Federal Election 2019: Meet the Australian Progressives

Summary

Website: www.progressives.org.au
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AusProgressive/
Slogans:
Ethics. Empathy. Equality. Evidence. Engagement. Empowerment.
We believe Australia’s best days are ahead of us.
Themes: Being progressive!   Looking after people so that they can achieve their potential, action on climate change, equality and ending systemic discrimination.  Absolutely brilliant statement on the purpose of taxation, for which I will forgive much.
Electorate:
Lower House: Bean, Canberra, Fenner, Longman, Sturt
Preferences: None provided.  How to vote cards are just too regressive…
Previous reviews

Policies & Commentary

OK, three political parties left to go.  I’m exhausted, but the end is in sight.  Even though I still have no idea what song I’m going to use for the last party on my list.  Never mind! At least there is reason to hope that the Australian Progressives will not infuriate me too much.

Their website is pleasingly simple, with their slogan, a call for membership, and then getting straight on to their links to policies, values, and vision.  Their ‘About’ page tells us that:

The Australian Progressives aspire to be more than just a political party, to believe in more than just an ideology and to understand that the world is more diverse than ‘left’ and ‘right’.

The Australian Progressives see the wealth of this nation coming not from the extraction of its lands but through the empowerment of its people. This can only be done by fostering creativity and ingenuity, by investing in the future, by supporting the disadvantaged, by heeding those with knowledge and expertise, and by understanding we are all different and require adaptable environments to support our diversity.

So far, so good.  They want to unite us as a people, build bridges instead of walls, and engage with all who share common outcomes and principles.

The Australian Progressives choose empathy over fear; we choose ethics over influence; we choose evidence over opinion; we choose transparency over silence; we choose the health of all over the wealth of a few; we choose collaboration over collusion; we choose leadership over dictatorship.

Let’s hope that they don’t choose inspirational posters over policy documents.

Their key values are brought to you by the letter ‘E’: ethics, empathy, evidence, empowerment, equality and engagement.

I especially like this:

The culture of blaming whole sections of our society for their disadvantage must end. The illusion that people can always control what happens to them is a fallacy. An empathetic society stands in the shoes of the disadvantaged and sees that ‘there but for the grace of God – or circumstance – go I’. An ethical society holds out a hand and helps the disadvantaged rise to an equal level of happiness and fulfilment with compassion – it does not hold them down with judgment.

They have five policy platforms: anti-corruption, economic inequality, gender equality, climate change, and future building.  I’m pretty excited to see climate change as one of the big five, and I’m pretty happy about the other four, so this is already looking like a better evening than yesterday.

Also, I cannot tell a lie.  I have reached the point where a party with only five main policy platforms is a dream come true.  Especially if it’s a progressive party, and they are good platforms.

First up, we have Anti-Corruption, and yes indeed, my friends, we want a Federal ICAC, because that seems to be the new catchphrase this election.  Royal Commissions are so passé… The Progressives also want stronger protection for whistleblowers, and they want a code of conduct for members of Parliament.  This code is apparently modeled on the Australian Public Service code, and I am suddenly reminded that most of the Progressives’ candidates appear to be from Canberra.  Coincidence?  I doubt it.

Anyway, it’s a pretty reasonable Code.  It requires honesty, due diligence and integrity; treating others with respect; obeying the law; maintaining confidentiality; avoiding conflict of interest; not lying to the public or rorting your benefits or doing insider trading; and upholding the reputation of Australia and its Parliament.

Honestly, I think these are entirely reasonable minimum standards, and if someone can’t sign up to that Code, I’d be seriously concerned about them.

They would also like our politicians to be honest, accountable, base their policies on evidence, and committed to service.  And once again, they want them to ‘respect all people, including their rights and their heritage and accept that diversity is a key characteristic of the Australian nation.’

Next, we move on to their Economic Policy, which comes with the hashtag #AFairGoForAll.  They are down with the kids, alright.  They want the economy to work for all Australians.  And here is something I love.

Income taxation should not be treated as a punishment, rather it should be treated as an incentivised public investment scheme by taxpaying shareholders into Australia’s social capital fund: Our nation.

Yes.  Yes, that’s exactly what taxation is and I want all of our progressive parties to start shouting that from the rooftops.  Seriously, I would vote for this lot just on the basis that they have put into words something that desperately needed to be said.

The Australian Progressives want to raise the income tax threshold, but they also want to extend the GST, and their tax policy sounds a tad regressive.

We acknowledge the principle that those who can afford to pay more tax should pay that tax. But we also recognise the efforts of thousands of Australian wage and salary earners – some of whom earn considerably larger incomes than most middle and working-class Australians- should still be entitled to keep at least 50% of their taxable income (excluding the Medicare levy). Many have invested years of their own personal and professional development to reach the higher scale of wage and salary income and should not be punished for their efforts. To do so, in our view, is not progressive.

