Australia votes on 2 July

Submitted by martin on 31 May, 2016 - 12:32 Author: Martin Thomas

"I've got a disability and a low education, that means I've spent my whole life working for minimum wage. You're going to lift the tax-free threshold for rich people," said truck-driver Duncan Storrar, in a question to a Liberal government minister on Australian TV on 9 May.

"If you lift my tax-free threshold, that changes my life. That means that I get to say to my little girls, 'Daddy's not broke this weekend, we can go to the pictures'.

"Rich people don't even notice their tax-free threshold lift. Why don't I get it? Why do they get it?"

Government minister Kelly O'Dwyer replied, ineptly, that the tax break for the well-off would help people like a cafe owner with a turnover of just over $2 million who, with the tax break, would be able to buy a $6,000 toaster.

Storrar's question brought him a wave of applause; a successful crowdfunding effort to "Buy Duncan a Toaster"; a pillory as right-wing media slammed his history of mental illness (which Storrar had hardly hidden) and criminal convictions; and then protests against the unfairness of the pillorying.

The row set the tone for Australia's federal election on 2 July. Untypically, the election is a "double dissolution", electing a whole new House of Representatives and a whole new Senate, rather than, as usual, only half the Senate.

It was called by outgoing Liberal prime minister Malcolm Turnbull on 9 May, after the Liberals had repeatedly failed to get reinstatement of the Australian Building and Construction Commission through the Senate.

The ABCC is a special policing agency for the construction industry, set up by the previous Liberal government in 2005, and abolished by Labor in 2012. In its time it led to construction workers facing heavy fines just for refusing to answer questions about industrial relations, though some high-profile cases, like Ark Tribe's, ended in acquittals.

Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott as prime minister and Liberal leader on 15 September 2015. At first, more suave and aristocratic than the brash Abbott, he improved the Liberals' poll ratings a lot. The polls now show the two main parties neck-and-neck on the "two-party preferred vote" after redistribution of votes under Australia's Alternative Vote system.

The Melbourne socialist paper Red Flag reports that Labor has gone in for some "rhetoric against the banks and the super-wealthy".

However, Labor leader Bill Shorten has a solidly right-wing background as a former union leader; and, as Red Flag says, after "several decades of Labor pursuing policies that have profoundly disillusioned its working-class and left wing base", the "mild left turn" falls far short of the sort of resurgence seen in the British Labour Party with Corbyn.

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