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Can Albanese survive his broken promise? Here's how 4 other Aussie politicians fared after election backflip

Anthony Albanese is copping some heat over his changes to Stage 3 tax cuts, but how does it stack up against other big policy U-turns?

Anthony Albanese has rejected suggestions his broken election promise about the stage three income tax cuts will be the nail in his political coffin.

The stage three tax cuts have been widely criticised for no longer being able to support the changing needs of Australians as the cost-of-living crisis and sticky inflation have made our daily lives more expensive. The prime minister has announced relief is on its way for “middle Australia”, but that hasn’t stopped the opposition from labelling the so-called backflip as the “mother of all broken promises” to savage his credibility.

He was asked at the National Press Club whether the public will still stand by him at the next election as a result as he was forced to defend the move.

Albanese said: "When lower and middle income earners are saying that they are under financial pressure, we have a responsibility to do something about it."

But let's have a look at what happened to previous leaders when they made a big policy u-turn.

‘Never ever’: John Howard’s backflip

John Howard speaking to reporters
John Howard notoriously broke an election promise not to introduce GST, but managed to survive two more elections. (Source: Getty)

John Howard went down in the history books for his stunning broken election promise.

He defiantly declared in the mid-’90s that he would ‘never ever’ introduce a Goods and Services Tax (GST) in Australia. Howard claimed it was “killed by voters at the last election” and was insistent that his government would be steering well clear of something resembling a tax on things you buy.

However, when the High Court found franchise fees charged by the states on cigarettes, alcohol and fuel were unconstitutional, Howard then looked at GST as a way of giving the states and territories an appropriate form of revenue.

The GST was introduced in 2000 and Howard went on to win the 2001 and 2004 elections, before his government was ousted in 2007, when he also lost his own seat.

‘There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead’: Julia Gillard’s climate policy debacle

Julia Gillard standing in front of Australian flags addressing the media
Broken promises: Julia Gillard's catchphrase before the 2010 election came back to bite her after she ended up introducing a carbon tax. (Source: Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Many will remember Julia Gillard’s pledge at the start of the 2010 decade.

She wanted to calm Aussies’ fears that they would be slugged with a new tax to help the environment. The then-prime minister insisted it would be a few years before her government would look at tackling carbon emissions.

A few months before the federal election, she told the ABC: "The pricing of carbon I think is best done through a market-based mechanism, that is the carbon pollution reduction scheme, and the 2012 timeframe stands there.”


The 2010 election result was the first hung parliament since 1940 as Labor and the Coalition both won 72 seats each. Labor was able to form a minority government after getting support from four crossbenchers.

Lo and behold, just six months after Labor won the election, Gillard introduced plans for a carbon tax from July 2012. Her promise not to introduce this exact tax was seized upon by then-opposition leader Tony Abbott as well as being played again and again on TV and radio and in print and online. Gillard was ridiculed for one hell of a backflip.

It didn’t end well for her. She lost the leadership to her predecessor, Kevin Rudd - the man she famously ousted - and Labor lost the 2013 election to Abbott.

Kevin Rudd’s complicated history with carbon pricing

Rudd ditched the carbon tax set up by his predecessor in 2013 and instead opted for an emissions trading scheme (ETS).

However, he carried some baggage from his first stint as PM, having suffered significant backlash when he tried to introduce his Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS).

In 2008, he pledged to cut the country’s 2000 greenhouse gas emission levels by 5 per cent by 2020. It was voted down in 2009, which caused the government to revise its emissions trading scheme. Despite finding approval from then-opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull, Turnbull’s replacement, Abbott, withdrew the Coalition’s support early into his leadership.

Fast forward to 2010 and Rudd ended up shelving his ETS until at least 2013 because he felt there wasn’t enough support to get it through parliament. Many saw that as a broken promise from the 2007 election and Labor’s support among voters took a dive. Gillard launched a successful leadership spill just a few months before the 2010 federal election.

Kevin Rudd's inability to get his climate policy through parliament ended up costing him big time. (Source: Getty Images)
Broken promises: Kevin Rudd's inability to get his climate policy through parliament ended up costing him big time. (Source: Getty Images)

World War II conscription

In his younger days, former prime minister John Curtin was very much opposed to the idea of conscripting Australians to fight in an overseas war. He famously spent three-and-a-half days in prison because he failed to comply with an order to serve in an overseas conflict and was a vocal member of the No referendum on the topic in 1916.

Australia had a domestic conscription policy, called the Commonwealth Military Force (CMF), which was set up by former prime minister Robert Menzies in 1940. It only required Australians to be conscripted to defend its borders as well as territories owned by the government.

However, as the Second World War expanded from Europe to the Pacific, there was mounting pressure on Curtin - now the PM - to send Aussies north to ensure the battle didn’t reach our shores. The US and UK media were particularly scathing of Australia’s efforts during WWII and Curtin tried to get Labor to change its tune on conscription.

He eventually changed the rules related to the CMF in February 1943, which forced Australian conscripts over the age of 21 to be able to fight in overseas territories. While it wasn’t technically a promise that he took to an election, it features in this list because he was such a prominent anti-conscription activist who had to backflip when he was in power.

It ended up being a good decision for Curtin. He won the 1943 election by a landslide, with Labor picking up 42 out of 74 seats.

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