First, I’m not sure if they understand that those really high tax rates only apply to the proportion of your earnings above a certain level.  Nobody is losing 50% of their entire income.  And second… the ability to invest years of your personal and professional development is actually a privilege in its own right.  If you have children or elderly parents to support, a spouse who can’t work, or if you just don’t have a family who is able to support you while you complete your tertiary studies, it’s very, very hard to pursue the sort of full-time and more-than full-time studies that lead to these high incomes.  And that’s ignoring the fact that the very highest incomes are often from investment, rather than labour.

Anyway.  They want to introduce a digital FTT of 0.1% for transactions over $1m, which they reckon would be good because large corporations wouldn’t be able to avoid paying it.  They want to reduce capital gains tax exemptions, and encourage people to invest in regional Australia.  They also want to phase out family trusts and negative gearing.  The Progressives also plan to increase superannuation and reintroduce the low earner supplement.

The Progressives want to completely reform Social Security, establishing the good old Commonwealth Employment Service (another popular policy this time around, thank you Robodebt), and increasing all social security payments by $100 per week for singles and $125 per week for couples, while also reviewing indexation rates to make sure that going forward, the cost of living is covered by increases to the pensions.  They want better access to mental health and substance addiction.

They want to remove the current disincentives to work, implementing ‘progressive means testing to prevent income loss as wages increase and negate excess tax rates’.  This is important, because there is a particular threshold at which you are earning enough that your pension is cut, and suddenly you have less income than you did when you were earning slightly less, so your payrise leaves you worse off.

The progressives want to fund low cost housing, cap HECS, increase the carers allowance, and increase pre-tax contributions to super for people with low superannuation balances.  Also:

Reduce the working week to 32 hours and increase flexibility to permit workers to have a four day working week, without financial loss.

That’s my dream, right there.

The Progressives would cap CEO remuneration at 100 times the salary of the lowest paid employee (and add restrictions to prevent companies from outsourcing low-paid jobs to increase the allowable income).  I think this is a good and interesting idea – keeping some sort of proportion between your lowest and highest paid workers strikes me as vital if we don’t want to have even greater concentration of wealth in fewer hands.

The Progressives want incentives for businesses to employ graduates and entry level workers.  Also, they want to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and they oppose trade agreements that benefit multinationals ahead of local businesses.

Under Social Equity, the Progressives want to fix systemic discrimination, and they support 50% gender quotas for boards and university councils. They also want subsidies for female apprentices and trainees in traditionally male fields, which is an interesting idea.  It might be a better idea to make that go both ways – it’s well known that the best way to increase salaries in a field is to get more men into that field…  They do want to encourage men to take more paternity leave and be more involved in child rearing, at least.

They support all the recommendations of the Victorian Royal Commission into Domestic Violence, and in particular, they want to make domestic abuse leave a standard part of employment packages, and they want grants for domestic violence support services.

I note that while they want to ensure that ‘legal rights and opportunities are protected and applied equally to all Australians regardless of race, sex, gender, religious, political, or cultural affiliation’, there is nothing on their main Social Equality page about LGBTQIA+ people, which is a bit of an oversight.  If you click on the read more section to download the full policy, there is a bit more, and what’s there is fine, but the primary focus is equality for women.  It seems churlish to complain about this, but these are the Australian Progressives, so my expectations are high.  Once you do click through, however, their policies include removing religious exemptions for gender or sexuality based discrimination, and they have a section on gender identity, where they want to make it easier for people to change their legal gender identity, and for people with gender dysphoria to be able to have access to treatment.

They also have a separate policy on First Peoples of Australia, which starts with a treaty and Makarrata – the concept of coming together after a struggle, which requires truth telling and an acknowledgment of the harms done.  (I am ashamed to say I had to look that one up.).  The Progressives want to Close the Gap on health, and empower communities to solve their local issues.

On Climate Change, the Progressives want ‘the implementation of a comprehensive environment and climate change policies to lay the foundations for a clean, green and sustainable Australia’.  So do I.

Their pathway for getting there includes an ETS, funding for alternative energy research, rebates and subsidies for domestic solar energy feed-in and for solar hot water systems, and industry subsidies for solar and wind farms.  They want to transition out of coal and have green energy with natural gas as a back up, and they want cheap registrations for cars that are fuel efficient.  They want a target of 100% renewables by 2030 and 125% by 2060, and I am now very suspicious that they do not know how maths works.  Oh, I see – they want to export renewable energy.

The progressives want to tax the mining sector to fund the transition to green energy, and they want to convert the coal industry to a smart, green technology system.  They also want to make public transport greener. And they don’t want more coal mines.

In addition, they want to protect the Great Barrier Reef, protect diversity and eradicate invasive species, and introduce greater protections for our waterways, including a national water management and irrigation system.

The Australian Progressives will support climate change mitigation for our agricultural sector, and fund innovative, sustainable agricultural development.  Also, they oppose foreign purchases of farmland.

And wait, what is this even?

While Mining is, and will always remain, an important aspect of the Australian Economy, Australian Progressives will always fight to ensure that it is done in a sustainable manner. For this reason, Australian Progressives will:

  1. Phase out unconventional gas, coal and oil mining, such as Coal Seam Gas extraction.
  2. Require upfront capital for environmental restoration works
  3. Phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

… I thought we had decided we didn’t like coal mines?  Or are we mining other things now?

