Labor will abandon plans to make any changes whatsoever to Australia’s controversial franking credit system, as part of Anthony Albanese’s election game plan which also includes stepping up the direct attacks on Scott Morrison.
With the next federal election tipped for late 2021 or early 2022, this entire year could feasibly be treated as one long campaign, and the opposition leader has wasted no time in laying down how the ALP will frame the next poll.
In a speech he will deliver to Labor Party members in Victoria on Saturday, Mr Albanese reveals the ALP’s national campaign committee is already working ahead in anticipation of a possible election before the year is out.
“Our task is to get rid of Scott Morrison by standing up for Australian values as the permanent basis for governing this great nation,” Mr Albanese will say, according to an advance copy of the speech distributed by his office.
“The battle ahead will be one of values – whether people are held back and left behind.”
In the speech – to be delivered via video to party members in the Victorian seats of Dunkley, Bruce and Isaacs – the Labor leader will outline the party’s election “pitch”, highlighting key planks of jobs, productivity and climate change. But of particular note is one policy that won’t be on Labor’s platform for the next election.
Following a party review into the failed 2019 campaign, which found – in Mr Albanese’s words – that Labor “failed to present a clear and concise narrative which explained an optimistic sense of what our country could become”, the ALP will dump former leader Bill Shorten’s plan to reform franking credits.
“The Review identified the need for focussing on our future positive agenda, but also that voters were distracted from that by issues including franking credits,” Mr Albanese will say in his Saturday speech.
“I can confirm that Labor has heard that message clearly and that we will not be taking any changes to franking credits to the next election.”
The unexpectedly fierce furore over franking credits was highlighted as one of several issues that doomed Labor’s 2019 campaign. Mr Shorten’s plan – to cut tax rebates on shareholders, given to self-funded retirees who paid no tax – became a surprise flashpoint in the campaign, and was branded a “retiree tax” by the government.
The policy was criticised by some in Labor after the election loss as too complicated and dense, and that the party had not been able to clearly explain it to Australians.
Mr Albanese had previously said Labor would not bring the same franking credits plan to the next poll, calling it a “tough ask”, but had not scrapped the push entirely.
Saturday’s speech now consigns franking credits reform to the trash.
Conservative values ‘useless’: Albanese
Elsewhere in the speech, Mr Albanese signals Labor’s plans to ramp up direct attacks on Prime Minister Morrison. The opposition has continually derided the PM as “Scotty from Marketing”, a line first created by satirical website The Betoota Advocate, but has expanded that rhetoric by constantly criticising the government as “all photo op, no follow-up”.
Don’t expect that to let up, judging from Mr Albanese’s speech.
“Scott Morrison is a showman who loves grand announcements but never delivers,” he will say.
Mr Albanese further goes on to call the PM “a fake”, and claiming he “stands for nothing except advertising campaigns, selfies and favours for Liberal mates.”
Mr Albanese called 2020 “the year from hell”, and claimed progressive values would be vital to rebuild after the COVID pandemic.
“Just as conservative political values were useless during the pandemic, they also offer us little in the rebuilding phase,” he will say.
“We should use the recovery to address some of the deficiencies in our society so our nation is built back stronger, fairer and more resilient.”
Mr Albanese will also highlight some crucial political powder kegs due to explode in 2021, flagging where Labor will mount early attacks. He slams as “WorkChoices Mark II” the industrial relations omnibus bill unveiled by Christian Porter late last year, an escalation of his initial rhetoric.
Mr Albanese also flagged the Leppington Triangle airport land purchase, a national integrity commission, climate change and the ‘sports rorts’ scandal as issues which would be high on Labor’s agenda in 2021.