Labor is a better choice than the coalition to form the next Australian government

The unusual intervention of 31 retired judges this week calling for a strong national integrity commission was one of the most important events of the election campaign. The government may believe this is a niche issue with little interest in the suburbs, and maybe they are right. But integrity is, in Ages view, the general theme of this campaign.

This is not an isolated integrity commission. It is about trusting our political system to act in the public interest, about insisting that public money be used for public, not political purposes. It’s about accountability for alleged wrongdoing. This is a reform of political donations to reduce the risk of wealthy interests buying influence. Whether it’s tax reform, climate change, infrastructure or community grants, the integrity of our systems is fundamental.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Labor leader Anthony Albanese.Credit:Nine

This government has no interest in having a strong integrity commission despite its promise in the 2019 election. Its inadequate bill would not allow the agency to launch its own investigations or act on tips from the public. . Leading legal figures said it was not designed to expose corruption, but to cover it up.

Whether it’s the so-called ‘sporting rorts’ grants under which a minister ignored independent advice to funnel millions into coalition-targeted seats, suburban parking lots promised overwhelmingly to voters in the coalition, or refusal to investigate former attorney general Christian Porter’s use of anonymous donations to fund his legal costs, government’s ‘nothing to do here’ responses normalized wrongdoing like the way the policy works.

Overall, this election campaign has been discouraging because the two main parties have fought intense disagreements on a narrow range of issues, with neither telling the truth about the major challenges facing the country.

But Labor leader Anthony Albanese understands that trust in government has eroded and that matters. “We have to make sure we restore faith in the integrity of our political system,” he said of the opposition’s proposal for a strong commission. We’d rather see the specifics, but Labor’s early plans to clean things up would begin to dispel the cynical notion that integrity in politics is somehow an oxymoron.

The central discourse of the government for a fourth term is that it is the best manager of the economy. The unemployment rate of 3.9% – the lowest in half a century – is not entirely the work of the government, but it deserves some credit. The past three years have been dominated by the pandemic. While the federal government has made mistakes, it – along with the states – is also to be commended for the decisions made in a rapidly evolving crisis, which means we have a relatively low death rate and, after a start late, high double dose vaccination. rate in adults.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said “JobKeeper saved the country”. That decision alone to spend tens of billions to subsidize workers’ wages at the worst of the pandemic was the government’s greatest achievement, saving hundreds of thousands of jobs, though the program was tainted by too many companies who did not need it to receive billions.

While massive temporary spending was justified to avoid an economic and human catastrophe, this election is taking place against a backdrop of endless public deficits. It’s a pretense that both sides of politics pursue – that we can spend more money on eldercare, NDIS, defence, childcare and training with little savings and deficits for the next decade. At some point, the government will have to raise taxes to pay for services the public rightly demands, like a dignified aged care system, or cut spending elsewhere.

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