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Some good news from Oz (crosspost from Crooked Timber)

Summary:
Over the last few years, the Australian and UK Labor/Labour[1] parties, have followed strikingly parallel paths. A better-than expected result with a relatively progressive platform (Oz 2016, UK 2017) A demoralizing defeat in 2019, followed by the election of a new more conservative leader (Albanese, Starmer) Wholesale abandonment of the program Failure of the rightwing government to handle Covid and other problmes Because we have elections every three years, Australia is now ahead of the UK and we now have a Labor government led by Anthony Albanese. In its election campaign and its first eighteen months in office, Labor ran on a platform of implementing rightwing policies with better processes and minor tweaks to the most repressive aspects. This is, AFAICT, what can be

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Over the last few years, the Australian and UK Labor/Labour[1] parties, have followed strikingly parallel paths.

  • A better-than expected result with a relatively progressive platform (Oz 2016, UK 2017)
  • A demoralizing defeat in 2019, followed by the election of a new more conservative leader (Albanese, Starmer)
  • Wholesale abandonment of the program
  • Failure of the rightwing government to handle Covid and other problmes

Because we have elections every three years, Australia is now ahead of the UK and we now have a Labor government led by Anthony Albanese. In its election campaign and its first eighteen months in office, Labor ran on a platform of implementing rightwing policies with better processes and minor tweaks to the most repressive aspects. This is, AFAICT, what can be expected from Starmer in the UK.

But over the last month or so, we’ve had a series of significant policy wins, which may set the stage for more.

First, Labor had inherited from the previous government a staged program of tax cuts, and had promised to implement the final Stage 3 unchanged. The Stage 3 tax cuts massively favored high income earners and would have eliminated most of the progressivity in the tax system. Despite continuous pressure from Labor and Greens supporters, Albanese repeatedly restated his commitment to the promised cuts. But, facing a critical by-election, and (presumably) getting bad news from the pollsters, he suddenly announced the tax cuts would be remodelled, giving less to those at the top of the scale and more to every one else. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive, to the point where the conservative party decided not to oppose the change, while signalling that they would propose more and better cuts at the next election. The result was to re-open previously off-limits areas of tax for discussion, such as the treatment of capital gains.

Next, it was announced that Australia would finally have a vehicle fuel efficiency standard (we’re the only OECD country that doesn’t). This resolve a lengthy dispute about the treatment of ‘utes’ (utility vehicles, broadly equivalent to US pickup trucks), used by trades workers, but more broadly popular as a cultural symbol of masculinity. The fuel efficiency standard followed an announcement late last year of a strengthened renewable electricity policy. However, none of this has stopped the government approving new coal and gas projects aimed at the export market,

Finally, thanks to an amendment from the Greens, recently passed industrial relations laws included a ‘right to disconnect’, giving workers the right to ignore out-of-hours calls and emails, without being penalised. It seems as if Australia is actually ahead of the international pack on this one.

I don’t know if this is a harbinger of more good news in Australia, let alone whether anything similar might be expected from a Starmer-led government in Britain. But it’s nice to have some good news for once.

fn1. Although Australia follows UK spellings of words like “labour”, the Australian Labor Party adopted the US spelling a century or so ago, for reasons that are now obscure

John Quiggin
He is an Australian economist, a Professor and an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow at the University of Queensland, and a former member of the Board of the Climate Change Authority of the Australian Government.

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