OPPOSITION “LEADER” Bill Shorten has reshuffled his frontbench days after a rearrangement of the Coalition benches, describing his new shadow ministry as a “dream team” that will make Education the opposition’s focus; if the line-up announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last week was a damp squib, the ALP’s is far worse. Rather than talk of a “dream team,” a creature from beneath the septic tank is a more useful analogy to paint.
It was with no apparent sense of irony that Fairfax journalist Nicole Hasham, writing in The Age yesterday, eulogised
“Senator Penny Wong, one of the (Labor) party’s most accomplished talents, will give up the trade and investment portfolios for the coveted foreign affairs gig. She will juggle the responsibilities with an already large workload as Labor’s leader in the Senate.”
The truth be told, Wong — a Finance minister in the last Labor government who was party to the accrual of hundreds of billions of dollars in Commonwealth debt — is an unrepresentative and unreconstructed socialist warrior of the hard Left, who is an offence to notions of responsible governance; the pinnacle of her stint in her previous position was to campaign to implicate the Governor-General in an undemocratic conspiracy to shut down an inconvenient Royal Commission into Labor’s lawless union paymasters, turning on its head at a stroke Labor’s solemn post-1975 dictum that “the Governor-General takes advice from his Prime Minister and from no-one else” (outraged Whitlamesque emphasis added).
It is not known what value (if any) Wong delivered in the areas of Trade and Investment, although as shadow Foreign minister she now has a platform upon which to spruik internationally her support for the so-called BDS campaign (boycott, diversity, sanctions), aimed at Israel and so beloved of the
Communist Party Greens and others on the lunatic socialist Left, that is sure to win great acclaim among Australia’s international partners (including Israel) for its sobriety, its maturity, and its lack of doctrinal strictures.
Of course, I speak in jest, but to read the sage words of Uncle Fairfax’s scribe, you could be forgiven for thinking poor Wong has actually deigned to make some sort of sacrifice as part of the switch. It’s as bad as that. And truly, the whole tawdry business of Labor’s new front bench gets a whole lot worse from there.
First things first: in the interests of balance, those readers who prefer the News Ltd take on the ALP reshuffle to the Fairfax one can access coverage here; but just as I was scathing (with good reason) of the reshuffle unveiled by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last week, the criticism I made that Turnbull’s line-up was a damp squib and a disappointment pales into insignificance when ranged against objective consideration of the “dream team” Labor “leader” Bill Shorten wheeled out yesterday.
In fact, rather than any talk of a “dream team,” a more fitting comparison would be with the mythical creature from beneath the septic tank: a foul, evil specimen with nothing to recommend it; noxious, vile and malevolent, Shorten’s motley crew represents the stuff of nightmares — and based on what it says on the label, would prove an unmitigated disaster if ever sworn into office on the allocation of responsibilities that has been doled out.
If there are two things Labor thinks it “owns,” they are Health and Education; the ALP seems to think that provided it talks incessantly about those portfolio areas, it will storm home at elections it contests: and as the recent election brutally showed, if the party’s “standard” message on these themes isn’t registering strongly enough to get the job done, then Labor is perfectly happy to lie through its teeth — a la “Mediscare” — in a desperate attempt to ensure that it prevails.
In this sense, the move by deputy Labor leader (and sometime Prime Ministerial wannabe) Tanya Plibersek to the Education portfolio can hardly be seen as positive; certainly, Plibersek has a higher media profile and more authority than the former spokesperson, Kate Ellis. But the chatter emanating from Canberra in the immediate aftermath of the election was that Plibersek had set herself to be shadow Health minister, so her enthusiasm for the role she finds herself in is questionable from the start. “(Education) is one of those areas that makes a difference to an individual’s life,” The Australian quoted her as saying.
No shit, Sherlock.
