The Inside Word

Stalking horse – Super Profits Tax on the way?

When the government changes the country changes,” famously said by former PM Paul Keating in 1996 prior to the Howard landslide. 

Never have these words been truer, as the Albanese Government drives its agenda across the whole gamut of economic, cultural, and institutional reform underpinning Australian society. 

With Federal Parliament resuming next week don’t be tricked into thinking that all was quiet during the winter recess, with the national conversation on the Voice, PMs overseas trips and the Australians retaining the Ashes against England.

Paul Keating is right; despite the small majority enjoyed by the Albanese Government the country is changing rapidly. Both the political and industrial arm of the ALP and the Trade Union movement are moving hand-in-glove to fundamentally transfer capital and wealth from business and higher income earners to the lower quartile of earners. 

The speech given by the head of the CFMEU Zach Smith at the National Press Club on Wednesday the 25th is a preview of what’s to come.

The essential argument advocated by Australia’s most militant union is that a super profits tax needs to be imposed on big businesses to generate more revenue to be refunnelled to create more social and affordable housing.

There is no question Australia has a housing crisis fueled by a massive lack of availability, affordability, and accessibility propelled by rising interest rates, inflation, and immigration. 

Using third parties like unions as a stalking horse to promote fundamental policy changes through is not an original story but the audacity and scale of this is rare.

It was further validated by a full-page advertisement in the Financial Review sponsored by the CFMEU and MUA with the subtitle “End the Housing Crisis, Tax Super Profits.”

Tactically the benefits of having the union campaign on such controversial reform allows the hard heads in the ALP to gauge overall sentiment whilst softening up public opinion. It also allows plausible deniability by the Government should the response be unfavourable. This is clever politics and clever policy. 

The last thing the Albanese Government wants is to open another hostile front with business. The big business community is already struggling with draconian industrial relations reforms introduced by the Government, yet one of the Government’s greatest supporters for the Yes case campaign on the Voice has been big business.

Concurrently, Treasurer Jim Chalmer’s quest to reform key institutions and make new appointments to the Reserve Bank and the Productivity Commission knows no abating. This along with Minister Jason Claire recently announcing policy reforms to higher education and endless advocacy by Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen on the energy transition, is just a few of the significant policy advancements that have taen place over the winter recess.

The crescendo for much of this current policy and cultural debate like the super profits tax, will be on full display at ALP National Conference in Brisbane from the 17th to Saturday the 19th of August. 

This is the real test for the ALP, the battle for ideas, policy and ideology between the Unions, the factions and the members from the far left to the far right.

For Prime Minister Albanese and his Cabinet, success at the ALP Conference will hold the party together neutralizing vexed issues like AUKUS and Palestine, whilst allowing others to flourish like a super profits tax. 

Paul Keating was right ‘when you change the Government, you change the country.’

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