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Australians will go to the polls to elect a new federal government on May 21.
There are key difference between the two major parties that will ultimately form government with the backing of voters.
Here is where the current Coalition government and the federal Labor party stand on key issues such as housing policy, the cost of living, electric vehicles, climate change, integrity in politics and more.
When it comes to housing affordability, both parties are tinkering around the edges.
In 2019, Labor went to the election proposing major reforms to negative gearing and to halve the capital gains tax on property investments. But after it seemed to spook voters, the “Australian dream” is as sacred – and unaffordable – as ever.
This election, Labor has proposed a shared-equity scheme, meaning, if elected, it would help 10,000 first home buyers a year get into the market and dramatically reduce the cost of a mortgage by owning up to 30 or 40 per cent of a property with the buyer. The buyer could buy it back off the government over time.
It is also proposing a $10 billion fund dubbed the Housing Australia Future Fund which in its first five years will build 20,000 new social housing units and a further 10,000 affordable houses for frontline workers like police officers and nurses.
The Coalition, meanwhile, has expanded its home deposit guarantee scheme, which sees the taxpayer chip-in on the deposit of eligible first home buyers to enable them to purchase a house with just 5 per cent as a deposit while avoiding costly Lender’s Mortgage Insurance charged by the banks. The program has expanded to 35,000 applicants a year, up from 10,000. Critics say it simply pushes house prices higher.
Invoking this policy, Mr Morrison recently said Australians struggling with rising rents should simply buy a house.
Economist Richard Denniss at the Australian Institute says both parties' policies in this area will have "tiny but positive effects".
"Both parties are proposing very small, very targeted policies which will have very little impact on the cost of housing for Australians," he told Yahoo News Australia.
Cost of Living
The Coalition’s plans to tackle the rising cost of living were largely laid out in the recent budget with a 22c cut to the fuel excise (set to expire a couple months after the election) and an up to $420 tax offset for more than 10 million low-and-middle income earners at tax time this year.
Meanwhile the government’s planned stage 3 tax cuts slated to come into effect in July, 2024 (which Labor has now backed) will also see more take-home pay for wealthy Australians with those earning more than $200,000 receiving a tax cut of $9075 per year.
Labor says it wants to focus on tackling insecure work and drive up wages, but it is somewhat vague about how exactly it plans to do that. On wages, one lever it says it will pull is to boost wages in certain public industries such as for aged care workers.
"Health and aged care is one of the biggest employers in Australia, so by definition boosting their wages will have a direct impact on wage growth," says economist Richard Denniss. "But it will also have a significant indirect effect by increasing wage competition in the private sector" and help boost wages more generally.
"There’s no plan or policy in Australia at the moment from the current government to boost wages growth," he said.
One of Labor’s flagship polices this election is making childcare more affordable by lifting the maximum subsidy rate to 90 per cent for families for the first child (up from a current maximum of 83 per cent) and extend the subsidy further up the income scale. At a cost of $5.4 billion, Labor says 96 per cent of young families will be better off.
The Coalition, which temporarily made childcare free during the pandemic, has also increased the subsidy for families with a second child in care, but is offering a less generous package than Labor.
The government also boasts on its website that household electricity prices in the National Electricity Market have fallen by 8 per cent in the past two financial years. While that may have been true when it was written, the latest report by the Australian Energy Market Operator showed prices are up 141 per cent since March 2021.
At the last election, Scott Morrison attacked a Labor policy which aimed to have 50 per cent of all new car sales electric by 2050, by mocking EVs and falsely saying they couldn’t tow a boat or trailer.
So it’s hardly a surprise Australia ranked last among developed nations for electric car use and government leadership in a global index in November.
However Mr Morrison has since done a U-turn on the issue. In November the Coalition promised to boost charging infrastructure as part of a $250 million "Future Fuels" fund. Under the proposal, more than 50,000 households and 400 businesses would have access to charging infrastructure, alongside at least 1000 public charging stations.
As Labor points out, just 1.5 per cent of cars sold in Australia are electric and plug-in hybrid. That’s compared to 17 per cent in the UK, and a whopping 85 per cent in Norway.
To correct that, Labor is promising to make EVs more affordable in upfront costs by exempting them from import tariffs and the fringe benefits tax (a 47 per cent tax on electric cars that are provided through work for private use).
At its campaign launch, Labor also unveiled a plan to roll out EV charging stations at an average interval of 150km on major roads.
"Under Labor's commitment you could be certain that no matter where you live or where you're going you could get there in an EV," said Behyad Jafari, CEO of the Electric Vehicle Council.
After much consternation, the Liberal and National Parties agreed on a commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Their plan is sparse on details, however, and is reliant on the development of unproven and hitherto unimagined technologies. The government also refused to legislate the commitment.
Labor has gone one step further with a nearer-term commitment of reducing emissions by 43 per cent by 2030. That’s slightly lower than the 45 per cent target the party took to the last election. It wants to drive Australia to greater adoption of renewable forms of energy. To do that it has adopted a similar approach to the government, requiring heavy emitters to reduce their emissions or offset them more quickly. The plan has been backed by the Business Council of Australia but because it's more urgent than the Coalition's version Mr Morrison has tried to paint it as a "sneaky carbon tax".
The Coalition has been under pressure this term when it comes to the treatment of women in the workplace.
Labor is promising to implement all 55 recommendations of the Respect@Work report, compared to 43 by the Coalition which baulked at putting an enshrined responsibility on employers.
Labor is also promising leadership "to end family, domestic and sexual violence" through improving social housing options, having more frontline workers, introducing educational programs to break the cycle and offering 10 days paid family and domestic violence leave for victims.
The Coalition points to $1.3 billion allocated to respond to violence against women. The government also points to its economic credentials saying it has helped get more women into the workforce and reduced the gender pay gap by about 3.5 percentage points since coming to government in 2013.
At a party level, women make up 47 per cent of Labor's ranks in federal Parliament compared to 23 per cent in the Liberals, with the latter eschewing quotas to boost that number.
Integrity in federal politics
One of the big differences between the two parties centres on the issue of establishing an independent body to police corruption. While such institutions exist at the state level, there is no real equivalent at a federal level.
Mr Morrison promised to correct that heading into the last election, but after putting forth a widely criticised model which would effectively be unable to investigate politicians, the Coalition never tabled the legislation.
Mr Morrison has since walked away from the promise, while Labor has promised to introduce a federal corruption watchdog in its first year of government.
There is also a strong difference between the parties when it comes to First Nations people.
The last time Labor were in government, Kevin Rudd delivered the apology to the stolen generation (which was boycotted by current defence minister Peter Dutton).
Going into this election, Labor is promising to implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full. That means progressing a referendum to constitutionally enshrine an indigenous Voice to Parliament in the Constitution.
The Coalition have previously argued against such a thing, saying it would amount to a third chamber. In the first week of May, Scott Morrison again ruled out the idea.
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