PETA CREDLIN

Sunday Herald Sun - - Opinion -

EV­ERY elec­tion is a ques­tion of trust; who do you trust to keep our coun­try safe, and who do you trust to foster pros­per­ity. Af­ter last week’s Bud­get, the bat­tle­lines are drawn and this elec­tion will test the very con­cept of what Aus­tralians re­gard as sound eco­nomics: is it re­ward for ef­fort that best pro­duces a strong econ­omy, or is it more gov­ern­ment spend­ing on ser­vices, health and ed­u­ca­tion?

Be­cause Bill Shorten has made so much of it, the elec­tion will also test our con­cept of fair­ness: does fair­ness mean al­low­ing ev­ery­one to keep more of what they earn, or does it mean even more re­dis­tri­bu­tion from the rel­a­tively rich to the rel­a­tively poor?

If the ba­sic ques­tion vot­ers ask is “what’s in it for me?” the odds would have to favour Shorten, who’s built an elec­tion war chest with higher taxes on in­vestors and wealth­ier re­tirees, and an un­abashed ap­peal to La­bor’s base.

If the ba­sic ques­tion is “who will al­low me to get ahead?”, the Coali­tion could still win by at­tack­ing La­bor’s pol­i­tics of envy.

Both sides can rightly feel pleased with their Bud­get week.

The gov­ern­ment was able to de­liver a Bud­get that cut taxes, mod­estly boosted spend­ing, and de­liv­ered a sur­plus sooner thanks to a stronger econ­omy and bet­ter com­pany prof­its.

Yes, the big­ger tax cuts, and the flat­ter tax rates in seven years’ time, de­pend on un­de­liv­ered fu­ture sur­pluses that, in turn, de­pend on rates of fu­ture eco­nomic growth, wages growth and spend­ing re­straint rarely achieved in the re­cent past.

Still, the fore­casts are more be­liev­able than those Wayne Swan used to prom­ise sur­pluses he never de­liv­ered.

La­bor was able to use its op­po­si­tion to the gov­ern­ment’s pro­posed com­pany tax cuts, and high-in­come tax cuts, to re­in­force its fair­ness pitch and to prom­ise both more spend­ing and big­ger fu­ture sur­pluses.

Of course, Shorten is a hyp­ocrite to op­pose the lower, flat­ter taxes he once pro­posed and to op­pose the com­pany tax cut he used to sup­port.

But to many vot­ers, in­con­sis­tency and op­por­tunism prob­a­bly just mark him out as a typ­i­cal politi­cian.

Of course, it’s rich of Mal­colm Turn­bull — who didn’t be­come PM by be­ing loyal — to say you can’t trust Shorten, but vot­ers prob­a­bly think that back-stab­bing is part and par­cel of con­tem­po­rary pol­i­tics, too.

With five im­mi­nent by-elec­tions pro­vid­ing a dry run for the re­spec­tive cam­paigns, the next cou­ple of months will be a big test for both lead­ers.

While four of the seats are cur­rently in La­bor’s hands, and the fifth held by a for­mer Xenophon team mem­ber, three of the seats — Mayo in SA, Long­man in QLD and Brad­don in Tas­ma­nia — should all be within the gov­ern­ment’s grasp.

And if there’s any hope to re­tain gov­ern­ment at the next elec­tion, win­ning these seats is a must, given the fact re­dis­tri­bu­tions in Vic­to­ria, SA and the ACT have the Coali­tion al­ready start­ing from be­hind.

On the other hand, Shorten will be in big trou­ble too if La­bor goes back­wards in any of its cur­rent seats.

Cashed-up and con­fi­dent, the Op­po­si­tion has been in con­stant cam­paign mode. Al­though Lib­eral sup­port­ers have been on strike and the Prime Min­is­ter of­ten seems more in­ter­ested in scan­ning his iPhone than talk­ing to av­er­age peo­ple, Turn­bull shouldn’t be un­der­es­ti­mated when his back is to the wall and it’s likely he’ll end up with sup­port from ev­ery­one wor­ried that the next La­bor gov­ern­ment will be the most Leftwing in our his­tory.

Be­cause nei­ther leader’s po­si­tion is se­cure, no by-elec­tions have ever been so piv­otal to our coun­try’s fu­ture.

Sys­tem fails tod­dler

THEY say that how we treat our most vul­ner­a­ble is a mea­sure of who we are as a so­ci­ety. If that still holds true, then you’ve got to de­spair for where we are to­day. Last week’s re­port by the North­ern Ter­ri­tory Chil­dren’s Com­mis­sioner on the bru­tal rape of an in­dige­nous tod­dler in Ten­nant Creek out­lines a litany of fail­ures by the very sys­tem that should have been pro­tect­ing her. As hard as it is to read the facts of her abuse, it should be com­pul­sory read­ing for the hun­dreds of bu­reau­crats in de­part­ments of fam­ily and com­mu­nity ser­vices around the coun­try.

Af­ter all, she is the re­sult of a sys­tem that pref­er­ences the colour of her skin over her right to live in safety, even if it is out­side her fam­ily and her cul­ture.

This lit­tle girl was raped so se­verely that she was trans­ferred to Ade­laide and un­der­went surgery for her in­juries.

She needed a blood trans­fu­sion and tested pos­i­tive for gon­or­rhoea. She was 2½ years of age, for God’s sake, and wore a nappy.

A 24-year-old man has been charged with her as­sault.

Sadly, she is not a lone case; there’s been sim­i­lar sex­ual as­saults of preschool chil­dren this year, as well as last.

And un­less we ask our­selves the tough ques­tions about how we’ve al­lowed this sort of de­prav­ity to take hold in in­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties, then there will be more lit­tle ones who suf­fer.

I am not so naive as to think in­dige­nous homes alone suf­fer these crimes. But the ut­ter fail­ure of child pro­tec­tion ser­vices to dis­card cul­tural poli­cies in or­der to save lives makes them a con­stant fea­ture of dys­func­tional in­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties. How many re­ports must we have be­fore we de­clare this is­sue a na­tional emer­gency? It took Mal­colm Turn­bull a mere 12 hours af­ter a Four Cor­ners re­port on the Don Dale de­ten­tion cen­tre to es­tab­lish a royal com­mis­sion. But here? Noth­ing. Canberra, af­ter all, signs most of the NT’s cheques and in­dige­nous af­fairs is in the PM’s own depart­ment.

Not even a joint press con­fer­ence from the large num­ber of in­dige­nous MPs now sit­ting in our fed­eral Par­lia­ment ei­ther.

They’re quick to raise their voices about Aus­tralia Day and new con­sti­tu­tional rights, but what about the right of this tod­dler to her in­no­cence?

Of course, no min­is­ter in the NT gov­ern­ment has lost their job; no pub­lic ser­vant has taken re­spon­si­bil­ity. If you’re as an­gry as I am about this cul­tural cop-out, please don’t let the colour of her skin si­lence you too. PETA CREDLIN IS A SUN­DAY HER­ALD SUN COLUM­NIST

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