Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen has warned the Federal Government needs to heed the message from “disenfranchised and disillusioned” voters the economy is not currently benefiting. Mr Bowen told the Financial Services Council conference in Melbourne that political movements around the world needed to acknowledge a growing anger over the state of the global economy.
He flagged the Federal Opposition would be “proactive” in helping the Government achieve budget savings, but that revenue measures would also be needed to avoid a downgrade of Australia’s credit rating.
“People are hurting, and … when they hear a simple solution, well at least they are getting a solution,” he said.
“We just can’t lecture people and say ‘that’s a bad solution’. We have to ensure the growth is inclusive.”
Mr Bowen said the high turnout of voters for the One Nation party in Queensland, as well as the Nick Xenophon Team in South Australia, could have been a symptom of “troubled economies” in those states and called for more of a focus on inclusive economic growth.
“I don’t think we can sit around and pontificate and say ‘you shouldn’t vote for Pauline Hanson’. We’ve got to listen to those concerns as a political class,” he said.
“People who vote this way aren’t necessarily racist, but they are hurting and in some senses income inequality has been on the rise for some time.”
‘Bring forward MYEFO’
Mr Bowen also wants the Federal Government to bring forward the mid-year and economic fiscal outlook before ratings agencies decide to downgrade Australia’s credit rating.
“We can’t wait until the next budget in May for Government policy to be clarified,” he said.
He added that if the Coalition was prepared to work with Labor on “sensible and fair” changes to the budget, they would find a “willing partner” in the Federal Opposition.
On superannuation, Mr Bowen said the Federal Opposition would remain “deeply concerned and opposed” to elements of the Federal Government’s policy, which has attracted criticism from within the Coalition’s own ranks.
“As a matter of urgency, the Government should resolve this area of their policy,” Mr Bowen said.
“Labor will work constructively with the Prime Minister and the Treasurer to ensure that changes to superannuation are not retrospective.”