If Australians have a tendency to vote to push governments out rather than to vote them in, the tail-end of 2017 looks like it’s wagging in the direction of a new government at the next election.
Voters have watched the citizenship crisis gradually erode the Coalition’s majority in both houses as Malcolm Turnbull tries to keep his fractured party together.
Meanwhile, Bill Shorten is looking more appealing to voters by the day, but what does he actually stand for?
Crikey takes you through Labor’s campaign promises from the past year.
Bill Shorten announced Labor’s Climate Change Action Plan this year, pledging his party would work to ensure 50% of Australia’s electricity would be sourced through renewable energy by 2030.
He also said Labor would introduce an emissions trading scheme to limit pollution levels, pledging a 45% reduction compared to the Coalition’s target of 28%.
The Prime Minister was quick to respond, dismissing Labor’s plans for an ETS as “effectively another tax”.
However, Shorten was emphatic that the ETS was not a carbon tax, nor was Labor proposing a fixed price on pollution.
In a letter to the Prime Minister on June 9, he offered bipartisan support in drafting climate policy ahead of the release of Alan Finkel’s Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market.
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The government went on to accept 49 of the 50 recommendations made in the Finkel review, rejecting the recommendation for a clean energy target.
In July, Shorten promised to implement all 50 recommendations, including a lower emissions scheme, if elected next year.
Penalty rate cuts
In February, the Fair Work Commission handed down a decision to cut penalty rates for hospitality and retail workers.
Labor was swift to condemn the cuts. In June, it introduced a private member’s bill to the Senate to bring the changes to a halt. Despite Coalition backbencher George Christensen’s controversial decision to cross the floor in support of the bill, it was defeated by one vote.
Bill Shorten then turned the issue into a campaign promise, vowing to reinstate full penalty rates if Labor wins the next federal election.
The Prime Minister responded to Shorten’s election promise by labelling him a hypocrite, since he was responsible for instigating the commission as workplace relations minister under Julia Gillard in the first place.
“This is Bill Shorten’s decision: he initiated it, he backed it, he owns it. That’s why he’s now desperate to blame anyone other than himself,” he said.
Royal commission into banks
In April, Shorten promised that Labor would conduct a royal commission into banks if elected at the next federal election, but he may not have to wait until next year.
An internal division from within the Coalition government has seen Nationals Senator Barry O’Sullivan drafting a private member’s bill for a commission of inquiry into banks — a move that is more in line with Labor policy than the Coalition’s.
Bill Shorten said he would back the bill. O’Farrell said preliminary talks with Greens over the weekend and the possibility of Nationals backbenchers crossing the floor could see the bill passed quickly through the Senate.
And with lower house MPs Barnaby Joyce and John Alexander away campaigning for their respective byelections, they could have the numbers to pass it.
Border protection and asylum seekers
While Labor supports processing refugees in detention centres, the party has been critical of the Coalition’s management of them.
Ahead of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s visit to Australia in November, Bill Shorten urged Malcolm Turnbull to take up her offer to resettle 150 Manus Island detainees, saying “Doing nothing is not an option”.
Of course, Labor’s own asylum seeker policy has been less than consistent over the years, and, at times, largely indistinguishable from the Coalition’s policies on the issue.
Among Labor’s campaign promises are more funding for the UNHCR, a higher intake of refugees, more protections for children in detention and the issuing of more temporary protection visas (TPVs).
Ending modern slavery
Late on the list of Labor’s campaign policies is a pledge to take steps to end modern slavery — specifically human trafficking and worker exploitation across the agriculture and manufacturing industries.
It might seem like a wildcard policy considering the broader issues being pushed in parliament this year, but it’s one that has been quietly gaining traction. In September, Four Corners broadcast an investigation into worker exploitation in the agricultural industry, and yesterday a report released by the University of New South Wales and University of Technology Sydney showed one in three international students and backpackers are being grossly underpaid.
In June, Shorten announced Labor would campaign for the creation of a Modern Slavery Act requiring major Australian companies to disclose the steps they are taking to eradicate worker exploitation. We’ll be waiting to see whether Australians will take this up as an election issue.