“The fact that I say Shorten is going to win has nought to do with bias,” said Graham Richardson, former Labor Senator and numbers man when I interviewed him at the Switzer Investor Strategy Day in Sydney this week. “Every poll for two and a half year tells you he’s going to win. I can’t see how he’s going to get beaten.”
He admits that Scott Morrison is “a friend of mine” but he says Australia has made up its mind to change government.
That said, Richo believes the differences between the major parties is very little nowadays, which quite shocked the near 1,000 attendees at our investment day, many of whom were retirees with self-managed super funds and baseball bats, who are peed off about Bill Shorten’s franking credits policy that will ‘rob’ non-pension retirees of tax rebates. (Like the Soup Nazi in the Seinfeld TV show, Bill is effectively saying: “No tax refund to you” and self-funded retirees aren’t happy.)
Richo thinks that industrial relations is the biggest difference nowadays but “I’m sure retirees, property investors, small business owners and farmers might take issue with that.”
He argues Labor has dropped “any semblance of socialism” in their policies, so it gets down to the competence factor.
He says the potential Labor Government after May 18 won’t be a Whitlam rerun. “He had Jim Cairns as Treasurer, which showed you what he thought about economics,” Richo admitted.
Hearing this and knowing my audience at our event, I put Richo on the spot and asked him about the fairness and silliness of Bill’s franking credits’ play. This is what he said: “It’s a dumb political play,” he replied. “I don’t have to agree with everything that Labor does!” And that brought applause from the audience.
Richo hates governments “fiddling with super” and the applause got louder when he said: “Everyone’s has had a hack at it…and my view is both sides of parliament should leave super alone so people can plan for their future.” He thinks the Senate will put some changes to this policy.
He says super shouldn’t be seen as an easy “cash cow” but the troublesome Senate of today could rescue self-funded retirees.
“When I was a Minister, we never had the numbers in the Senate and we had to win a few Democrats over and they were so dopey, it wasn’t hard to win them…but today it’s a lot harder.”
I asked if the Coalition should push the impact of Labor’s policies on driving house prices down and Richo said “yes” but also pointed out that not everyone owns a house so “it’s not enough.”
He said “Scott does not have a long record of achievement yet and so he has to run a scare campaign on Labor and it’s pretty easy to get people scared of Bill”, which brought a loud laugh.
Richo conceded my point that if you add retirees to small business owners to property investors to home owners, who can expect their prices to fall under Labor plus rural communities and the Coalition should be a good chance to win the election but he says they don’t seem to have the will to group these groups together.
“They’ve got plenty to say but if only they said it! I like to see a contest,” he added.
On the Coalition dumping Malcolm Turnbull, I asked if they got it right? “Absolutely,” was his comeback and applause followed. (His views on Malcolm should be restricted to the video and you can see it here:)
But even with his sympathetic view on Morrison, who he describes as a mate, he insists the win will be decisive for Bill.
I questioned if he is captive of the Left? And Richo said “Bill was never of the Left.” I then asked the audience if they thought Bill was a lefty and about 900 said yes. I taught Richo that there’s a lot of ‘misguided’ Aussies on his reckoning out there who think Bill is as red as Xi Jinping.
Against that, he doesn’t think Bill is being heavied by the trade unions and the industry super industry but is simply “desperate to win and will do Whatever it Takes…”, which of course was the name of Graham’s famous book of his time doing the numbers under Hawke and Keating.
If Bill loses, this Labor stalwart says “his career is over”, which is why he’s trying everything to win voters over.
On Bill’s leftish pitch to voters, Richo said he’s not a fan of his “rich versus poor” stance, which he says he doesn’t like. In addition, he’s not hooked on his negative gearing policy, which he says he will have problems getting through the Senate, especially if house prices are still falling.
I asked him who was the best Labor leader he worked with and he left out Bob Hawke and Paul Keating to nominate Neville Wran, who he said could live in Darling Point but still know what the punter in Liverpool was thinking.
I wonder if Bill has that skill? I bet he doesn’t.
Ahead of the election, watch this interview with a legend of Aussie politics.