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Federal

Feb 28, 2014

Coalition takes a brave stand on Labor’s territory of jobs

The Coalition is doing the right thing on industry handouts, but it is playing to Labor's strength with voters. The opposition is ahead in the polls because voters are worried about jobs.

Labor made an interesting tactical decision on Monday that perhaps does more to explain its current surprisingly strong opinion polling than anything else.

Labor could have used question time to chase Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, who had been forced to admit on Saturday night that his initial story about the killing of Reza Barati, whom he implied had brought his injuries on himself by escaping, was wrong. They could have used it to chase Health Minister Fiona Nash over her peculiarly pro-food industry take on her portfolio duties. Instead, Labor came into question time and asked about jobs. Morrison’s unravelling attempt to blame Barati for his own death didn’t get a question until 25 minutes in. Nash came after that.

The pursuit of Morrison petered out during the week, and Labor’s heart rarely seemed to be in it, appropriately given they reopened Manus Island; only toward the end of the week did Morrison and Prime Minister Tony Abbott look uncomfortable as Labor extracted that Morrison had waited a long time after finding out he was wrong about the location of Barati’s attack before revealing it. Health shadow Catherine King’s pursuit of Nash was more successful, despite the best efforts of Speaker Bronwyn Bishop to block any scrutiny of the government. King repeatedly asked why there was such a gap between Nash’s account of events — in which staffer Alastair Furnival had selflessly fallen on his sword because he had become a political liability — and Abbott’s version of events, in which Furnival had broken the code of conduct for ministerial staff and had to resign. Abbott’s way of explaining the difference was to refuse to explain.

But Labor’s focus all week was on jobs outside Parliament, as Qantas served up yet another in what for the Coalition must be an infuriating series of high-profile job loss announcements. Yesterday Labor backbenchers repeatedly taunted Abbott that for every three-minute answer he gave, another job was lost. Shorten asked Abbott to show the same tenacity he was displaying in defending Nash’s job for the jobs of other Australians.

This is Labor’s natural territory. Even during the dark days of 2011 and 2012 under Julia Gillard, when voters seemed to have acquired a violent hatred of all things Labor, they still rated it as the party better at protecting Australian jobs. And much of politics since the election has been fought on exactly this territory.

In taking the decisions not to provide handouts to General Motors and SPC Ardmona, the government has displayed guts and good sense. But it has also handed Labor a weapon to exploit the succession of job cut announcements; the impression that the Coalition simply doesn’t care about jobs. The most effective political messages are the ones that reinforce voters’ views, not contradict them. This is one message that resonates with voters.

That will be even more the case after Abbott signalled in question time yesterday that no loan guarantees for Qantas would be forthcoming because, as he so correctly and pithily put it, “[w]hy should the government do for one what it is not prepared to do for all?”. But the Prime Minister’s comment came two weeks after Treasurer Joe Hockey had gone to great lengths to explain the four criteria that he believed Qantas satisfied for exactly that question.

The government’s sudden lack of interest in loan guarantees may be a way of ramping up the pressure on Labor to back (much-needed) changes to the Qantas Sale Act to allow greater foreign investment. But it’s a risky ploy when the government already has a reputation for sitting back and doing nothing to stop job losses, and it will be very hard for the government now to extend loan guarantees to Qantas down the track without offering the same to the rest of the domestic aviation sector.

Meantime, Labor will get on with cynically exploiting the government’s willingness to hold the line on industry handouts. That’s what oppositions do — and after Abbott’s behaviour as opposition leader, entirely unsurprising. Judging by the polls, it’s also paying off with voters who grow more worried about their own job prospects with every Holden, every Toyota, every Alcoa, every Qantas …

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40 comments

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40 thoughts on “Coalition takes a brave stand on Labor’s territory of jobs

  1. Jimmy

    The Libs are hadning the ALP a gift in job losses but they are also handing them other gifts – in fact in 6 months this govt has done almost everything possible to reinforce every negative thought the voter would have of them, they don’t care about job losses, they want to cut penalty rates and blame workers for businesses being uncompetitive, they want to slash medicare and are out of touch with the average voter.

  2. MJPC

    The LNP can’t help it, Howard did it in his time (and lost the election and his seat) and Abbott is on the nose after 6 months. Their solution to all ills is to screw the worker but they aren’t reading the tea leaves in Bronwyn Bishops teacup.
    The proletariat don’t trust any politicians and when they don’t have a game plan (ecept benefit the rich, or their mates: sometime one and the same) they doubly don’t trust them. Look to NSW, the LNP was all self righteous over the Obeid sage now the LNP has a nest of rats in their ranks smelling of the same deals. It’s not Federal, but they all get banded together.
    All that has to happen now is a recession (likely) or interest rates rise; ?; (or both) and Abbots goose is cooked!

  3. Jimmy

    MJPC – An interest rate rise is very unlikely short to medium term but a recession is very likely (which I have been prediciting would occur under Abbott for some time) – business investment is already down since he got in (wasn’t the opposite supposed to happen SB)if they cut govt spedning significantly in May a recession won’t be too far away – at the very least unemployment will continue to rise.

    The ridiculous thing is by scrapping the Carbon & mining taxes Abbott is deniyng himself of revenue to use to encourage business investment.

  4. klewso

    Abbott will have to take us to war soon, to win the next election?

  5. Jimmy

    Klewos – MAybe that explains his attitude towards indonesia – he did promise a more Jakarta focused govt.

  6. klewso

    …. but if QANTAS was made out of chocolate, and had a ministerial staffer in it’s hangar ….?

  7. klewso

    Labor has every right to pursue this sort of m.o. Abbott was allowed to get away with it.

  8. Jimmy

    The big difference was that Abbott had his media cheersquad.
    Is it just me or do opinion polls appear far less on the nightly news than they did under the ALP?

  9. Scott

    “The ridiculous thing is by scrapping the Carbon & mining taxes Abbott is deniyng himself of revenue to use to encourage business investment”

    Investment decisions are not made through Government handouts. Investment decisions in the private sector are made by comparing the return on the investment/project with the cost of capital of the business/division. These things are determined in part by the tax rates (which affect cash flows for the returns) and interest rates (which determine the cost of debt and also equity, indirectly).
    Getting rid of the mining and carbon taxes and the Reserve dropping interest rates will have a more positive affect on investment than anything else the Government could do.

  10. Jimmyhaz

    An interest rate rise is highly unlikely. A recession, however, is inevitable.

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