MARGINALISED BY his refusal to accord Tony Abbott credit for anything in the face of a serious international event and shown as the irrelevance he is to domestic politics by Clive Palmer, whose Senate antics riveted attention in a way he can only dream of, Labor “leader” Bill Shorten has resurfaced today. Depressingly, it will surprise few that all he has to add to the political discourse is more of the same: bile, bluster, and unadulterated bullshit.
I was wondering what had happened to Bill Shorten — not that the political landscape, mind you, is in any way diminished by his absence — until I found out this morning that he’d had a week in the United States. It is not so much a pity he didn’t stay there longer as that he has seen fit to return to Australia at all.
It is fair to say that in the farcical international embarrassment Clive Palmer and his acolytes transformed the repeal of the carbon tax into, Shorten and his ALP colleagues were shown up as an irrelevance; with Labor hellbent on leaving the carbon tax in place at any cost despite election commitments to the contrary, Palmer’s preparedness to deal with the Abbott government — even if contrived to cause it as much political torment in the process as possible — neatly highlighted how easily marginalised Labor under Shorten is these days when it is determined to act counter to both the national interest and to the wishes of the public.
And that, unsurprisingly, is practically all of the time.
During the week, one of this column’s favourites, Daily Telegraph writer Piers Akerman, published an article that drew attention to the fact “the sisterhood” had failed to deign to make any acknowledgement whatsoever of the stirling job Foreign minister Julie Bishop has done in the aftermath of the MH17 disaster; Piers’ article made its point eloquently as it always does, and I’d make the observation that based on her performance to date as minister Bishop would have to be the clear standout candidate to replace Prime Minister Tony Abbott if he were to fall under the proverbial bus tomorrow.
Such an observation may seem off-subject; in fact, it merely underlines the point even further.
What Piers also pointed out, in criticising deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek (who has obviously decided to be too churlish and juvenile to give credit where due to another woman if that “other woman” has anything to do with the Liberal Party), was that aside from empty expressions of condolence for the families of the victims of the disaster, Shorten is guilty of the same slight.
Platitudes about “offering full support to the government” — five minutes before running away for a week, lest he be called on to show something resembling spine, or substance, or (God forbid!) leadership — is a poor and spiteful performance from a man who pretends to carry a claim to the Prime Ministership.
In other words, Shorten — and Plibersek, and Labor generally — may well have declined in the interests of expediency to play tacky, trashy politics over the Malaysia Airlines disaster, preferring to sulk and sullenly skulk on the sidelines for the contemptible reason that Abbott and Bishop — elected to govern, and proving far more adept at it than the ALP narrative would ever concede — were winning international acclaim for the real world leadership and skill they have shown.
Like four-year-old brats, hard-wired on red cordial and forced to watch in impotent fury as the kid they hate most gets his hands on the final lollipop at a party, the backdrop of international atrocity (and the attendant risk of global war that accompanied it) must have really ruined the past week for the ALP.
It isn’t hard to understand why I can’t see why Shorten being away for a while would detract from the polity of this country one jot.
But now he is back — badder and madder than ever, it seems — and filled with the usual Shorten bile and bluster, the Labor “leader” seems determined to pick right back up where he left off.
Shorten’s first order of business in officially resuming his duties as “leader” was a speech to the NSW ALP Conference in Sydney; the Fairfax press described the speech as “fiery,” whilst the Murdoch crowd called it “strongly worded.”
I think it more accurate to describe it as yet more of the sanctimonious bullshit for which Shorten is becoming renowned, and in that sense — and weighed against Shorten Labor’s “case” against the Abbott government — there’s nothing new here.
Calling Treasurer Joe Hockey “an arrogant cigar chomper” might play well to the stupid and the brainwashed, but even as a political barb it achieves nothing: and in any case, there are plenty of ordinary folk around who enjoy a cigar — your columnist being one of them — who are hardly going to feel some sense of fraternity with Shorten because of a cheap stunt aimed at making a point.
There is also the small matter of playing the man rather than the ball, although Labor — not least under Shorten, and especially notwithstanding the ongoing endeavour to personally crucify Tony Abbott — long ago proved incapable of keeping to the argument whenever attacking opponents personally was an active option.
