by Eryk Bagshaw and Mathew Dunckley
Labor is facing a rising internal revolt to dump its signature $14 billion franking credit policy in the wake of its stunning election loss to the Coalition.
Liberal MPs are astounded at the success of their ‘retiree tax’ campaign – led by Victorian MP Tim Wilson – which has killed off the threat of Labor’s franking credit policy and won the Coalition key seats up the east coast.
The Labor policy, which affected only 5 per cent of Australians, mostly retired shareholders, was harnessed by the Coalition to gain the votes of their children and grandchildren. The policy would have stripped tax refunds from retired investors who had not paid tax.
“In the same way that kids told their parents how to vote in the marriage equality postal survey, we saw parents tell their kids about the cost of voting Labor,” Mr Wilson said.
The MP, who Liberal sources said was now in line for a ministry, harnessed a taxpayer-funded campaign to fuel resentment about the policy around the country.
Mr Wilson said the policy was a game changer because it put voters’ “bank balance on the ballot”.
“A lot of those seats from the Central Coast [in NSW] to the Sunshine Coast [in Queensland] it was a big factor,” he said.
Labor’s failure to hold seats in Queensland and Tasmania with large retiree populations cost Bill Shorten the election on Saturday after a predicted swing against the government in Victoria and NSW failed to materialise.
Anthony Albanese, who announced his candidacy for Labor leader on Sunday, said he would not make “policy on the run” and would “respect the caucus” before deciding whether to dump any policies.
Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen is also expected to announce his candidacy this week, along with Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek. Mr Bowen said on Saturday night that he had no doubt Labor would “bring the [policies] to another election,” but that there would be a review of what went wrong. Ms Plibersek said Labor’s big policy platform hurt the party.
“When you’ve got such a large agenda, it’s sometimes hard to explain all of the details to all of the people who benefit,” she said on Nine’s election night panel.
Internally, Labor’s polling showed it was being hammered in the over-65 age bracket, particularly in Queensland. “Two words: retiree tax,” said one Labor source.
The founder of Wilson Asset Management, Geoff Wilson – who co-ordinated the campaign with Tim Wilson – said Labor drastically underestimated the number of people affected by the change.
“It was just so grossly inequitable and unfair,” he said.
His company surveyed 4000 people who had signed its petition against the proposed changes and found that 47 per cent of respondents said their children or grandchildren would shift their vote away from Labor because of the policy.
“Labor was naive to think this only affected a small portion of the economy,” he said. “In terms of the community it impacted and the families it affected it was much larger.”
Mr Wilson urged businesses and business leaders to stand up more often when they saw a policy they felt was wrong.
“We lost a little bit of skin along the way, that’s life, I would encourage more people to stand up,” he said.
One of Australia’s largest investors, Tom Millner said Labor’s policies had damaged investment confidence.
“This election result is bloody fantastic, no more concerns with Labor stealing investors’ franking credits,” Mr Millner said.
with Cole Latimer