Don’t mention the war

I remember reading somewhere about Kafka that in all his diaries there’s not a single mention of World War One, which raged beyond the borders towards the last years of his life.

You can speculate as to the reason. Perhaps, as it would appear superficially, he had no interest in it. On the other hand, maybe it infuriated him so that he refused to write about it. Or perhaps his diaries were kept only for his most intimate thoughts.

Whatever the reason, I sympathise. I’ve studiously avoided comment on the federal politics, and the pending election, though it’s forever in my mind. No matter how many times I swear off it I can’t help but be a politically committed character. I eat it up, and sometimes it eats me up. I’m into economics and generally I’m fascinated by the political process. On top of that I’m passionate about getting the best deal for Australians. I get frustrated and infuriated by the basic and deeply imbued ineptitude of recent governments. More recently ineptitude has tended towards dodgy dealings, if not outright corruption.

I need and want change desperately, but if I haven’t written about it it’s because I can’t bring myself to put into words the tangled thoughts and sheer passion I feel. I’ve chosen to keep it separate, as I expect Kafka did. I can’t keep silent forever though.

The election is on May 18. Labor are poised to win, which will be a blessed relief. In recent years it’s been the case that you’re more likely to vote against one mob than you are to vote for the other. This time I’ll very definitely be voting against the incompetent and spiteful Morrison government, but equally I’ll be voting for the Shorten alternative.

To Morrison first. I’ve long held that he is a blathering fool and the election campaign has done nothing to dissuade me from that view. He holds to Pentecostal teachings but – like so many of the self-proclaimed devout – is a moral vacuum. His priority first and foremost is to secure his political future, by any means available, including outright lies. Everything is secondary to that, including the good of the people he governs for. It explains the lack of political substance or vision and the repetition of old tropes designed to incite fear and cause division.

It’s an interesting question who I hold in more contempt, Tony Abbott or Scott Morrison. Abbott has the virtue at least of being an honest fool. He had an ideology that he held to, bereft as it was. Morrison has no other ideology than to be re-elected. He’s as slippery as an eel. He believes in nothing but his own survival and everything is fodder for that. You could make a strong argument that makes him more despicable than Abbott. Both are shallow vessels. Unfortunately, both have led governments short on talent and morality.

I’ve never been a fan of Shorten – he’s capable of back-sliding as well – but he has a talented team behind him, and is a parlaying a policy agenda more sweeping than anything since the Hawke-Keating years. He gets high marks for being bold. As it happens, I’m all in for pretty much he’s advocating as I think it will make Australia both fairer and ultimately more productive. It’s been a long time since I was so excited by a set of policies. Not since the great man himself, Paul Keating.

The two high-profile proposals relate to Franking credits and capital gains tax.

Right now the Australian government pays about $6 billion annually as tax refunds on franked dividends to people – generally self-funded retirees – who have paid no tax in the first instance. In essence they get a refund of something they never expended. Australia is the only country in the world that does this, and it only applies to a small percentage of wealthy individuals who could well do without it. Unfortunately it takes from the government coffers money better spent on schools and hospitals and infrastructure that will benefit all. On multiple levels it’s a rort that has to go.

The proposed change to capital gains means that it can only be claimed on investment on new dwellings. To my mind this closes a loophole and encourages proper economic activity by encouraging investment in construction, rather than currently the ring-a-ring-a-rosy of investment in existing dwellings. These allowances should be of benefit of all, not just those who choose to invest. Right now it’s money for nothing. In the future it’ll still be free money, but out of it the economy will benefit in new construction, jobs, and economic activity.

Outside of that there are some great initiatives such as properly subsidising childcare. Right now the costs of childcare are so crippling, and workers underpaid, that it’s easier for many to be stay home parents than being at work. This will enable them to be gainfully employed and the economy as a whole will benefit. Dumping franking credits allows for this.

On top of that treatment for cancer will now also be free, and Medicare extended to include dentistry for pensioners – an obvious, but overdue, change.

Perhaps the biggest and most critical difference between the parties relates to climate change and the policies to mitigate it. The LNP, beholden to lobbyists and corporate donations, are stuck in a fossil fuels zone. They’ve blocked or reversed all initiatives to encourage alternative energy options. This is the big killer for the government, not that they really understand. Besides actually promising to do something about it, Labor are advocating for electric vehicles and schools with their own power generation.

This election the Labor party has finally become the progressive party it was when Hawke and Keating changed Australia for the better. We can’t afford for them to lose. And this is the last I’ll write on this until after the election.

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