Anthony Albanese probably won’t win majority government at the next election

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If the Reserve has accidentally hit the economy harder than intended, we could slip into recession next year, causing a big jump in the number of people out of a job, and thus hitting them much harder.

But with any luck, it won’t come to that. And the crazy-lazy way we define recession – a fall in real gross domestic product in two successive quarters – means that growth in the population may conceal the hip-pocket pain many people are feeling.

Consider the case of someone on the very modest wage of $45,000 a year in September 2021. If their wage rose in line with the wage price index, it would have risen by $3300 to $48,300 in September this year.

However, bracket creep, plus the discontinuation of the low and middle income tax offset, raised the average rate of income tax they pay from 9.8¢ in the dollar to 14.2¢. So their tax bill would have grown by $2460.

Now allow for the rise in consumer prices over the two years, and the purchasing power of their disposable income has fallen by about $5290, meaning their “real” disposable income is $4450 a year less than it used to be.

Can you imagine that person being terribly happy with the way their finances have fared under the Albanese government? My guess is, there’ll be growing disaffection with Labor as next year progresses.

If there’s a low-pain way to get inflation back under control, I’ve yet to hear about it.

To help him win last year’s federal election, Albanese made Labor a “small target” by promising very little change, including no change to the stage three income tax cuts, legislated long before the pandemic, to start in July next year.

His game plan had been to spend his first term being steady and sensible, keeping his promises and being an “economically responsible” government. This would get him re-elected with an increased majority and able to implement needed but controversial reforms.

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But, through no great fault of his own, he’s had to grapple with the worst surge in the cost of living in decades. If there’s a low-pain way to get inflation back under control, I’ve yet to hear about it.

The trouble set in well before the change of government, and the Reserve Bank began its long series of interest rate rises during the election campaign.

My guess is that Albanese’s hopes of storming back to power at an election due by May 2025 are dashed. But it’s hard to see Peter Dutton winning the election unless he can win back the Liberal heartland seats that went to the teals, which seems doubtful.

So, it’s not hard to see Albanese losing seats and reduced to minority government, dependent on the support of the Greens and teals.

There is, however, one thing he could do to cheer up many voters: rejig the coming tax cuts so the lion’s share of the $25 billion they’ll cost the budget goes not to the high-income taxpayers who’ve had the least trouble coping with living costs, but to those on lower incomes who’ve the most.

Ross Gittins is the economics editor.

Ross Gittins unpacks the economy in an exclusive subscriber-only newsletter. Sign up to receive it every Tuesday evening.



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