As the Prime Minister enjoyed a tropical holiday in Fiji this week, the conventional wisdom said the Labor Party was “split” over whether to support the tax cuts in their entirety.
Here’s an observation on where Anthony Albanese is headed with the tax cuts when Parliament returns: If the Labor leader really wanted to shutdown the debate and stop MPs canvassing the idea of supporting the entire package he would have done so by now.
He hasn’t – and that tells you something important.
Instead, he is allowing a debate to unfold in a way he believes was not always possible under Bill Shorten’s leadership.
While the ALP team showed incredible unity over six years, there were complaints of a “kitchen cabinet” of the leadership group failing to consult the party.
There are risks in this position of course.
The danger is the Morrison government can crucify Labor and call on them to allow for a free vote for Labor MPs if shadow cabinet decides to only back stages one and two.
And even if Mr Albanese supports the tax cuts, the Liberal Party will move straight to an argument about whether Labor will repeal the tax cuts if it wins the next election.
For a party that barely cracked one in three votes at the election, you could be forgiven for thinking they are the government, such is the media attention.
From elevating Kristina Keneally, to expelling the CFMEU’s John Setka, and now the saga of the tax cuts, the Labor Party knows how to bring Married At First Sight-level drama to the table.
But more importantly, there are future ramifications for the budget, the economy and a future Labor government.
If Labor agrees to back the entire $158 billion package, it will be locked into delivering if it wins the next election and locked into paying it even if the ALP doesn’t have another prime minister until 2025.
Having just spent over a year campaigning against the tax cuts for high income earners, the Labor Party is seriously considering waving the entire package through.
Voters might wondering what would have been if Labor had taken this approach during the election – although they certainly would not have been able to fund their health and education platform.
That’s another reason why this call is so important. It has spending and revenue implications for the next two elections and beyond.
“We are considering it, but one of the things we are waiting for, as well, is for the government to give us the information that we’ve requested,” Mr Albanese told Channel Nine.
“They don’t have a blank cheque. And they won’t say what cuts they will make.”
You can only imagine that the old guard of Mr Shorten, Chris Bowen and Jim Chalmers are not exactly thrilled with that.
But to be fair, while Mr Chalmers is sceptical of the stage three tax cuts – worth a stunning $95 billion – he has not arrived at a final position.
While he did tell the first cabinet meeting these tax cuts were “offensive” he hasn’t ruled out a pragmatic approach.
Victorian Labor MP Peter Khalil was the first to break ranks before Queensland’s Graham Perrett also called for debate.
Their position is not to support the Liberals’ tax cuts on policy grounds but to consider support in the interests of pragmatism.
As The New Daily reported, Labor frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon told the first shadow cabinet meeting on June 4 it was time to stop pretending to be a “government in exile” and stop saving the Liberal Party from itself.
Right now, Scott Morrison remains lucky. And not just because he’s spent the week gently swaying in a hammock and hanging out at the beach.
Even the Federal Court’s recent ruling on allowing doctors to send asylum seekers to Australia without examination or interview was heaven-sent for the government.
Given Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton recently admitted only around 30 asylum seekers had arrived under the laws not the “opening of the floodgates” Australia was warned about, the reasons for revisiting the legislation seemed flimsy.
The Morrison government’s defeat at the Federal Court actually strengthens the government’s hand.