Don’t look now, but we might actually have an Australian Labor Party.

After three years of somnambulance with only the occasional weak “there is no daylight between the government and the opposition on …”, Labor appears to have suddenly jolted awake and remembered it might be in its political interest to start representing the working class and marginalised.

Hour after dreary hour of question times spent castigating Mal Brough and demanding that the government rule GST changes in or out have faded into a Stilnox-induced nightmare, with Labor finally committing to an eminently sensible policy to do away with negative gearing for existing housing stock from 2017. Labor also wants to change capital gains tax concessions to make a dent in upper-class welfare.

Malcolm Turnbull went on a blistering attack of the policy. “Bill Shorten’s policy is calculated to reduce the value of your home,” he thundered to Parliament. By “your” we assume he meant the blue-blood millionaire constituents of the Liberal Party. And in the hope that housing may one day be affordable for the young and low-income, we are crossing our fingers he is right. “Unlike the Liberal Party, who thinks that the Australian dream is to negatively gear your seventh house, we think the Australian dream is to able to afford to buy your first house,” said Bill Shorten, looking for all the world like an actual opposition leader.

Shorten, not a gent we usually associate with the phrase, seems to have a fire in his belly of late. He has defended anti-bullying program the Safe Schools Coalition, after Turnbull caved (again) to his conservative masters and called for an investigation into it. And in mic-drop exchange with Cory Bernardi this morning, Shorten called out to him: “At least I’m not a homophobe either, mate.”

Perhaps metadata, mass surveillance and offshore detention could use a little attention from Labor, since they’re awake anyway?

Peter Fray

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