He perpetuated the myth of ALP “reform” to put the party more strongly under the control of its members — blathering about rebuilding Labor as “a party of members, not of factions” — at the same conference unions used their controlling stake in the party to squash the latest attempt to do so.
Yet it was Shorten’s flagrant dishonesty about government policy that has motivated me to tear into him (again) over a Labor storyline that might end in a return to the government benches, but which, in greater likelihood, will not.
Anyone listening to Shorten and the wider Labor diatribe generally needs to remember that a) the ALP was not defeated at last year’s election, which is why b) the reality of Tony Abbott as Prime Minister (that hated, despicable, woman-hating, evil gnome!) is the outrage it is, which in turn c) justifies saying and/or doing literally anything to overturn the discomfort of present political realities as quickly as possible, and if this means d) totally disregarding fact and honesty (as opposed to merely paying lipservice to them), then the ends justify the means.
If that’s just too sarcastic and caustic, then so be it. There isn’t any substance in Shorten’s utterances to work with.
Anyone who can be bothered sitting through it can watch the Shorten speech here.
There was acclaim for trade unions, for whom there seems little public affection or loyalty left in the wider Australian community; there was a glowing acknowledgement for NSW Labor leader John Robertson, whose own admission of failing to report being offered a $3 million bribe to Police should have been enough to terminate his political career the moment it was uttered. And that was just the beginning of it.
Shorten sought to resume the Labor campaign against the federal budget, which presumably justified in his own mind at least the undignified personal attacks on Hockey, who he characterised as “devoid of charity” on account of his “personal comfort in life.” It was maliciously resentful class warfare gobbledygook of the worst and most inflammatory kind, and hardly becoming of a man purporting to suitability to serve as Prime Minister.
His latest attempt to justify Labor’s cavalier lies over the budget rested, in his speech, on the assertion that those recommendations by the Abbott government’s Commission of Budget Audit that were rejected are actually the next wave of “cruel cuts” the government will make.
The $7 Medicare co-payment thus became “a $15 GP tax.”
There would be “a hospital tax.”
There would be “a lower, state-based minimum wage.”
To continue the theme — and to continue to fan the flames of frightening hell out of the vulnerable with reprehensible dishonesty — Labor’s shadow Health spokesperson, Catherine King, claimed on Sky News that not only did the Abbott government seek to “unpick Medicare,” but that if this fictitious goal were ever realised, low-income earners would be “bumped out of (healthcare) appointments.”
Shorten, in his conference speech, belted the tired old can of “US two-tiered health care” that nobody seriously thinks anyone wants to see introduced in Australia, but never mind that.
It’s all rubbish. And it ignores a few basic points. Chiefly, that unless the rampant and profligate recurrent spending the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government set in train is halted, then this country is 10 or 15 years (at the most) away from being as much a basket case as half of Europe is now.
But none of this bothers Shorten, who claimed the government was “unravelling from the centre and rotting from the top.” He couldn’t even get the metaphor of a fish rotting from the head right.
Is anyone impressed?
It goes without saying, of course, that Shorten announced no Labor policies; gave no details of how he would undo the “cruel cuts” he uses as a handy soundbite, or how they could be reversed without consigning the budget to a decade of structural deficit and high — and growing — national debt; and made no attempt to either acknowledge the faults of the last Labor government, nor to defend its record of strategic pork barrelling and legislating the budget traps it set for the current government to try to fix.
Shorten is a brilliant whinger; I’ll concede that; he probably has skills in cultivating disaffection where none exists and whipping the disgruntled into orgies of self-righteous and indignant fury. After all, he was a trade union organiser for years. He was probably very good at that too.
But as a candidate for the Prime Ministership or as the “leader” of a prospective government, he has nothing to offer.
Nothing except a few stirring speeches tailored to play well to the gullible and the brainwashed, but nothing for the people who really matter — the majority in the middle of Australian society.
All Shorten has is bile, bluster and bullshit. And as of today, he’s back on the job.