Who will become the next prime minister? Picture: AAP Image/Erik Anderson
Who will become the next prime minister? Picture: AAP Image/Erik Anderson

Why this election is a game-changer

COMMENT

This is a profoundly important election, and the large-scale characters and oddball side issues on parade should not distract from that.

The outcome will set the map for Australia's medium- and long-term future on matters that affect us every day, from employment to climate change.

That's not an empty platitude that can be rolled out every election campaign. This time it has substance, because the alternatives are so clearly opposites.

A key feature of this election is that Labor has for more than a year been promoting a policy package that has remained largely intact into the campaign.

If this strategy fails, it could scare off any future attempts by parties to release a platform early.

The basic contest is stark.

Bill Shorten has unveiled often a suite of policies from opposition. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch
Bill Shorten has unveiled often a suite of policies from opposition. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch

For example, the election will decide the structure of our tax system and its objectives - how the government should collect revenue and how it should be spent.

In essence, it is a contest between a Labor Party pursuing traditional redistribution policies to underpin and expand government services, and a Liberal Party betting its economic management will solve problems.

The Liberals want to reinforce the economy with Budget surpluses and give tax rewards to those who "have a go".

Labor also wants to produce surpluses but is emphasising the provision of services, such as better-funded health care, and accusing opponents of wanting to cut those services.

The election will elevate a government that favours greater intervention in a range of affairs, or one that broadly wants matters decided by the dynamics of the economy.

Bill Shorten would use the authority of government to push up wages and restore penalty rates; Scott Morrison wants to boost economic and corporate growth so increased demand for workers sees wages rise.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is banking on a strong economy to get him over the line. Picture: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is banking on a strong economy to get him over the line. Picture: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

These are complex matters and require better than glib scrutiny, and an ability to ignore the campaign sideshows.

The political centre stage has been monopolised by personalities ranging from the familiar - Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten to Clive Palmer and Pauline Hanson - to a collection of more-obscure players and opportunists.

Mr Morrison in particular wants voters to elect a prime minister, not a government, in his presidential-style campaign.

"I'm very happy for the election to be about who you want to be prime minister, me or Bill Shorten," he said this week.

Agendas have been cluttered by fringe issues candidates have been asked to address including whether gays will go to Hell.

Further, many of the major policy debates might not directly involve you. For example, Labor calculates its removal of four big tax concessions would be barely noticed by most.

It argues its franking credits reforms would not affect 96 per cent of Australians, its superannuation changes 95 per cent, family trust reforms would leave 98 per cent of Australians untouched, and limiting the tax deductibility of using an accountant would ignore 99 per cent.

In addition, Labor's limits on negative gearing would not affect anyone already using the tax concession.

However, we are all involved because the measures would bring in some $154 billion in revenue if implemented, the use of that money would be important, and there would be equity questions.

The Liberals also are insisting the negative gearing moves would affect us all by increasing rents and lowering the values on housing.

Bill Shorten is striving to follow Gough Whitlam, Bob Hawke and Kevin Rudd in winning Labor a government from Opposition.

Scott Morrison wants to revive the stability of Robert Menzies and John Howard by appealing to the "honest, decent" voters and demonising Mr Shorten.

Informed voters will decide who will - and should - succeed.


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