The federal elections in Australia will be taking place on the 2nd July 2016 to determine all 226 members of the 45th Parliament. This is the first double dissolution of parliament since the 1987 election. Before going into Comparison among Liberal/Coalition, Labor, Greens parties; let us understand some basics first.
The 2013 federal elections were won by the Liberal/National Coalition, also called the Coalition. The Tony Abbott government was sworn into office on September 18th, 2013. On 13 March, 2015, the incumbent Prime Minister was challenged for the leadership of the Liberal Party and the Prime Ministership by Malcolm Turnbull. The Turnbull Government started on 15th September.
The double dissolution is a procedure permitted by Section 57 of the Constitution to resolve deadlocks between the two Houses. By April 2016, four bills met the conditions of Section 57 to invoke a double dissolution. Turnbull met with the Governor General and advised him to dissolve both Houses and issue writs for a double dissolution election to be held on 2 July, 2016.
As most media coverage would have you believe, these elections are not a two horse race. Along with the Coalition and the Labor Party, the Australian Greens are a big party (with 11 seats in both the Houses). The Nick Xenophon Team is also a reasonably major player.
Currently headed by Bill Shorten, the Labor Party won 55 seats in the House of Representatives during the 2013 elections. They also had 13 seats in the Senate. The Australian Labor Party has made upto 44 announcements with no specific focus. The announcements have majorly concerned infrastructure, education, health and sport.
The Coalition, with Malcolm Turnbull as the present leader, won 90 seats in the House of Representatives in the 2013 elections. They were also the majority in the Senate with 16 seats with them. The Coalition has also made upto 44 announcements with the growth of the economy as their major focus.
The Greens and their modern and scientific approach on policies have been kept out of focus in the media coverage for a large part of Australian politics. With only one seat on the House of Representatives, the general view pervades that the Greens aren’t powerful enough. Richard Di Natale wasn’t invited to the second “leaders’” debate. But constant complaints about the Greens from both the major parties has brought in a generous amount of attention to Greens.
Coalition: The Coalition is campaigning on its “job and growth” budget for the coming elections. In a move to boost the GDP, profits and jobs the Coalition aims to cut down the tax rate for both corporate (from 30% to 25%) and small businesses ( from 28.5% to 25%) by 2026-27. The cap for the 37% tax rate will be increased to an annual income of $87,000. This will directly benefit the top 25% of the income earners.
Labor: The Labor is closely mirroring the Coalition and its views on the growth and economy to minimise damages. However, the tax cut is supported only for small businesses. The Party is ready to redefine the cap for small businesses to include a turnover of upto $1 billion. But it retains its stringent position against tax cuts for bigger industries, asking MNCs to “pay their fare share of tax”.
Greens: The Greens want to introduce a “buffet rule” to limit the tax deductions of the top one percent of earners (capped as earning more than $300,000 annually). They will be opposing the corporate tax cut.
Coalition: The Turnbull government has offered to restore the funding to hospitals by providing $2.9 billion over the next three years to public hospitals. The GPs will be paid the same amount for delivering health services in 2020 as they were in 2014. The government, however, refuses to lift the rebate freeze.
Labor: Capitalising on one of Labor’s old strengths, healthcare, the Party criticises the funding cuts employed by the Abbott government. Bill Shorten promises to end the rebate freeze from 2017, restore MBS indexation and fund hospitals “to a far greater level than the Turnbull government.”
Greens: The Greens have proposed removing the private health insurance rebate (costing the government $5 billion annually) and reinvesting the savings into the public healthcare system instead. The Greens promise to reverse the infamous $57 billion cut for medical services by the Abbott government.
Coalition: Although, the Coalition had announced an additional funding of $1.2 billion for schools from 2018-20, it has not yet committed to restore the $28 billion of projected funding growth removed by the 2014 budget.
