With just a 4% two-party-preferred swing on 2nd July, William Richard Shorten could become the 30th prime minister of Australia. Let us pause to imagine what the first 100 days of his ALP Government might bring. Remember, what follows is only imaginary — for now.
Ten days in, with the last marginal seat finally declared, the new Parliament is convened urgently to pass a Bill for Marriage Equality. Two ALP Members threaten to resign rather than vote for the bill, but are persuaded not to bring down the Shorten Government, and decide to abstain instead. The bill passes and is celebrated by an impromptu Mardi Gras parade the following weekend. The PM is enthroned on the first float — a hero to the ecstatic 1 million-strong crowd, lining the full length of Sydney’s famous Oxford Street. Several churches indicate they will now be referring all couples to non-religious wedding celebrants, thus avoiding entrapment by gay provocateurs pounding on their doors and demanding to be united in accordance with the law’s dictates.
The new PM also foreshadows that there will be a referendum (not a plebiscite) to make Australia a republic, via the “minimal” change of making the Governor-General the President, in late 2016. If passed, it is planned to swear in Australia’s first President on 26th January, 2017, “Invasion” Day, thereby disavowing the shame of British colonisation and genocide.
Two weeks in, new Treasurer Chris Bowen reveals that the state of the government’s books is much worse than what was forecast in Scott Morrison’s budget of May 3. In a joint press conference, Bowen and Shorten outline their plan for new taxes to balance the budget within three years. Shorten renews his promise that no government spending will be cut in the process.
The discount on taxation of capital gains from longer-term investments is to be scrapped, and from 2018 the family home will be subject to the capital-gains tax. Bowen says the discount and family-home exemption allowed the rich to get richer. The change is projected to raise $2 billion a year.
Federal death duties are also brought in, confiscating 40% of estates over $1 million. Shorten points out that this is similar to the inheritance tax in the UK, under a Conservative government. He notes that the tax will “level the playing field”, previously tipped in favour of wealthy Australians who often inherit untaxed property worth millions. This change is projected to raise $1 billion a year initially, assuming house prices don’t drop markedly as a result of sudden divestments by older people. The following Saturday, record low auction clearances are reported for homes in all Australia’s major cities except Hobart.
Because 2015 was officially the hottest year on record, Shorten says his government has decided to act urgently to reintroduce a Carbon Tax at $25/tonne. This is projected to raise $7billion a year, with $2 billion will be paid back in subsidies to ensure that poorer Australians are not disadvantaged. The measure is aimed to rapidly reduce Australia’s still-high CO2 output per capita. As a result, airfares rise by 10-15%, but this won’t affect politicians or public servants’ travel.
The Medicare levy — which has only ever covered part of Australia’s growing health expenditure — is to be doubled from 2% to 4% for taxpayers earning over $50,000. This will raise $5 billion, which will be spent on health — the majority going to the states to keep their public hospital systems running.
Finally, Federal Government funding to private schools charging fees of more than $5,000 a year is to be discontinued. It is estimated that $2 billion per year will be saved, the promise being that it will be ploughed back into education. Champagne corks pop in gender-, womyns- and gay-studies faculties across the country, where Safe Schools 2.0 lesson plans materialise overnight.
The ASX 200 plunges 10% in its first day of full trading after all this news, with resources and energy stocks plunging up to 50%. But shares in renewable energy companies soar an average of 150% as rent-seekers dust off schemes for wave generators, solar farms, “promising” battery technologies and a wind turbine on every hill. Unfortunately, almost all will be imported. On cold, clear but windless nights around Southern Australia, power costs will soar as high-cost gas-burning plants come on line to make up the missing energy.
Coal companies announce plans to phase out their Australia operations. All steel mills, aluminium and nickel refineries in Australia are to close within two years. The price of standard unleaded petrol at the bowser begins to rise, widely expected to hit $2 a litre within six months.
Fortunately for some Australian oil and LNG producers, a re-drawn treaty with East Timor has moved the huge Sunrise seabed field into East Timorese territory, exempt from Australia’s carbon tax. The producers and the East Timorese are both very grateful.
