Jun 20, 2018

Labor aspires to exorcise the ghost of Howard

Labor has again defied political common sense and invited a scare campaign on income tax cuts. Will its luck run out, or will Malcolm Turnbull stuff it up again?

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

Aspiration (noun): a drawing of something in, out, up, or through by or as if by suction.

In political terms, Labor's decision to oppose the government's three-stage tax bill is eccentric. It exposes Labor to a campaign about denying workers tax cuts. It defies Labor's history -- Labor under Kevin Rudd fell into line with the Howard government's pre-election tax cuts in 2007. The whole rationale for the government's single bill is to try to wedge Labor. And the alternative would hardly have been unpalatable -- decline to oppose the government's bill but warn the later stages of the tax cuts would be replaced with Labor's tax cuts, targeted at low and middle income earners, if it wins government. Instead, once again, Labor took the "brave" option. That saw the third stage of the tax cuts knocked off in the Senate this morning and the possibility that stage two will be as well, although the government might yet muster the crossbench numbers for the bill before Parliament rises for winter next week.

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