office than someone on $50,000, flattening tax rates introduces inequity into the system. If the proportion of tax paid to income received by the person on $200,000 per annum is lesser that the proportion of tax paid by someone on $50,000 per annum, the system is not fair or equitable, arguably an action that is against the rationale of the ALP according to Chifley.

Greg Jericho recently wrote in The Guardian, Saying $200,000 isn't rich is stupid — and Labor should know better. Jericho demonstrates in his article that generally the higher your income, the more favourable the treatment you receive from the legislation that governs the activities of the Australian Taxation Office. Flattening the tax rates again certainly doesn’t address this. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the 90th percentile income for a single earner in Australia is $92,404. Bluntly, if you’re earning over $92,404 per annum, your income is better than 89% of your fellow Australians. While you may be ‘feeling the pain’ if you’re fortunate to receive $200,000 a year for your labour, apparently there are a lot of people feeling more pain than you do (or you made some really silly financial decisions). Nine Newspapers recently published an interactive comparison tool here which illustrates where you really rank on the ‘battler’ stakes. Don’t forget the ALP waved the tax cut through because various members of the Coalition threatened to campaign from here to the next election on ALP denying tax cuts to the ‘battlers’ on $200,000 per annum.

While it could be said that waving through the 2019 tax cuts does relate to Ben Chifley’s Light on the Hill by improving the happiness and security of those that will get the maximum benefit (who already are earning well over what most people can achieve), surely there is a greater case for measures such as ensuring those on Newstart can actually afford to put a roof over their heads and search for a job at the same time. The architect of the freeze in the Newstart payment, John Howard (yes it was that long ago) certainly believes so, as does Access Economics and the Business Council.

Perhaps the ALP could have argued for additional expenditure on social housing and health care rather than committing to tax cuts now and in the future. Who knows, if they did we might see the end of stories like this in the media — with an added side-effect of enabling a greater number of Australians to feel as if they have a place and can contribute to our society adding to our common wealth. Maybe there would have been the funding to help those in Australia that need our help and to relocate to Australia all those Australia has incarcerated in off-shore ‘detention’ and fund the process of settling them in and helping them to feel welcome and productive members of society.

Or there could have been a discussion on reducing all the components of Welfare Deeming Rate below the current RBA Cash Rate. Deeming was originally introduced to ensure people didn’t put hundreds of thousands into the old bank ‘passbook’ accounts and effectively get no interest — making it easier to meet an income test for the pension.

This blogsite recently reflected on the Greens voting against Rudd’s Emissions Trading Scheme because it didn’t go far enough and
As a result, the last 10 years of Australia fiddling while the earth burned is largely due to the Greens lofty principles overruling logic and understanding what can be achieved, together with absolutely no idea of how or when to compromise and gain part of what they want instead of nothing
The ALP appears to have gone too far the other way. The ALP has a history of attempting to look after the ‘workers’ but it is easy to argue that they certainly aren’t doing it at the moment. Sure you’re going to lose a bit of skin in the argument over who is a ‘battler’ but there can be a strong argument created for the alternative. Realistically, how many people who have an income capable of negatively gearing a house or several are going to vote for a party that has as part of its policy the removal of the overly generous concession?

The Greens and One Nation both have public positions that are understood (and both also have problems with pragmatism), but at least they ‘stand by’ their positions regardless of the blowback. Despite ‘The Light on the Hill’ and other public pronouncements in the history of the ALP that go back to the 1890’s under a tree at Barcaldine Railway Station in Queensland, how are they differentiating themselves today from the Coalition who still seem to be the party for business and the well off? If there is no product differentiation, why should you consider the alternative?

What do you think?

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Lawrence Winder


It seems as if labor are too scared to "take-on" the Ugly American's media and the corporates and are kow-towing to an "aspirational" 51 whose sense of values are not those that Chifley would have hoped for.

T-w-o take away o-n-e equals?