The next week, Australia’s first indigenous Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Linda Burney — newly elected in the redrawn Sydney seat of Barton — announces that she is working on a treaty to be signed on behalf the government of Australia and all Australians with indigenous blood. She envisages that the Treaty will include reparations – probably in the order of $10 billion (given the $3 billion projected total cost of the Maori reparation program in New Zealand). More significantly, the treaty will re-create individual indigenous territories across Australia, each to have their own law-making parliament, elected exclusively by Australians with indigenous blood from that region.
Ms Burney indicates that it could be important for completion of Australia’s reconciliation process if the Aboriginal flag were also to be chosen as the new Australian flag. Another plebiscite on the flag (to be held along with the Republic referendum) is announced for late 2016.
Deputy PM and Minister for Women, Tanya Plibersek, unveils a landmark Equality at Work Bill, which will require that at least 50% of the employees at all levels of any organisation be women, and that the take-home pay of female employees, averaged across all employees in all departments and jobs, be no lower than that of males. Companies that fail to meet these targets within five years will be subject to higher corporate taxes.
Two weeks later, the new Australian Union Powers Bill is unveiled by the PM himself. This Bill gives union organisers rights to enter any workplace in Australia, to inspect which workers are there (and check their Union membership), and review corporate employment and pay documents. Where Union organisers find any discrepancies, the company’s executives may be ordered to a compulsory meeting, chaired by a Fair Work Australia official with “relevant” union experience. The ASX slumps another 10%.
Richard Marles, Minister for Immigration, announces that all detention centres are to be closed, and Australia will provide reception centres in Indonesian ports for asylum-seekers considering taking sea voyages to Australia. To satisfy the ALP’s left factions, and the crucial Green Senators, all would-be immigrants will be flown to Australia on chartered commercial flights and housed “in the community”. Coincidentally, much of this housing is in marginal seats, with cynics noting that the influx of new arrivals can mostly be expected to vote Labor. Airline shares – which fell 50% after the carbon tax announcement – now rise 100% on this news.
Meanwhile, the Minister for Health, Catherine King, announces plans to re-nationalise Medibank Private, and compulsorily take over all other private health insurers. She notes that Australia’s Medicare system is the envy of countries round the world, and that the Government is determined to see all Australians participate in Medicare, rather than a divisive two-tier public/private system.
Within a fortnight, a million Australians drop their private health insurance. Struggling private hospital operators call for urgent talks regarding buy-back of their facilities by the Government. Government spokesmen note that private hospitals were the domains of “the rich” and the move is intended to promote “fairness”.
During a quick trip to the United Nations HQ in New York, Bill Shorten announces that Australia will be backing his former boss, Kevin Rudd’s candidacy for UN Secretary-General. Only this way, Shorten states, can Australia’s reputation as a decent, progressive and fair-minded country be restored. Kevin promises to come and visit Australia within six months of his election as Secretary-General.
In London, the PM and his wife dine with Her Majesty and HRH Sir Philip at Buckingham Palace, and assure them that Australians will always have a soft spot in their hearts for the Monarchy, even after the likely passing of the referendum to create the minimalist model Australian Republic shortly. Bill and Chloe tweet a selfie from the Queen’s private dining room at the Palace to their many followers. The Duke of Edinburgh is heard to mutter something characteristically colourful about the noxious nature of short people
Over the next three weeks, Bill and Chloe visit and meet with national leaders in Washington, Berlin, New Delhi, Beijing and Jakarta. President Obama notes that Bill Shorten reminds him a lot of himself just eight years ago. Hillary Clinton is too busy fending off investigations looking into her use of a private email server but sends him a best-wishes message.
The PM finally arrives back in Melbourne just 98 days after election. Working late in his office on the 99th night of his prime ministership, he hears a knock on his door. Deputy PM Plibersek enters with some bad news. As Shorten remembers it later, the words of another ousted Labor PM came back to him and he recalls that, as Julia Gillard once did, she walked in ‘ice cold, ice cold’.
The next day, Australia had yet another new Prime Minister.