AS THE ABBOTT GOVERNMENT adjusts its direction in the wake of Monday’s abortive leadership spill, a plethora of issues require address as it seeks to regain the political initiative; one of the more urgent of these is the need to pull Bill Shorten — a purported “leader” who, far from being held to account for his fictitious version of Labor’s record in government and the resulting mess, has barely been challenged — into the crosshairs of its main attack.
I’m going to be busy today — exceedingly so — and consequently this morning’s post is a brief one made on the run, although there are other issues we will come back to: and not least, confirmation of what this column has known for most of the past couple of years, namely the formalisation of Labor’s likely return to the government benches in Queensland.
But following my post yesterday detailing the comprehensive “reset” Tony Abbott must now make where his government’s activities are concerned, one of the issues the Coalition must urgently rectify is the apparent marginalisation of Bill Shorten and the ALP — whether to ignore them, or to try to paint them as irrelevant in an appallingly misguided political judgement — and the need to recognise that at root, Labor was, is, and remains the Liberal Party’s number one opponent in the national polity.
I want to share this morning the editorial from today’s issue of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph which launches a fairly blunt attack against the Labor “leader,” and note that in the fight to sell its budget — defective as it is — there has been very little done of any note by government figures to tear Shorten, and the scandalous legacy of mismanagement and waste his party left behind in office, the proverbial “new one.”
Whatever the government’s current and historical problems, they are not a patch on the abysmal record of its opponents: and Bill Shorten is a lightweight with little of value to offer where matters of public administration are concerned.
Just yesterday he was making a concerted effort to reap political capital from the unlikely and dubious subject of the cut of Malcolm Turnbull’s suits, and when alleged Prime Ministerial candidates resort to using such tasteless material to give form to their vision (and not least with the ready supply of substantive material that exists for Labor to work with at present) then allowing the perpetrator to waffle on unretarded simply doesn’t cut it.
As Turnbull himself thundered during Question Time yesterday, it’s a bit rich for someone like Shorten — wielder and twister of the knife in two mid-term Labor leadership changes, to say nothing of being a disloyal, scheming, treacherous gnome — to be throwing accusations of instability and disunity around the nation’s political discussions.
And as the Tele notes, Shorten has little of any meaningful substance of his own to offer: the Tele states, incorrectly, that Shorten offers only one solution: “closing tax loopholes for multinationals,” which is one of those ideas that might sound good to a slavering and sycophantic audience but which in practice is merely code for instituting measures that will see jobs and investment withdrawn from Australia in favour of other markets internationally.
Especially if botched and mishandled in the standard Labor way. The thoughts of former Treasurer Wayne Swan could be illustrative in this regard.
The Tele has forgotten Labor’s other “new” idea, which is to abandon the private health insurance rebate altogether, and this stinking germ of an idea — which would almost certainly result in the collapse of Australia’s public hospital system — is one Shorten is at pains to avoid having attention drawn to, but one Labor has never entirely dropped, awake as it is to the risk of sustained political attack over one of its pet portfolio interests if the blowtorch was ever seriously applied to it.
There are those in the ALP who resent the fact that Murdoch-owned mastheads (and the Daily Telegraph in Sydney especially) continue to prosecute the case against it that should ordinarily be made by the federal Coalition, and it bears reminding them that unlike the monoliths of the Fairfax press, the ABC, the Guardian and Crikey, Murdoch’s titles have seen fit often enough in the past, at state level as well as federally, to advocate on Labor’s behalf, although we presume there is nothing conspiratorial in Shorten’s view in the fact those left-leaning tomes never seem to find favour with the Coalition in the same way.
Even so, the job of tearing Shorten — and Labor — to pieces is one that should not be left to friendly voices in one segment of the national press.
There is a rich seam of material for the Coalition to mine, and the arguments against Labor being permitted to return to office can be readily located in its own handiwork and its own dysfunctional record in office between 2007 and 2013.
As the Abbott government readjusts its strategies and priorities, the methodical dismantling of Shorten should be accorded a high priority indeed. Allowing him a free run, unchallenged by the factual contradictions to the rubbish that passes for Labor’s contribution under his “leadership,” is something neither the government nor the country can afford.