Labor banks on an Abbott stumble

The government is playing politics via its superannuation tax and protection of big union deals. It's a strategy that seeks to shore up its key base while hoping Tony Abbott makes a big mistake.

We are now seeing a volley of strange decisions from the federal government. It’s almost as if opinion polling indicates it is going to lose the election so it is shoring up its support base irrespective of the national interest. The next seven months is about hoping Tony Abbott will make a big mistake.

The government has many talented and hardworking people in its ranks, and they will disagree with me, but it’s hard to escape that conclusion.

Gonski set out an educational blue print. A government wanting to implement that blueprint would have been working with the states in the last six months to achieve the goals.

Instead the central government plays political games and looks to lob some partly funded politically attractive master plan on the people who run the education system – It’s simply politics.

To raise money to get political points from the Gonski measures, Canberra plans a superannuation tax, which looks likely to result in most people being unable to use superannuation for retirement without a government pension. The government uses figures that are mathematically incorrect to justify its actions – false mining tax estimates for example (How Treasury mucked up its super sums, February 8).

It’s probably true that at the top of the superannuation tree there are people where higher taxing is justified but there are not enough of them to raise serious money.

Accordingly the superannuation attack is all about an assault on middle Australian retirement on the basis that it can be sold as an attack on the rich and the money used to play Gonski education politics at election time.

This is horrible policy that goes against the great past ALP leaders like Hawke and Keating. But older people no long vote Labor so it’s about wooing the young family vote.

A long-term government should be mobilising superannuation to invest in Australian infrastructure. Effectively the government is encouraging people to exit as much superannuation as they can and use the tax benefits of housing via the residential home or negative gearing. That will put up house prices and that’s good for votes.

But it gets worse. The government appears to believe that Australians should pay more for infrastructure. So it has put out guidelines in an attempt to protect the sweetheart deals between big builder managers and big unions that enable unions to control who can be sub-contractors – better productivity goes down the toilet. Victoria and New South Wales are trying to block the deals to get better value for their infrastructure dollar. But if these deals can be maintained it means large donations to the ALP fighting fund from the unions and probably the companies who make big profits from them. The manager/union sweetheart deals make it hard for newcomers to enter the industry and therefore reduce tender prices.

As the mining investment boom comes to a close, Australia needs infrastructure investment and there is the money in superannuation to fund good projects (Hammering away at Canberra’s jobs dampener, February 7).

To see a talented government in its last seven months attack that money pool and then also try to lift the price of infrastructure as part of a political game is very disappointing.

It’s much easier for an ALP government to make the necessary refinements to industrial relations rules than the Coalition. But that’s bad politics and upsets the party’s main fund providers. Instead the government makes a change to family flexibility, which is good politics but does nothing for productivity.

It is sad, but if Tony Abbott makes a major mistake in the long seven month-campaign it might work.

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