But the near-invisible shadow Health minister from the last Parliament, Catherine King, has been left in her position, which invites the conclusion that just as he did before, Shorten will once again more or less usurp his frontbencher and arrogate the bulk of comment on Health to himself; then again — with ominous suggestions about “continuing to fight to save Medicare” emanating from the ALP a pointer to the likelihood that “Mediscare” is by no means dead and buried — it probably isn’t going to matter a can of beans who prosecutes the Labor argument on health given we already know it’s just a crock of shit to begin with.
Even so, Shorten’s pronouncement that “Education…is the first order economic and social priority for Labor in the 45th Parliament” serves potent notice to the Liberal Party — and to the rest of the country — that the brazen lies the ALP resorted to on Health are likely to be replicated in Education, and in this sense, Shorten’s proud assertion of the firepower he has added to the education-related positions bears this out.
Kate Ellis (who loses the central Education role to Plibersek) remains as Early Childhood, TAFE and Vocational Education spokesperson; aside from the small matter of TAFE actually being a state responsibility, Ellis’ primary value on the ALP frontbench (which she demonstrated as a member of the “handbag hit squad” during Julia Gillard’s tenure as Prime Minister) is as a whinger unapologetic about turning everything into a heavily partisan political attack, and someone who will regurgitate whatever slogan or talking point has been cooked up by her betters.
Terri Butler (Universities) is the sort of finger-shaking, sanctimonious socialist claptrap purveyor who, by rights, should not be charged with the oversight of the mass education of young people at all; education and brainwashing are not the same thing. But anyone who has witnessed Butler’s appearances on the ABC’s loathsome #QandA programme knows all too well that where Butler is concerned, there are two perspectives: the way of the Left, and the wrong way.
Doug Cameron (Skills) doesn’t even get marks from me for being a Scotsman; like so many British unionists, Cameron mysteriously surfaced in Australia after Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher smashed the British union movement by (shock, horror) the involuntary imposition of democracy and the rule of law on trade unions and by outlawing the ability of the TUC to hold the UK to ransom, usually with the explicit objective of trying to bring down a Conservative government (which it did, successfully, in 1974, but came off second-best against Margaret ten years later).
Cameron’s unspectacular career since entering Parliament shows every fidelity with being an entitled, time-serving union hack rather than a serious proponent of meaningful policy; like so many refugees from British unions who find succour within the ALP or at Australian unions, he probably can’t believe his luck that despite twice being elected with a mandate to clean the union movement in this country up, the Liberal Party is likely to prove unable to do so on account of the composition of the Senate. Exactly what “skills” Cameron is meant to bring to his new role are uncertain, but the fight against industrial changes are likelier to feature than any substantial ideas relating to skilled employment, productivity growth, or similarly novel concepts.
I’ll confess I don’t know enough about Andrew Giles (schools) to offer detailed comment, but all anyone needs to know about the Labor approach to schools is encapsulated in a single word — Gonski — which, by the time the next election rolls around, will have morphed into a solemn trillion-dollar “package” that is held aloft as the greatest commitment to educational advancement in the history of this country.
Again, I speak in jest to some extent, but you get the drift.
But beyond the Education and Health portfolios, the clangers from Shorten continue.
Surely, Chris Bowen — who as Treasurer under Kevin Rudd proved just another slogan regurgitator in the Kate Ellis vein — is too tarnished and bereft of credibility to continue as shadow Treasurer now, having put his name to Labor’s $110bn slate of tax slugs and the admission the budget deficit nevertheless would worsen over the medium term had the ALP won the 2 July election; but in the grand old tradition of both major parties overestimating the value of some of their “stars,” Bowen has been left in his post.
A shrewder motive might be ascertained from the promotion of Richard Marles to Defence, a move that could bolster his leadership credentials in the event Shorten (regrettably) falls under a bus: someone from the Labor Right will need to stand against Anthony Albanese or Plibersek at some point, after all.
