The bluffer's guide to understanding the upcoming election

June 27, 2016
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Australian politics seems to swing between two extremes – volatile one moment and yawn-inducingly boring the next. Even though most of us care about the issues, it’s often hard to stomach the political rhetoric.

If you find yourself nodding off the minute someone mentions “election policies”, no worries; we’ve done the hard work for you, sorting through the mess of election-time nonsense to break down some of the most important matters.

Here are the big issues and what the three major parties plan to do about them.

Economy

Labor’s economic policy contain plans to mitigate the practice of negative gearing (explained here). Potentially, this could mean less investment properties for the oldies and a real estate market in which young people could actually afford a house.

The Coalition, on the other hand, has vowed not to touch negative gearing, for fear of upsetting your great-aunt Dolores.

The Greens, meanwhile, have pledged to end fossil fuel subsidies, improve rental property standards and restrict negative gearing to existing investments.

Higher education

Labor wants to stick an $8000 cap on vocational education loans to students who attend private colleges. The Coalition, on the other hand, has dumped its universally hated plan to deregulate university fees. While the government won’t have an official higher education policy going into the election, its 2016 budget did touch on HELP debt.

Currently, HELP debtors with an annual income of over $54,126 per year have to begin paying it off. But the Coalition’s 2016 budget outlined a proposal to replace that figure with a “household means test,” which would include both your annual income and that of your co-habitants, which could be your parents or de facto partner. Under this system, you’d be far more likely to have to pay that money back sooner.

The Green’s policy for higher education would see a ten per cent increase in university funding and a reversal of Labor’s $2.3 billion higher education budget cuts.

Marriage equality

The Turnbull government has proposed a plebiscite to decide the issue of whether or not same-sex couples should be allowed to marry in Australia. A plebiscite is a national vote in which all Australian adults are expected to participate. It differs to a referendum, as its outcome does not affect the Constitution.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten has condemned the proposal, calling it a “taxpayer-funded platform for homophobia". The sentiment was echoed by Greens leader Richard Di Natale, who maintains that holding an “expensive” plebiscite would “unleash those voices of hate in the community.”

Both Labor and the Greens favour a parliamentary vote to pass a same-sex marriage bill.

Environment

While both Labor and the Liberals have committed to cutting the nation’s emissions by five per cent from 2005 to 2020, they have different goals beyond that. The Libs want to go for a 26 to 28 per cent cut by 2030, while Labor has pledged a 45 per cent cut by 2030, and zero net emissions by 2050. It should be noted that both parties’ targets are well below those recommended by the federal Climate Change Authority.

The Greens, naturally, have far more ambitious targets: 63 to 82 percent emissions reduction and 90 per cent renewable energy, both by 2030.

Arts

Labor’s policies for arts include an increase of $80 million to the Australia Council and $60 million to the ABC.

The Greens plan to take a different route, proposing a welfare program to support artists, as well as restoring the funding cut from the Australia Council by the Coalition, alongside increases in funding for various national arts programs.

The Coalition has pledged $10 million towards the building of a new Shepparton Art Museum.

Human rights

The Coalition’s refugee policy remains largely unchanged, and includes boat turnbacks, restrictions on family reunions and, according to the United Nations, appalling living conditions for asylum seekers in offshore detention centres.

Labor, whose position is relatively similar to the Coalition’s, has nevertheless promised to improve offshore living conditions, fast-track offshore asylum claims, and improve “procedural safeguard” for onshore asylum claims.

The Greens have vowed to shut down the Manus Island and Nauru camps, introduce a 30-day time limit for on-shore immigration detention, and increase Australia’s annual refugee intake from 13,750 to 50,000 per year. 

Joel Svensson

Business major, journalism minor and sometime voice-actor, Joel Svensson pretends to be smart at La Trobe University in Melbourne.

Image: Australian Politics - Fairfax Facebook page

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