Labor is a better option than the Coalition to form Australia’s next government

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

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

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Labor leader Anthony Albanese.

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

This government has no interest in 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 advice from the public. Senior legal officials have said it is not designed to expose corruption, but to cover it up.

Whether it’s the so-called “sports rorts” grants under which a minister ignored independent advice to funnel millions to seats selected by the Coalition, the passenger car parks that were overwhelmingly promised to Coalition voters or the refusal to conduct an investigation into the former attorney general. Christian Porter’s use of anonymous donations to finance his legal fees, the government’s “nothing to see here” responses have normalized irregularities as the way politics works.

Overall, this election campaign has been disappointing because the two main parties have had intense disagreements on a narrow range of issues, without telling the truth about the big challenges facing the country.

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

The government’s central argument for a fourth term is that it is the best manager of the economy. The 3.9 percent unemployment rate, the lowest in half a century, is not entirely the government’s doing, but it deserves some credit. The last three years have been dominated by the pandemic. While the federal government made mistakes, along with the states, it also deserves credit for decisions made in a fast-moving crisis that meant we have a comparatively low death rate and, after a late start, a high double-dose vaccination. . rate among adults.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that “JobKeeper saved the country.” That decision to spend tens of billions to subsidize workers’ wages during the worst of the pandemic was the government’s finest achievement, saving hundreds of thousands of jobs, though the scheme was marred by too many businesses that didn’t need it and received billions.

While massive temporary spending was justified to avert economic and human catastrophe, this choice is being made against the backdrop of endless government deficits. It’s a pretext that both sides of politics prosecute: that we can spend more money on elder care, NDIS, defense, childcare, and training with meager savings and shortfalls for the next decade. At some point, the government will need to raise taxes to pay for services the public rightly demands, such as a decent elderly care system, or cut spending elsewhere.

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