Over the last 2 years, the Liberal-National Government has passed several pieces of legislation that have put the interests of big corporations and the wealthy ahead of everyday people and the environment. Instead of holding them to account, the Labor opposition voted with the Coalition Government. Here’s five votes that show how Labor has lost its way.
Vote 1: Tax Cuts for the Mega Rich
In July 2019, Labor voted with the Liberals to pass stage three of the government's income tax cuts, officially known as the Treasury Laws Amendment (Tax Relief) Bill. This largely undid Australia’s progressive taxation system and locked in $95 billion in tax breaks for the wealthiest 20% of Australians. Analysis from the Parliamentary Budget Office suggests that the total tax cut legislation will cost Australia’s essential services $325 billion by the end of the decade, with high-income earners capturing almost 60% of the benefit.
Even though at the time Labor said they would repeal these tax cuts if they were elected, Labor has since backflipped and vowed to maintain these tax cuts. $95 billion is enough to close the funding gap for Australia’s primary schools for almost a decade, ensuring all Australian kids get a decent education. That money should be spent on vital public services. But Labor and the Liberals have promised to hand it over to the richest Australians – no matter what it costs the rest of us. The Greens opposed the stage 3 tax cuts, and will fight for a progressive tax system that makes billionaires, corporations and the ultra rich pay their fair share to fund health, education and job-creating renewable energy.
Vote 2: Public Money for Coal and Gas
In May of 2021, the Liberals introduced the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Amendment (Extension) Bill, which enables $5 billion of public money to be spent on fossil fuel projects like the Adani Carmichael mine and gas extraction in the Beetaloo Basin. Sadly, Labor voted with the Liberals to hand over public money to coal and gas corporations.
The NAIF, set up by Scott Morrison in 2015, is a massive slush fund designed to prop up the failing fossil fuel industry. In May, the Resources Minister stepped in to block the fund from investing $280 million in a north Queensland wind farm – insisting that the money go to coal and gas instead.
The Greens voted against this bill. We believe that Australia should be investing in job-creating renewable energy, not coal and gas. Instead, Labor voted to expand Morrison’s slush fund – actively funding climate change, and committing public money to an industry without a future.
Vote 3: Cutting Jobseeker below the Poverty Line
After months where the doubled Jobseeker rate lifted millions in Australia out of poverty, on February 2021, the Government introduced the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Income Support) Bill, which set the JobSeeker rate to just $43.50 a day – plunging millions of Australians into poverty overnight. The Greens moved an amendment calling on the Government to raise the rate of Jobseeker above the poverty line, but Labor voted with the Liberals to defeat the amendment.
The Parliamentary Budget Office has estimated it would only cost about $7 billion a year to ensure no Australian lives in poverty. We could pay for a decade of this out of Labor and the Liberals’ $95 billion tax break for the ultra-rich, or by putting a small tax on the wealth of Australian billionaires.
But Labor won’t commit to raising the rate, even if they win the next election. In fact, they won’t even say what they think the JobSeeker rate should be – leaving millions of Australians facing an uncertain future.
Vote 4: Opening Up Beetaloo Gas Basin
The Liberals and Labor are in lockstep on support for the climate-destroying gas industry. In June 2021, Labor voted with the Liberals to establish the Beetaloo Cooperative Drilling Program, handing big corporations $50 million in public money to drill for gas in the Northern Territory.
This is despite the fact that opening up the Beetaloo Basin to gas exploration has the potential to unleash 117 million tonnes of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere – the equivalent of 50 new coal-fired power stations or 4 times the emissions of Adani’s Carmichael Mine. This would cripple Australia’s ability to meet its obligations under the Paris climate agreement – and help put us on track for a devastating 2° of global warming. The Greens opposed this motion and have succeeded in establishing a senate inquiry into the potential impacts of opening up the Beetaloo Basin.
Both Labor and the Liberals take huge donations from giant gas corporations like Santos and Woodside Energy. Regardless of who wins this election, both parties are committed to opening up the Beetaloo Basin, investing in new gas pipelines and handing public money over to fossil-fuel companies across Australia. The only way Labor will change is with the Greens in the balance of power.
Vote 5: Giving ASIO Power to Strip People of Refugee Status
In May 2021, Labor voted with the Liberals to pass the Migration Amendment (Clarifying International Obligations) Act, which enables the Home Affairs Minister to unilaterally strip people of their refugee status and place them in indefinite detention. The Greens fervently opposed this motion.
Labor has a long record of voting to strip refugees of their rights. In 2014, they supported the addition of section 197C to the Migration Act, which declares that Australia’s obligations under international law are “irrelevant”. It commits the government to attempting to return refugees to countries where they are at risk of persecution, regardless of the danger to their lives – despite them having been found as genuine refugees.
This traps refugees in legal limbo. We can’t actually get away with sending people back to war-torn countries – but, under legislation supported by Labor, we also can’t grant them the protection they need. The Clarifying International Obligations Act is designed to solve this problem – by enabling us to keep people locked up forever, for no reason at all.
In 2020, a Federal Court found that Australia’s indefinite definition of a Syrian refugee was unlawful. So Labor and the Liberals rushed through a bill that makes it easier to cancel people’s visas, empowers the government to strip people of their refugee status on a whim and denies people the basic right to not be imprisoned without cause.
Labor will never change until they start losing seats to parties who don’t support mandatory detention of refugees.