Labor: Another traditional strength of the Labor Party. The Party has committed to fulfill the entire six year Gonski Plan, including the final two years at the cost of $4.5 billion over 2018-19. The total package will cost the Party over $37 billion over the decade.
Greens: The Greens are all in for the needs-based schools funding and aim to cut some of the funding provided to the private schools by the federal government and redirect it to private school.
Coalition: The government has pledged and aims to cut down emissions by 26% to 28% by 2030.
Labor: The Labor Party has proposed two emission trading schemes, aim to cut down to pollution by 45% and increase the energy dependent on renewables by 50% by 2030.
Greens: The Greens plan to bring about a shift to upto 90% of the energy being produced by renewables by 2030. They also want to increase the clean energy finance to $30 billion over ten years. The party has announced a $2.9 billion five year scheme for over a million homes and 30,000 business to take up renewable energy storage units.
Coalition: According to the government, the best way to deal with housing affordability is to increase supply. The Coalition has promised not to touch negative gearing or the Capital Gains Tax. To increase supply, the government is targeting zoning laws and land releases.
Labor: The Labor Party aims to restrict negative gearing on new houses (ie from July 2017). It also wants to cut the Capital Gains Tax discount from 50% to 25% after July 2017.
Greens: The Greens want to abolish negative gearing and the Capital Gains Tax. They plan to phase out negative gearing for all non-business asset classes and phase out 50% of the CGT by 10% each year starting July 2016, until there is no discount from July 2020.
Coalition: The government says that it has “stopped the boats”. This has involved using detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru. It has stuck to this policy despite concerns about conditions of the detention centres and returning boats to countries unsafe to asylum seekers.
Labor: The Labor Party condemns any policy unfavourable to asylum seekers. It supports regional processing but doesn’t want it to degrade to indefinite detention.
Greens: The Greens want to shut down the detention centres in Manus Island and Nauru. They also propose increasing the country’s annual refugee intake to 50,000.
9Industrial Relations and Foreign Ownership
Coalition: The government has promised to reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commission. Using a registered organised commission, it wants to crack down on unions, with harsher penalties for misconduct.
The Coalition’s Free Trade Agreement has opened up the market access to China, Japan and Korea. They have lowered the threshold of farmland ownership for China, Japan and South Korea from $242 million to $15 million.
Labor: The Labor Party is against creating a new union watchdog, unlike the Coalition. They have proposed giving the Australian Securities and Investment Commission the power to investigate serious industrial law breaches instead. Being pro worker rights, the Labor Party opposes the Australian Building and Construction Commission as they claim that the ABCC infringes the workers’ rights and singles out the construction industry singularly.
Labor wants to increase the foreign farmland sales threshold to China, South Korea and Japan to $50 million.
Greens: The Greens are in opposition of both the ideas of registering another organisation commission and reinstating the Australian Building and Construction Commission. The Greens want to give the Fair Work Commission powers to convert long-term casual employees to permanent employees.
10Tertiary and Vocational Education
Coalition: The 2016 budget saw a 20% cut in per student subsidies until 2018. The government’s previous policy on fee deregulation has been dumped. As of now, the government is assessing alternative options and has no higher education policy to take to the elections.
Labor: The Labor Party opposes the Coalition’s stand on fee deregulation. It pledges to cap vocational education loans to students attending private colleges. Loans will be capped at $8,000 per year to crack down on dodgy private colleges.
Greens: The Greens are in total favour of free university, tertiary and further education.
Coalition: The Coalition government promises to hold a plebiscite on same sex marriage. The anti-discrimination law will not be suspended, as attorney general, George Brandis ruled.
Labor: Bill Shorten pledged that the Labor Party would hold a parliamentary vote on the subject within 100 days of the next election.
Greens: Greens are in complete favour of same-sex marriage and want to have a parliamentary vote on the issue
These are the major policies adopted by the parties. What do you want? More tax or less tax for business? Should Gonski remain or not? Negative gearing and Capital Gains: yes or no?
Choose carefully, your vote counts!