History reveals him for the envy-driven far-Leftist that he is. Has he changed? When pressed, he did not renounce his past far-out comments
Anthony Albanese sharply criticised capitalism and family wealth as causes of social injustice while suggesting incomes above $100,000 a year were not entirely deserved.
The Opposition Leader made the previously unreported remarks while arguing for an inheritance tax when he was assistant general secretary of NSW Labor in the early 1990s.
“If you become a millionaire through hard work or investment you are taxed on it,” Mr Albanese said. “If, however, you gain your wealth through the lottery of birth then there’s no taxation and you achieve that economic influence in society through nothing other than sheer luck. I believe that quite clearly is in contradiction to Labor’s social justice objectives.”
At the 1991 Australian Labor Party centenary conference, Mr Albanese introduced a resolution for the Hawke government to consider an inheritance taxes.
The treasurer at the time, John Kerin, and commerce minister, John Button, rejected Mr Albanese’s idea as politically unpalatable. The revelation comes as the Morrison government steps up its attack on Mr Albanese’s character and policy record in the wake of damaging Newspoll figures showing the Coalition trailing Labor.
Mr Albanese has since moved away from his radical left heritage, positioning himself as a centrist politician and safe pair of economic hands ahead of the upcoming federal election.
But in June 1991, Mr Albanese began his speech by quoting comments made by former Labor senator Robert Ray in a pamphlet titled The Case for Death Duties distributed by the British socialist think tank, the Fabian Society.
“If I can begin with a quote from a delegate to the conference which sums up the situation, that delegate said that: Accumulated income in the form of capital is for all socialists at least part of the source of many social injustices,” Mr Albanese said, noting the delegate was Senator Ray.
He insisted people earning incomes of more than $100,000 (about $200,000 today) did not “actually earn them”.
“We are not looking at Mr and Mrs Suburbia in the middle class to hit this tax with,” Mr Albanese told the Labor conference in Hobart.
“We are really looking at the top 10 per cent of town and if I started on a quote from Robert Ray, I think I can finish on a quote from (former Labor finance minister) Peter Walsh and that quote is that moreover, those who get very high – say over $100,000 incomes per year – do not actually earn them.”
While Mr Albanese gave the speech three decades ago, the radical ideas he espoused epitomise his socialist past that he has sought to bury as he asks the Australian public to elect him prime minister.
Five years after he gave the speech, he entered federal parliament at the 1996 election.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Mr Albanese posed a “significant threat to Australia’s economic future with his socialist ideals and lack of economic experience, having never held a Treasury portfolio”. “He has spent his whole career being a cheerleader for higher taxes,” he said.
“The carbon tax, the mining tax, congestion tax, retirees tax, housing tax, family business tax, higher taxes on income and superannuation and, most damning of all, death duties.”
Asked about his speech, Mr Albanese said Mr Frydenberg’s attack over his support for an inheritance tax showed the government had “no substantial critique of the policies Labor is taking to the upcoming 2022 election, which is what we will implement if we are elected”. “It is a sign of the absolute desperation from a divided, dishonest and incompetent government that they are using taxpayer-funded staff to analyse debates which are more than three decades old,” he said.
In the speech, Mr Albanese went on to claim that money inherited or gifted had not been earned by the recipient and should be taxed. Death duties would “distribute inheritances more widely than a mere duty on the estate”, he said. “It could also take into account gifts and other requests over a period of time as one way of ensuring that there was minimal avoidance of such a tax.”
Without an inheritance tax, Mr Albanese argued, there was a “horizontal inequity against earned income, in favour of unearned income”.
The commerce minister at the time, Button, responded to Mr Albanese’s resolution by saying the policy had been taken from the Australian Democrats and “probably hasn’t been very well thought out”. He appealed to Labor delegates not to introduce death duties because “the text of this resolution will be picked on by our opponents with glee”. Button also noted that Walsh, whom Mr Albanese had quoted, had said the inheritance tax “should apply to $50,000 thresholds”.
Kerin said that before the states had traded away death duties “there was a lot of destruction done to Australian farming”.
“I want to run into the next election with no new taxes,” he said. “Whatever you do, delegates, don’t give the Liberals the opportunity to misrepresent this woefully as we run into the next election because they will do that.”
During his speech, which repeatedly addressed “Comrade Chair”, Mr Albanese rejected the proposal for a consumption tax – like the GST – and instead said there should be taxes that hit the “top end of a town” – a turn of phrase adopted by Mr Albanese’s predecessor, Bill Shorten, during the 2019 election campaign.
“I believe there could be no greater political distinction coming out of this conference in showing the real distinction between the Labor Party and the conservatives in our centenary year than the fact that the conservative forces are pushing a consumption tax,” he said.
“This conference has rejected, earlier on, a consumption tax unanimously and a suggestion that we actually consider looking at things which hit the top end of town out of this conference would be an appropriate measure.”
Criticising the Hawke government, he said the profits of the Prices and Incomes Accord (an agreement between the ACTU and the Labor Party) “have been wasted and squandered in an orgy of speculation and unproductive investment”.