Malcolm Turnbull has accused Bill Shorten of playing shabby political games in the wake of Donald Trump’s populist triumph and said the Labor leader’s policy approach was actually a threat to the very Australian jobs he purports to champion.
But as the Prime Minister weighed in, Victorian Liberal party president Michael Kroger said the sentiment that saw Mr Trump elected has a foothold in Australia because the “elites” had failed to explain the need for change.
Mr Shorten has vowed an aggressive Australia-first policy approach in the wake of the US election, which will include a review of the 457 visa scheme for imported skilled workers and a more rigorous approach to free trade deals.
But the Prime Minister, who has been arguing for some time against a return to protectionism in the wake of Brexit and the rise of Mr Trump, said Mr Shorten, for example was putting foreign workers before Australia by supporting a lower 10.5 per cent rate for the backpacker tax.
The government is trying to legislate 19 per cent for every dollar earned by seasonal labourers.
“He now says that he wants to heed the lessons of Ohio and Michigan. He wants to stand up for Australian jobs. Well, this is what he’s doing in the Senate at the moment,” Mr Turnbull said.
“Mr Shorten is supporting the proposition that foreign backpackers, foreign workers, should pay no tax at all. So that if you have a foreign worker, a backpacker working picking fruit next to an Australian, the Australian will be paying tax but the foreigner won’t.
“How is that standing up for Australian workers? His inconsistency and his incoherence, his cynicism is there for all to see. Mr Shorten has to get serious.”
Labor said Mr Turnbull was talking rubbish because Australian workers pay no tax on the first $18,200 earned, which is the tax-free threshold, whereas the backpacker tax would apply to every dollar earned, meaning foreign workers would pay more tax overall.
Mr Turnbull said “flirting with protectionism and free trade” would cause great harm. “How is that going to help the coal miners of Queensland? How is that going to help the sugar farmers?,” he said.
“Right across the board, our ability to access the big markets in Asia that have been opened up by free trade agreements, that Labor opposed, has been one of the key elements in ensuring that Australia’s adjustment, our transition from the mining construction boom and its tailing boom has not been as severe as predicted.
“The reason we have strong jobs growth in Australia, the reason we have a transition that has not been the hard landing many expected is because of the considered, deliberate, economic leadership that my government has delivered.”
“Mr Shorten should focus on delivery. He should focus on consistency. He should focus on the Australian people who he seeks to represent instead of his shabby day-to-day political games.”
But Mr Shorten’s rhetoric found an unlikely ally in Mr Kroger who said the American contagion had taken hold in Australia. “Nobody’s ever explained to blue collar workers why they have lost their jobs to China,” he said of the US and its free trade deals.
“We’re going to see that problem in Australia now.”
“The elites are way ahead of the normal populace and that’s going to continue to grow in Australia as well.”
Mr Shorten stepped up his rhetoric in Parliament on Thursday when he said “my party will heed the lessons of Detroit, Michigan, of Ohio and Pennsylvania”. “We will buy Australian, build Australian, make in Australia and employ Australians.” “We will not leave people behind.”
Over the weekend he argued that unless growth was inclusive, the anti-establishment sentiment in the US would spread. He will spend this week touring blue-collar electorates, starting today in Gippsland, Victoria, where power workers are facing redundancy with the closure of the Hazlewood power station. From there, Mr Shorten will tour economically depressed electorates in Queensland.
Courtesy of the Business Insider, Australia