There’s a new coalition governing Australia. On Thursday it was personal tax cuts and the contentious elimination of the 37.5 per cent tax bracket from 2024.
Next week it’s expected to be the reduction of the corporate tax rate from 30 percent to 25 percent.
Just how Finance Minister Mathias Cormann secured the support of the flip-flopping Senator Pauline Hanson’s One Nation to finally get the personal tax cuts through the Parliament and signed into law by the Governor-General on Thursday evening may only be revealed in a memoir in coming years.
But the prima facie evidence so far indicates Senator Hanson’s ultimate flip-flop and capitulation was assisted by some calculated front page spin doctoring by Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph newspaper.
Here’s the evidence.
Exhibit 1: Thursday, May 31, 2018.
In a tearful recrimination, Senator Hanson revealed her falling out with Senator Brian Burston and demanded he resign from One Nation.
But according to Senator Burston it was Senator Hanson who had unilaterally changed her mind against party policy and was now going to oppose the government’s proposed corporate tax cuts.
With the July 28 Longman byelection looming, there was urgent concern that One Nation preferences again would be decisive in that marginal Queensland seat.
She and One Nation had been derided by Labor as a hand-maiden of the big end of town, and it was obvious the tactic was working with One Nation supporters.
Her political vulnerability was exposed for all to see in that now famous Sky News interview.
Exhibit 2: Thursday, June 21, 2018.
All of a sudden her distress at being wedged by Labor as a sellout to working Australians was photoshopped away. It was decision day in the Senate on the Turnbull government’s “non-negotiable”, three-stage personal tax-cut package.
A front-page illustration inspired by the famous wartime Rosie the Riveter poster cast Senator Hanson in a blue collar, with clenched fist raised in socialist solidarity with the workers. It was the Tele trying to make out that Senator Hanson really was the battlers’ champion. She would now support the tax refund for low income earners from July 1 in an outflanking pitch for “Bill’s battlers”.
Pauline’s People front-paged the Tele. This conveniently ignored the fact that the enacting legislation would overwhelmingly benefit higher-income earners, much more than the crumbs to be made available to the battlers.
The Tele happily delivered a front page antidote to Senator Hanson’s distress at that biting negative perception. How did this happen?
Perhaps Senator Cormann, the Prime Minister’s office and/or the editor of the Tele, Chris Dore, will one day tell us. It would be interesting to examine the metadata showing any sequence of calls from all relevant mobile phones. (Only joking. Metadata rightly is only discoverable by law enforcement, national security and anti-corruption agencies).
Exhibit 3: Thursday, June 21, 2018.
An alert AAP photographer snapped a shot of Senator Hanson, dressed in dazzling socialist red, on her haunches whispering to a seated Finance Minister Mathias Cormann in the Senate chamber.
Senator Cormann had been able to coax her back to build nine decisive crossbench votes to win the day … with the expedient help of the Tele front page that morning. With the Senate vote on personal tax cuts carried 37 votes to 33, One Nation was firmly back in the government’s fold.
So there’s a new coalition governing Australia: The LNP/PHON/Murdoch Press. The next challenge on this coalition’s agenda is the Senate vote on those equally contentious corporate tax cuts.
Here’s a draft for the appropriate headline: PAULINE’S PEOPLE: BIG WINNERS FROM CORPORATE TAX CUTS
Most economists despair that neither personal nor corporate tax cuts can be justified while a substantial budget deficit remains. Any revenue reductions now will put greater pressure on the triple-A credit rating, requiring hurtful corrective action if the economy’s projected growth does not materialise.
And with a sub-optimal NBN and a massive infrastructure backlog made worse with population growth, our politics has been degraded into hip- pocket tit for tat. This is the Australia we’re standing in.
Quentin Dempster is a Walkley Award-winning journalist, author and broadcaster. He is a veteran of the ABC newsroom and has worked with print titles including The Sydney Morning Herald. He was awarded an Order of Australia in 1992 for services to journalism.