Why Magda Szubanski called Labor's campaign a 'Franking-stein's monster'

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  • Australia’s Liberal-National Coalition has won 74 seats in the House of Representatives, with 5 electorates still in doubt. The Labor Opposition won just 66, its primary vote down 1.4%.
  • Commentators have pointed to a “presidential-style” campaign from Australia’s prime minister and compared it to the 2016 US election. US President Donald Trump has tweeted his congratulations.
  • Labor leader Bill Shorten put forward a wide range of economic and tax policy reform, including plans to scrap negative gearing allowances for property investors and refundable franking credits for stockmarket investors. Shorten resigned as leader in his concession speech.

Channeling his inner faith, Australia’s prime minister said it was a “miracle”. With all major opinions polls having predicted a swing against the federal government, Scott Morrison led his Liberal-National Coalition to an unexpected victory in the federal election on Saturday, off the back of strong support in Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia.

The Coalition won 74 seats in the House of Representatives of a possible 151, with 5 electorates still in doubt, meaning it could still attain the 76 required to form a majority government. Labor won just 66.

Speaking on ABC TV’s Insiders program this morning, host and former press secretary to Labor prime minister Bob Hawke, Barrie Cassidy said Morrison’s “relentless, on-message and overwhelmingly negative” approach won the day, especially regarding the prime minister’s ability to cast doubt on Labor’s long list of policy announcements.

He asked Labor deputy leader – and now leadership contender – Tania Plibersek whether the Opposition campaign was just “too big and too bold”.

“We have an obligation as Labor Party people to keep fighting for a fairer Australia, for a strong economy and a fair society,” Plibersek said. “We’ll keep doing that.”

Meanwhile his guest, ABC presenter Patricia Karvelas described Labor’s policy agenda as an incoherent “shopping list”.

Two of the key items on Labor’s shopping list were plans to end what it said were “loopholes” in the tax system, especially relating to franking credits and negative gearing.

In order to fund big ticket initiatives in health and education, Labor planned to “reform dividend imputation so wealthy people who pay no income tax no longer get a cash refund simply for owning shares”.

But the Coalition and allies described the proposed changes to the franking credits regime as a “retirement tax”, sparking a backlash against them from self-funded retirees and the financial services industry, including a formal petition started by prominent fund manager Geoff Wilson.

Speaking to ABC TV just moments after Scott Morrison’s victory speech on Saturday, Australian comedian and national icon Magda Szubanski described this Labor policy as “franking-stein’s monster” due to its complexity and the vicious nature of the debate it created.

Plans to end negative gearings and capital gains tax arrangements – which Labor said are causing first home buyers to be “locked out of the market” – also met resistance from investors and the property industry, including a robo-call from mortgage industry veteran and former host of Australia’s Celebrity Apprentice Mark Bouris, which may have fallen foul of the Australian Electoral Commission.

Some onlookers, such as The Motley Fool’s chief investment officer Scott Phillips, have drawn parallels between the election and the 2016 race won by Donald Trump in the United States.

Media outlets including The Age, the Canberra Times and SBS have described Morrison’s approach to the campaign as “presidential” in a reference to the focus on his own personality and family, with little limelight for other ministers or MPs.

The US president himself tweeted his congratulations to the Aussie PM, with whom he is clearly on a friendly first-name basis:

Heading into the 2020 presidential election, Trump will no doubt be hoping for a similar “miracle”.

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