Election battle lines set after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Peter Dutton unveil alternative visions

Dan Jervis-Bardy
The Nightly
4 Min Read
Anthony Albanese and Peter Dutton have very different visions for the future of Australia
Anthony Albanese and Peter Dutton have very different visions for the future of Australia Credit: The Nightly

Migration numbers, housing and the future of WA mining have emerged as key battlegrounds at the next Federal Election after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the Liberal leader Peter Dutton laid out very different visions for the nation’s future.

Clear policy differences between the major parties crystallised during federal budget week in Canberra, framing the political fights that will shape the next national poll.

Mr Albanese has put his Future Made in Australia plan – headlined by billions of dollars in tax credits for critical minerals – at the centre of his re-election pitch, while Mr Dutton is promising to get the nation “back on track” by slashing migration.

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Migration and housing

Community angst over cost-of-living pressure, crippling housing shortages and clogged-up roads has prompted both parties to commit to cutting migration, which soared to record levels after the pandemic.

Mr Dutton made immigration the centrepiece of his Budget reply speech, pledging to slash annual permanent migration from 185,000 to 140,000 for two years, then gradually increase it to 160,000.

The annual refugee and humanitarian intake program - set at 20,000 this year – would also be pared back to around 13,750.

Net overseas migration would be cut to 160,000, Mr Dutton revealed on Friday after omitting the figure from his Budget reply speech.

He said reducing immigration, imposing a two-year ban on foreigners buying existing homes and capping international student numbers would free up 100,000 homes for Australians over the next four years.

The Liberal leader also recommitted to allowing first homebuyers to raid up to $50,000 of their own superannuation to break into the market.

“The great Australian aspiration of home ownership has become out of reach for so many,” Mr Dutton said on Thursday night.

Labor is promising to reduce net overseas migration from the post-COVID peak of 528,000 in 2022-2023 to 260,000 in this coming financial year.

It is also targeting international students, telling universities that if they want to increase overseas enrolments then they need to build more accommodation.

Unlike Mr Dutton the Government has not tied immigration directly to its broader housing agenda.

Instead, Labor committed an extra $6.2 billon to boost supply, particularly of social and affordable properties, as it refuses to give up on its target of building 1.2 million homes by 2029.

Mining and energy

With the resource-rich states of WA and Queensland expected to play a major role in deciding the next election, Labor and the Coalition have both made major pitches to the nation’s miners.

Labor has gone all in on green industries through its Future Made in Australia plan, pledging $13.7 billion in tax incentives for critical minerals processing and refining and green hydrogen production.

The tax credits would start from 2027-2028 and run until the early 2040s, with the total cost estimated to reach almost $32 billion.

WA miners warmly welcomed the plan after months of lobbying the Federal Government for a multi-billion-dollar response to the US’ ground-breaking Inflation Reduction Act.

Mr Dutton and shadow treasurer Angus Taylor immediately dashed hopes of bi-partisan support, declaring outright opposition to handing “billions to billionaires”.

The Liberal leader doubled down in his Budget reply speech, describing the tax credits as “corporate welfare”.

Mr Dutton pitched a completely different approach to support the mining sector, vowing to wind-back Labor’s market interventions, speed up approval times and slash red tape.

“I want mining to boom in Western Australia and around the nation,” he said on Thursday night.

Nuclear is still on the Coalition’s agenda, although details about its plan remain scant despite promises all would be revealed before the budget.

Mr Dutton reinstated his intention to build nuclear reactors at the site of closed or retiring coal-fired power stations, but did not reveal locations, cost or timeline.

Labor remains committed to its target of slashing emissions 43 per cent by 2030, with Future Made in Australia designed to turbocharge industries critical to the clean energy transition.

“We know the global energy transformation represents a golden opportunity for Australia,” Treasurer Jim Chalmers said on Tuesday night.

Both parties are committed to gas through to 2050 and beyond.

Tax

Labor reset the political debate on tax months ago with its bombshell decision to break an election promise and redesign the stage tax cuts.

The new tax cuts redistributed the benefits of the Morrison-era plan, halving the promised relief for higher income earners to deliver more help to people earning under $146,500.

After initially signalling it would reverse the changes if it returned to power, the Coalition are now promising to develop their own tax package ahead of the next election.

Mr Taylor has said the Opposition’s tax cuts would be “in keeping” with the original stage three plan but has stopped short of providing further detail.

Mr Dutton was giving little away on Thursday night, revealing only that a future Coalition Government would provide “lower, simpler and fairer taxes for all”.

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