AS PRIME MINISTER Tony Abbott has languished, variously, under unpopularity and threats to his leadership, the Labor Party has made hay whilst the sun shone; content merely to spoil, standing for nothing, the ALP has already won office in two states, and a third beckons this month. Devoted only to beating Liberals and getting its union mates into the gravy — and in control — smug, cocky Labor isn’t fit to shovel shit, let alone form government.
I thought Tony Abbott was finished — and he may yet prove to be so; there were and are good reasons for the low opinion poll ratings the Coalition has endured for the past year, and issues theoretically distant from the public gaze (which have nonetheless recently been aired) are responsible in no small measure for driving them down.
I have been delighted at the performance of the Prime Minister and the government over the past week, although it is “early days,” to use the vernacular; but I do not yet believe the polls — storming back toward the government so quickly it should be in front by next week — yet whether they are rogue or representative, it is heartening for now at least to see the Liberal Party competitive, even if that moment proves fleeting in time.
(And I stand by my call for the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Peta Credlin* to be removed, involuntarily if need be; objectively analysed and with more than a few interesting stories forthcoming from a multitude of unfortunate people who have had cause to associate with Ms Credlin directly or indirectly, I remain unconvinced that her new low-profile incarnation is either genuine or durable: best to get rid of her now, before she reverts to type and causes more trouble — and before more of “her way” costs the PM his job).
But it has been a month — exactly a month — since rebel backbench Liberal MPs, alarmed at the direction the Abbott government was taking and driven by what may yet prove to be inevitable electoral defeat, orchestrated a spill attempt against Tony Abbott that the Prime Minister survived by a modest but not decisive margin; this column was more than fair and even-handed about those events (to the chagrin of some in the Liberal Party) but as the smoke clears, a more deserving target is drifting into clearer view.
What a difference a month makes.
Just after the votes from that abortive spill attempt were counted, I published an article in this column suggesting that with the government resetting its compass to move forward (apologies!), the time had arrived to tear to shreds Labor’s so-called “leader,” Bill Shorten, who has been permitted to get away with the political equivalent of blue murder ever since Labor’s rigged leadership selection mechanism saw him ascend to the post in defiance of the overwhelming mood of the ALP membership, which had been duped into believing it had been “enfranchised.”
A quick look around the country suggests that federal Labor isn’t the only iteration of the ALP that leaves a fair bit to be desired, but more on the others shortly.
Shorten Labor — like its state-based cousins — has spent all of the time since the 2013 election waiting: waiting for difficult issues to land in the Abbott government’s lap; waiting for the hostile Senate to savage its legislative program; waiting for it to make mistakes; and waiting for its unpopularity (which exists in no small part due to Labor’s fabricated rantings and vicious abuse of the Prime Minister personally) to rub off in the states, allowing directionless and unprincipled Labor governments to take office, and to wait patiently for what it thinks will be the ultimate result, which as the storyline goes is a Labor win federally next year.
It’s an approach that works well — if your opponent is in complete disarray.
But as the Liberals now regain some momentum, it’s also an approach that can and should lead only to electoral disaster, for a Labor Party that offers no ideas, only moves when the fingers of its union masters wedged up its collective backside twitch, and which can’t even offer basic honesty about the political circumstances Australia finds itself in (or the responsibility Labor bears for mistakes it made between 2007 and 2013) is not fit to govern.
Someone highly familiar with the inner workings of the Abbott government and the strategies that have been pursued to date — if you could call them that — confirmed to me a little while ago that it has been a deliberate approach on the government’s part to ignore Shorten and Labor as much as it could; the idea was to paint the ALP (and the insidious Shorten in particular) as irrelevant, peripheral, and marginalised.
It has been a mistake of some magnitude, and with the Coalition now apparently serious about resetting its operations, this is one target that needs urgent — and incessant — attention.
It may well be that Greens, Palmer people, minor party identities and Independents offer between them a route to having legislation passed that theoretically allows for the bypass of Labor altogether; in practice, this ignores the fact that if Labor were to be co-opted to support at least some bills some of the time, the government would probably have more legislation on the statute books than it already does.
Dealing more directly, and interactively, with the ALP affords that party additional scope to publicly obstruct the government, rather than doing it on the sly away from the view of the voting public: part of Abbott’s perception problems arise from the fact that voters see the chaos going on in Canberra and the only identifiably “responsible” party for it, to them, is the Coalition, when in fact the real issue with deadlock and inertia in the federal Parliament emanates from Labor as much as from the crossbench.
Labor has had a great many fairy stories to sustain itself over the past 18 months; chief among them is the delusion that only itself is the arbiter of what is “fair,” underpinned by an obscenely misplaced conviction that the ALP is the only entity in this country that is entitled to govern it — and a determination, marooned in opposition, to destroy the elected government at any cost.
