Coalition finance minister Mathias Cormann told an admiring audience at the conservative Sydney Institute on August 23 that Labor leader Bill Shorten was “channelling” Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders.
Cormann said Labor’s proposals to tax family trusts and tweek the top marginal tax rate was tantamount to socialism. Cormann also accused Shorten of drumming up the “politics of envy” by talking about the growing wealth divide in Australia.
The “rhetoric is the divisive language of haves and have nots,” Cormann added, before declaring that such talk was “socialist revisionism at its worst”.
“[Shorten] believes that by denigrating successful people as the undeserving rich he will generate enough popular support to win the next election”.
With the August 21 Newspoll showing Labor polling 54% over the Coalition’s 46% on a two-party preferred basis, the Coalition is certainly looking a little worried. That, together with the parliamentary citizenship fiasco, may be prompting the Coalition to look for the usual distractions: joining the US in a war on Korea or sending more troops to Afghanistan may shift the public gaze from its domestic troubles.
Cormann is spinning some scare campaign lines for the shock jocks and News.com. Depending on the High Court decision on the citizenship status of deputy leader Barnaby Joyce and others, the federal poll may be sooner rather than later.
But it is the politics of greed — not envy — that has sharpened the wealth divide.
The latest report from the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) says that poverty is growing. It identified that most people living in poverty are those who rely on social security payments as their main source of income. Those more likely to be classified as living in poverty were children in lone parent families, those receiving Youth Allowance and those receiving a Parenting Payment.
ACOSS also identified that a third of people living in poverty have some form of work, underscoring the fact that work is becoming more precarious, and wages are flat lining.
Poverty is defined as when a household’s income is so inadequate as to preclude them from enjoying an acceptable standard of living as understood by “middle Australia”. This underscores that the government has a direct role in preventing poverty through ensuring adequate income support payments. But it has chosen not to.
Shorten is no socialist and he is not in favour of the Australian Labor Party following the trajectory of British Labour. This much he made clear on the ABC’s QandA program on August 21 in response to an enthusiastic young questioner.
Asked if Labor had learned from the successes of Jeremy Corbyn and the British Labour Party “in growing their youth and working-class vote through outwardly social democratic policies”, Shorten’s reply was: “Labor wants to repair the system, we don’t want to tear it down.”
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