The notion of former ACT Chief Minister (and former Canberra bureaucrat and union hack) Katy Gallagher being made responsible for Small Business is as obscene and grotesque as Turnbull’s move to hand the portfolio in government to a National Party MP, and a neophyte at that: it remains to be seen what level of complicity Labor will have in this area in trying to advance the insidious spread of the unions as they seek to re-infiltrate, by stealth, industries and sectors that have progressively (and astutely) wiped their hands of them.
In fact, the frontbench Shorten has announced is as heavy on union hacks and spivs as any that has preceded it over the past decade.
An opportunity has been missed to move Employment and Workplace Relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor to a more suitable post; anyone can see that having the brother of a notorious CFMEU boss responsible for industrial policy is an intolerable and irreconcilable conflict, but such considerations of propriety are of no importance to “modern” Labor and its union-dominated, union-dictated agenda these days.
The idea of someone as slippery and as untrustworthy as factional spiv Sam “Dastardly” Dastyari being made responsible for Consumer Affairs would be laughable if it weren’t so ridiculous, or serious.
And the notion of Shorten himself being responsible for Aboriginal Affairs — an area he looked, and sounded, completely out of his depth in whenever he strayed into it during the last Parliament — can only be interpreted as a shameless attempt to rip off former Prime Minister Tony Abbott who, unlike Shorten, had cultivated real and deep links with Aboriginal Australia over many years. It isn’t difficult to see this self-appointment becoming a rod for Shorten’s back: even if, as loudly trumpeted, newly elected Aboriginal identity Pat Dodson is to be catapulted into an assistant spokesman’s role to help out.
Just as Turnbull was guilty of retaining too many underperforming time-servers on his own front bench, so too has Shorten committed the same error, with ageing warrior Jenny Macklin (a 20-year veteran of the Labor frontbench) kept in her position of Family Services spokesperson when a vacancy might have given someone younger an opportunity; Senator Kim Carr — dumped by his own faction — has been kept by Shorten for no better reason than the murky variables of his own survival in the ALP leadership.
When you consider just how insidious Shorten really is as a candidate for high office, such a criterion is hardly a satisfactory basis for doling out positions on the ALP frontbench.
Just about the only positive I can find in the Shorten announcement is the heavy demotion of Stephen Conroy to the posts of shadow Special Minister of State and shadow minister for Sport; it’s disappointing, however, that given Shorten has already defied the factions in keeping Carr that he didn’t dump Conroy altogether: a hell of a factional operator Conroy might be, but a suitable candidate for ministerial office he isn’t — and any doubt about that is resolved with a single glance in the rear-view mirror at his plot to regulate, and censor, the media when a senior Cabinet minister under Gillard.
Selling this line-up, Shorten — in what must rank as one of the most oxymoronic statements by a political “leader” in recent times — said “the challenge for Labor is that we’ve got more talented people than places to put them, which is the opposite to the government,” which begs the question: who? Where are they? A ragtag assortment of ALP bovver boys, socialist misadventurers and union spivs (the latter representing just 9% of all private sector employees now) does not translate to a group of talented people at all, let alone amount to an adequate quantum of talent to be crowing about.
In fact, there are two identifiable purposes behind this line-up, and two only: one, to further the creeping campaign of the union movement to slither its way through the back door into businesses and industries that long ago turned their backs on it; and two, to provide the firepower — the rat cunning, the lack of ethics or scruples, and the sheer effrontery — to attempt to win the next election with an even less honest or principled pitch than the blatant lies upon which Shorten sought to be elected just three weeks ago.
This is no “dream team;” it offers no vision or substantial offer to Australia whatsoever; and it is, to put it mildly, a toxic and seething brew of squirming appetites and competing egos that is no masterstroke or a blueprint for governance.
This is, to cite an urban legend, the political equivalent of the creature from beneath the septic tank. If the Turnbull government has any bottle at all, its top priority is to slay the beast before it can inflict untold damage upon the national interest in government.
Given the first-term Coalition administration lacked the killer instinct where its opponents were concerned, it remains to be seen whether it can get this crucial piece of strategic targeting right in its second.