Mark Thompson

Shorten’s plan to save the working class needs work

This morning, Bill Shorten announced a raft of policy that alludes to his version of Australia. Scratch back the surface, however, and it doesn’t seem like change.

 

 

As we trudge toward the next election, we’d do well to note that the differences between the two parties are closer than we’d normally assume. This morning, Bill Shorten will be making a keynote speech, one that promises to be the “biggest ever investment in affordable housing”, which will put forward the concept of subsidies for investors building new homes, providing they then set the rent at 20% under the market rate.

The plan will offer investors $8500 annually, and hopes to build 250,000 properties through it.

 

In the words of Shorten himself: “…this is a cost of living plan, a jobs plan and a housing plan. It will give working families a fair go to put a roof over their head now – and save for their own home in the future.”

Shorten says these dwellings would be available to renters on “low and moderate incomes”. A family paying the average national rent of $462 week could save $92 a week.

I mean, ok. The margins are extremely fine, and $92 a week seems like an amount that would ease the make-or-break tensions on low income families. The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute estimates a shortfall of more than 525,000 affordable rental properties.

It’s clearly a move to tempt the working class, as overseas students, temporary foreign workers and other non-residents would not be eligible to rent under the scheme.

If it sounds an awful lot like negative gearing with a heavier governmental hand, it is. Shorten says the plan would support the ALP’s reforms to negative gearing “which direct concessions to newly built premises and encourage housing construction”.

Here’s the kicker. The challenges of the family household are numerous. $92 saved on rent may be one thing, but the cost of living is a chimera of many heads. If this was more than just a crusade against negative gearing, we’d have louder rhetoric around our utilities, and price of good food, thereby tackling a byproduct of poverty, the poor levels of health we suffer, as the food we can afford, is junk.

I don’t want to sound jaded, or cynical, but Shorten’s English possesses danger. Not in what is being said, but rather, what isn’t. The two points that have long divided both parties is the matter of welfare, and of immigration speak to that fact.

Regarding the former, Shorten mentioned that Newstart would be reviewed with the ALP government considering an increase.

“I think Newstart is too low. I don’t think anyone who says that it needs to increase is wrong”

“But what we’ll need to do from government is review the level, and understand the implications of increasing Newstart, along with the impact on all of our other taxes and payment systems”

“We have to look at what we can afford as a nation. But we’re not reviewing Newstart to decrease it”

The key term in the above, is “considering”, not a stand made, but rather the promise of nothing solid. They might not be decreasing it, but the increase (of which Shorten himself said is the right thing to do), is not a certainty. The fact that Bill alluded toward the concept of “if we can afford it”, sounds like a more palatable version

Regarding immigration, and in particular, Shorten is playing both sides. In that we never ever want another Manus or Nauru, but similarly, he wants to stop the boats.

“We want to be a good international citizen – we also recognise however that we’ve got to make sure that whatever policy we adopt, we can afford, and that it meets our combined goals of not keeping people in indefinite detention on Manus and Nauru but also keeping our borders strong, so we never again see the people smuggling trade start up”.

There might not be a statue in Shorten’s office that loudly proclaims his success in stopping the boats, but the mentality is there. I’m not trying to influence your vote, nor am I naive enough to think that everyone gets everything they want come election time, but for those who are looking to Bill Shorten as the saviour of this nation atop of blinding white steed, I suggest you look again.

 

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