With the country gripped by unprecedented excitement over Treasurer Joe Hockey’s second budget, evidence has emerged that Labor’s recent, uncharacteristic announcement of detailed policy was an error that has sown discord within the party leadership.
When shadow treasurer Chris Bowen and Opposition leader Bill Shorten released details of a plan to curtail the generous superannuation concessions for high income earners, the government labelled the move as irresponsible.
At the time, Josh Frydenberg, Minister for Doing Interviews When Nobody Important is Available, said: “Everyone knows taxing rich people is a dangerously silly idea, which is precisely why we completely ignored similar recommendations from our own tax review.
“Now, without an election anywhere in sight, Labor have come out with this! People will have lots of time to analyse their policy and our response and might start having their own ideas and wanting input. It will be a disaster for our system of democracy!”
Many in the Canberra Press Gallery expressed similar concerns about subversion of the political system.
“The proper time for policy releases – especially with any level of detail that a party could be held accountable to – is in the last days of an election campaign. To so casually put this out now, and without so much as a quiet leak over a private lunch … it’s tantamount to anarchy,” said ABC’s democracy analyst, Tony Jones.
However, emails seen by The (un)Australian indicate that the entire incident was a mistake. It appears an internal discussion paper from Labor Party think tank, the Chifley Research Centre, was accidentally emailed to Bill Shorten who assumed it was a press release backgrounder attacking the upcoming Budget.
This was independently confirmed by a source close to the Opposition leader. “Bill got this email during his joke-writing time, saw there was a whole bunch of big numbers in it, so just passed it straight along to Chris to deal with,” they said.
“Naturally Chris, as an experienced front bench politician, didn’t waste time reading or checking something he could bash the government with before going public with it. And so here we are.
“As soon as Bill actually realised what had happened, he was apoplectic. At least we think he was … it’s hard to tell.”