Labor’s Pyrrhic Victory

The Member for Fremantle, Melissa Parke, is once again in denial complaining that the Abbott government has introduced 17 new taxes. Yet under the previous Labor governments a raft of new taxes were introduced: new taxes on carbon dioxide, coal, iron ore and alcopops; increasing taxes on tobacco, ethanol, LPG, luxury cars, superannuation, etc.

Following is from The Spectator Australia:

“By winning the battle, Labor have managed to lose the war. With such a monumental strategic blunder, Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen have in all likelihood handed the next election to the LNP, and rescued the prime ministership of Tony Abbott.

As we argued at the time, the cleverest course for Labor last year would have been to allow the Coalition’s 2014 Budget to pass through the Senate. In doing so, they would have achieved three important victories. Firstly, they would have removed the Rudd/Gillard/Swan stain of wanton profligacy which, instead, they perversely wear like a badge of honour. Secondly, they would have endowed shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen with some much-need economic credentials of his own – namely, fiscal responsibility. And finally, aiding the Coalition in reforming our economy would have allowed Bill Shorten’s Labor to paint itself as the true heir to the Hawke/Keating legacy; a powerful electoral selling-point.

At the same time, the government would have been forced to wear all the opprobrium for the $7 visits to the doctor, the cuts to the pension, the welfare crackdowns and so on. Labor would have been able to rant about genuine, as opposed to theoretical, examples of Coalition ‘austerity’. Come the next election, Labor would then be in the enviable position of being able to bribe their way back into power with a fistful of tantalising handouts because much of the repair work had been done.

Instead, so brazen and successful has Labor’s obstructionist Senate campaign been, to the point where they’ve blocked cuts they themselves had proposed, that the ensuing gridlock has forced the government to abandon many of its key ideological strongholds. Where last year Joe Hockey offered up sensible economic reforms but forgot that he had to sell them, this year the Treasurer offers up a swag of saleable goodies shorn of all the whiffy bits of reform.

The losers in the long run will be, of course, the Australian taxpayer. But, as has been frequently debated within these pages, a less-than-perfect Coalition is still vastly preferable to the undergraduate socialists currently occupying the opposition benches. Whether Tony Abbott opts for an early election, or to stay the distance and offer up a similarly gentle budget next year, the reality is that this government has abandoned ‘harshness’ for the time being. That it has been forced to do so by Labor and the wanton stupidity of the Independent senators should not be lightly dismissed. Much was made in the frenzied run-up to Budget night about ‘whose Budget is it anyway?’ One could argue that it is as much Labor and the Independent’s Budget as anybody’s, having been designed with the express purpose of getting through the Senate.

The Senate are now faced with either passing it or facing an early, possibly double dissolution, election. The Coalition can argue that they have listened, that they have responded to community concerns, etc. Labor, meanwhile, can argue… what exactly? That they would be tougher in government? Hardly. That they would be even more generous? That would be suicidal.

Yes, this Budget’s measures for small business and growth are to be commended, and the desire to crack down on ‘bludgers’ – be they on welfare or sitting in the boardrooms of multinationals – admirable. The politics of the Budget are perfect, the economics palatable, the selling messages spot on – but clearly the heavy fiscal pruning must wait until the next political winter, or perhaps the one after. As for the ‘entitled’ country, the music will carry on for a bit longer, it appears, albeit slightly subdued. We’ve turned the stereo down to stop the police from knocking at the door, but we’re still partying like it’s 1999.”

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