Peter Costello is more than a little peeved that Labor has released a tax plan very like the Coalition's. Less than five days after his own moment of tax plan glory, Pete is reduced to whining that Labor had copied "91.5%" of his homework, and throwing in a little union-baiting for good measure. Leaving the unions aside (please?), the man has a point. Basically, Labor's plan is Taxcutpalooza Lite: identical to the Costello plan at the lower end of the tax spectrum, but deferring the cuts for people on $180,000+ in favour of targeted tax rebates for lower income families to spend on educational goods like broadband and textbooks.
It's a clever idea. The ALP is not going to win the battle of who can tax less, even if it did, in fact, promise to tax less, because everyone knows that Labor are the deficit-loving Keynesian tax-and-spenders and the Libs are the laissez-faire Friedmanites. More to the point, it's not a battle Labor should be trying to win. Australians are not allergic to tax-and-spend Big Gummint as a concept, and although everyone does like it when they themselves get a tax cut, recent opinion polls seem to indicate that most people would prefer more spending on services, even though axiomatically that means taxing people more. When it comes to taxation versus spending, people want to have their cake and eat it.
Which is where Labor's plan hits the spot: by saying they're going to defer cutting taxes for the rich - including, as Kevin Rudd pointed out, Rudd himself - and use the money saved to help the poor, Labor is rekindling the sparks of good old-fashioned class warfare - just a little, you understand, nothing to rock the boat, and by the way Julia Gillard is not a communist. Also, directing the money at education is inspired, a soft, cuddly and eminently Labor-voter-friendly twist on the tax-the-rich theme. All this, and tax cuts for us ordinary folk! No wonder it took them four days to release it.
Hopefully, Labor have me-tooed their way out of a depressingly tax-focused campaign and can now go on with things like signing Kyoto and beating up the Coalition over WorkChoices.