Kim Beazley won kinder headlines this morning for a Budget reply that
included a fairer set of tax cuts, a well-aimed attack on the Budget’s
failings and a few decent lines crafted by Bob Ellis.

Labor MPs returned to their electorates feeling just a little more
chirpy than the previous day, when the media universally panned
Beazley’s decision to block Costello’s tax cuts. But the truth is, it’s
hard to see how Labor can still oppose the government’s tax cuts in the
Senate, where it counts.

Labor will surely have to climb down in the name of sensible politics.
It seems silly and pointless to carry on a fight with such negative
results – and an eventual assured loss when the Coalition gains control
of the Senate from 1 July.

Better tactics to have the government vote down Labor’s proposed $12
increase, then accept the invitablity and let low income earners get
their $6: a win, win. That would not be a bad recovery from
Beazley; except there should have been no need for it to have been a

If Beazley really was determined to block the Costello cuts come hell
or high water, he should have held his fire on Budget night. By
allowing himself to be flushed out early, he missed his opportunity to
land his punches in Parliament last night. A bold announcement to
block the cuts should have been saved for the Budget in reply.

Beazley could have attacked Costello for not getting it right while
Costello was preoccupied with the leadership challenge. He should have
announced his
version of the tax cut by saying he intended to move them as amendments
– and challenge Howard to correct Costello’s blunder by supporting the
opposition’s amendments.

The amendments would, of course, been defeated in the lower house and
need not be introduced in the Senate. He would have made his point,
saved the pain of being painted a tax nark, while exploiting the
Coalition’s leadership tension.