Bill Shorten’s budget reply speech: Is the neoliberal bipartisan consensus coming to an end?

With an election expected to be called within days now, and with a federal Coalition government using current levels of economic prosperity to promise new tax-cuts as well as major investments in infrastructure, all eyes were on Labor opposition leader

Bill Shorten

as he rose in parliament to deliver the much anticipated

budget reply speech.

Usually a pretty dry affair, circumstances were different this time, since Shorten delivered a speech which had more in common with a traditional campaign launch rather than a speech solely on budgetary matters. Strategically, the opposition leader signalled how he and his party will approach the campaign by focusing on medicare, promising huge investments particularly in cancer treatment facilities, and making his pitch to young Australians, promising to fix a tax system which he believes is structurally biased against them. To what extent Labor’s emerging strategy can work in this campaign remains to be seen, since, as veteran journalists point out on this


the campaign will be fought on rather more contentious issues; nonetheless, Shorten tries to connect with the electorate by putting forward a positive message, and thus attempts to draw a sharp distinction between Prime Minister

Scott Morrison

and himself. Since negative campaigning does sadly work in politics, and the Coalition is going into the campaign having to make up ground with voters, it will be interesting to see for how long Shorten can stay on message. I repeat it again: For political strategists around the world, particularly those seeking to make a progressive agenda viable, this could be an incredibly interesting time to watch; Shorten might have to offer quite a bit not just to the country, but to social-democratic forces all over the world.

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