What to expect if Australia’s Labor Party wins election

Five areas the Labor Party will review if they win the election, namely issues on climate change, workers’ plight, tax, cost of living and a national referendum for a Republic. (AFP pic)

SYDNEY: Australia’s Labor Party is tipped to win Saturday’s election after six years in opposition. The left-leaning party has been campaigning on a platform packed with headline-grabbing policies.

So what can be expected if a Labor government comes to power?

Here are five key election promises:

Climate change and energy
A Labor government will set a target of generating 50% of electricity from renewables by 2030. It will also commit the nation to reducing pollution by 45% on 2005 levels by 2030 and to reach net zero pollution by 2050.

Coal is a major part of Australia’s energy generation but Labor is touting a shift to cleaner energy. This will include putting solar panels in schools and subsidising battery technology for use in homes.

It follows voter frustration over high energy prices and a state-wide blackout in South Australia in 2016 during a storm. The state has since pushed for more renewable energy projects, including a battery farm built by Tesla billionaire founder Elon Musk.

Australia is a constitutional monarchy, with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II represented by the governor-general, the country’s head of state. Labor will hold a plebiscite if it takes power on whether Australia becomes a republic, 20 years after a failed referendum on changing the head of state.

The British crown’s power in Australia is seen as largely symbolic but republicans say it is an anachronistic colonial relic. Public support for Australia breaking its ties with the monarchy fell following a visit by Prince Harry and wife Meghan last year.

Labor has historically been the party of the workers, and leader Bill Shorten, a former union chief, said his government will reverse cuts made to bonuses for those working on Sundays and public holidays.

Shorten also said one of his first priorities if Labor wins is to ask Australia’s national workplace relations tribunal, the Fair Work Commission, to boost the minimum wage to a “living” wage. The minimum wage is currently Aus$18.93 (US$13.10) per hour.

Labor is cutting tax concessions and loopholes, which it says will save the government more than Aus$150 billion over a decade. These include removing cash refunds on dividends for some shareholders who do not pay tax.

The party will also restrict tax breaks on property investment in a move Shorten has will help give first-time buyers more opportunity to get into the market.

The policies have stirred fierce debate among affected voters in a country where many have the “Great Australian dream” of owning property.

Cost of living
Labor has campaigned heavily on addressing cost-of-living pressures amid weak growth in wages. As part of this theme, the party will implement a Aus$2.3-billion cancer package that includes cutting out-of-pocket costs for patients and reducing public hospital waiting times for treatment.

The party will also roll out a Aus$4-billion childcare policy that includes increasing subsidies for low-income families and boosting early childhood workers’ wages by 20% over eight years.