Opposition Treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers is sending a vital signal: the 2019 election big-spending, big-taxing Shorten agenda has to change.
The Conservative Party has welcomed the news saying big-government socialism has no place in modern Australia.
The Australian reports, Labor needs to recognise that it’s not just a matter of dumping or tweaking unpopular tax policies, such as the proposals on franking credits or negative gearing, but of making a wholesale change in philosophy back to the centrist economics of the Hawke-Keating years.
This is Chalmers becoming his own man, moving out from under the shadow of Wayne Swan and the Rudd government, turning down leadership deals to be tied directly to anyone from the Shorten era, and reconnecting to realistic, centrist economic management of successful Labor where billion-dollar promises have a political price.
Labor lost the election because voters believed they would be taxed to the tune of $378 billion but didn’t believe that they would get the billions in services Bill Shorten promised almost daily during the election campaign.
What’s more, Scott Morrison, in appealing to Labor’s base of tradies, middle-income earners and aspirational voters, successfully campaigned by declaring that people just didn’t believe politicians who promised to spend big and solve every problem.
As well, the Prime Minister, despite pressure and false claims of billions in cuts to spending on health and education, maintained an austere, orthodox economic approach aimed at growth creating jobs and wealth.
Across the nation people accepted this reality and rejected Shorten’s nirvana of wealth redistribution and debt and deficit reduction without spending controls.
On the one hand, what Chalmers is saying is just common sense – if Labor changes its tax plans, it has to change its spending plans accordingly.
“If we don’t end up taking the exact same tax policies to the next election that we took to the last one, then it is entirely reasonable to assume we will have to recalibrate our spending plans too,” he said yesterday.
On the other hand, although no decisions have been taken, Chalmers is flagging a “radical” shift for Labor back to the centre, back to the idea that workers benefit most from having a job, wages are strongest during a strong economy without government subsidies and the “sharing of the pie” envisaged by Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and Bill Kelty in the 1980s and 90s works best when the pie is bigger.