Also, I just want to note that their climate change policy doesn’t have any plan for jobs for people currently working in the industries that they are phasing out, and I think this is quite important.

Finally, we reach Future Building Policy!

Australia is a wealthy nation. The Australian Progressives believe that there is enough national will and wealth to develop a national infrastructure program in the following areas:

  1. Energy supply
  2. Water supply
  3. Agricultural development
  4. Education
  5. Defence
  6. Space industry
  7. Health service provision
  8. Regional development and enhancement
  9. Transport

Space industry!!! You know how much I love a political party that wants to go all science fictional…

OK, the energy stuff is covered already.  Their water plan sounds suspiciously like the Bradfield Plan, which really should have been on my Small Party Drinking Game for 2019, but they also want to purify seawater and have more rainwater tanks and smarter water consumption.

We’ve sort of covered about as much as they say about agriculture above – and don’t think I didn’t notice that this was all they got – but they do point out the lack of proper telecommunications and shake their fingers sternly at Cubbie Station.

Also…

Feasibility studies on the development of a water pipeline from northern Australia to drought prone regions of southern Australia

It’s the Bradfield Scheme for sure.  Take a drink!  (Of rainwater from your tank, obviously.  Or maybe of Queensland floodwaters, if you are feeling daring.)

They would like to upgrade infrastructure in schools, and that is their entire education policy.

They don’t seem to want to change the defense industry, but they do want to ‘expand Australia’s national interests in the space industry.’

They like publicly funded health.

The Progressives want to develop Northern Austrlia, and they want to move more industries out to regional locations.

They are a bit excited about transport, including a fast train from Brisbane to Melbourne, via Sydney and Canberra and a national rail loop that goes to all the capital cities, and they want better public transport and more roads for regional areas.

On CSIRO and Universities they have this to say:

  1. Reform funding model to increase financial security.
  2. Increase funding for all research.
  3. Develop commercialisation expertise to improve returns on investment.

Someone has a researcher in the family.  This is the policy of someone who has heard the complaints many times, but is not necessarily up on the detail.

And they want a venture fund for new companies doing exciting technical things.

And that’s it!

I have to say, while some of the policies are a bit bare-bones, the overall package is pretty good.  And this time, they managed to find some women candidates, though it’s still a pretty white group of people.  This is perhaps nitpicky of me, but I do like what they are trying to do, and would like to see them do it better.

And I still love what they had to say about tax.  In fact, I love it so much, I’m going to quote it again.

Income taxation should not be treated as a punishment, rather it should be treated as an incentivised public investment scheme by taxpaying shareholders into Australia’s social capital fund: Our nation.

Eurovision Theme Song as determined by me, very objectively

A few years ago, Greece decided to experiment with traditional music and dance, hip hop, and general strangeness.  It didn’t pay off for them, alas, but I kind of adored it.  I think it’s a good fit here – they are trying to do something a bit different and creative and it doesn’t quite work, but their goal is to create a Utopia, and there are far worse things to aim for.

We are the rise in the rising sun
Dance with us and have some fun
We are the rise in the rising sun
Fight with us for a Utopian Land

It is dusk here and we’re heading to the dawn.

 

4 thoughts on “Federal Election 2019: Meet the Australian Progressives

  1. Uh, yes, Catherine, we do a lot more than coal mining in Australia. I suspect any party that wants to see more electric cars and Australian jobs would, for example, have a hard time to refuse approval for our lithium mines. Over here in the west we have gold, iron ore, nickel, platinum&paladium, diamonds (for a few more weeks), mineral sands,… plus the natural gas extraction on the north-west shelf counts as mining, too, even if they keep arguing over which term they want to use.

    • Thanks for the clarification. Yeah, I did know about some of that (didn’t know we still had diamond mines!), but I was pretty tired when writing this post last night and evidently got confused and forgot. Silly of me.

  2. I forgot to include the uranium. *sigh* Thank you so much, Mr Barnett, for approving that to be dug up and trained through my town. Also lead and copper. Esperance had major problems a few years back from water tanks contaminated with lead dust from ore loaded at the port. I believe they’ve solved the issue now. (Although our brand-new children’s hospital was built with lead fittings that caused a lead-in-water scare, so I guess the lesson never actually gets learned.)
    Argyle diamond mine is scheduled for closure very soon, but they recently found a big-un: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-04-23/huge-diamond-found-at-rio-tinto-argyle-mine-in-wa/11038146
    There are other gems around – opals in SA, chrysoprase, er,.. *racking my non-geologist brain* and bauxite, granite…
    Here’s what our government says about our minerals: http://www.ga.gov.au/scientific-topics/minerals/basics

  3. They really do have a lot fewer candidates this time around, and it looks like the old Sydney-based leadership has given up the ghost (I wonder if they’ve changed their party constitution yet to reform their incredibly strange internal electoral processes). Have to wonder what became of all the Melbourne-based candidates, though. And why no one is running in the Senate for them.

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