To some extent, this is purely the nature of opposition: a party to the left of the Speaker can only assume office by getting rid of the other mob.
But there is a balance, and federal Labor’s version — which, despite its insistence that it is only doing “what Abbott did,” is nothing of the sort — involves a complete contempt for the electorate and its wishes, and the willingness to lie and deceive to cover for its own defects and iffy record, which in truth is no more appealing than a bit of used toilet paper.
As opposition leader, it is true that Abbott opposed a great deal of Labor’s measures.
But he also provided bipartisan support and political cover on certain issues (the NDIS is a case in point, albeit one I disagree with vehemently) and he arrived in the Prime Minister’s office with a program of sorts, promising — as everyone knows — to stop the boats, axe the tax, fix the budget, end the waste, and build the roads of the future.
By contrast, Shorten proposes only to abolish the private health insurance rebate — a disastrous idea that would almost certainly cause the quickfire collapse of the healthcare sector in Australia — and, hidden among vague suggestions of “hitting the rich” (a standard ALP dogma nowadays”), a pledge to crack down on “tax avoidance by multinationals,” a notion no government in the Western world has ever worked out how to enact and which, if given form, would almost certainly cause the exit of any companies affected from this country: doing more damage than good, in other words.
So much for Labor’s policies.
Despite the alleged democratisation of the ALP — instituted by decree by Kevin Rudd to save his own bacon in the event he won the 2013 election — all power in the Labor Party continues to reside in the union movement; elections and voters are a mere inconvenience to be tolerated and navigated to secure parliamentary power for the unions and to hold onto it.
If anyone doubts this, they need look no further than the basis for every Labor preselection in the country: all seats, winnable or otherwise, are divided up according to membership of various unions, and determined through a complex web of personal loyalties and fiefdoms that dole out seats in Parliament as rewards. No real talent is required. No clue about the world is needed. The only prerequisite is the ability to do what you’re told. The rest takes care of itself.
It’s how Labor can be “led” by such a frightful specimen as Bill Shorten, a questionable individual with absolutely nothing to offer Australia in any useful capacity.
It’s true he was a very diligent union leader; this is the primary reason he found his way into Parliament at all.
But you wouldn’t trust Shorten as far as you could throw him, as many of his past and present colleagues — to say nothing of two ex-Prime Ministers — nursing knife wounds in the backs of their shoulders would attest to.
It is salient to note that insofar as historic rape allegations against Shorten are concerned, he was not cleared; Police declined to proceed with charges against him due to a lack of evidence, and whilst these two concepts might result in the same outcome — Shorten free to go about his business — they are not necessarily the same thing.
In fact, there are a lot of interesting stories floating around about “Bull Shittin,'” some of which have been aired at the Heydon Commission into the trade union movement.
It may very well be the case that in the end, no charges against Shorten are recommended, and if that is the case, the distinction between “no case to answer” and a “lack of evidence” will be one most observers will quarrel over on which side of Heydon’s conclusions they fall.
But either way, it is indisputable that Labor under Shorten was instrumental during the week in defeating a bill in Parliament that would have subjected unions to the same standards of governance and accountability as the business sector.
Why? What do the unions have to hide? To listen to Shorten (or, in fact, any Labor operative, no matter how menial and/or insignificant), the union movement is the greatest social institution Australia has ever produced. What does it have to hide? Why does it think itself above the law? These are questions Labor, and Shorten, must answer.
But they won’t, for they are simply too busy: too busy obstructing the government of the day, an enterprise that has to date met with virtually no retaliation, and that must change.
Too busy lying to Australians about the criminally negligent manner in which the ALP mismanaged the federal budget when it was last in office; the Global Financial Crisis be buggered.
GFC or no’, Labor still found its way clear to legislate — between Gonski and the NDIS — some $30 billion in annual additional recurrent spending despite the “revenue crisis” Wayne Swan used to bleat about; it has since come to pass that revenue as a proportion of government outgoings has indeed deteriorated, which is why the legislation of an extra $30 billion a year in spending should really be the impetus for prosecutions, not congratulations.
And Labor is too busy lying to people about the motives of the Liberal Party: the dreadful budget delivered last year by Joe Hockey was easily the worst ever delivered by a Liberal Treasurer — the extent of Labor mismanagement notwithstanding — and was, to be blunt, completely unsaleable politically, targeting as it did floating Liberal voters in marginal Coalition electorates.
The federal Coalition might have its problems, but with no policies from the ALP and no moral fibre, a government formed by the Liberal and National Parties is preferable to any proffered by Labor: at least with the Coalition, the offering isn’t founded upon a pathological lie.
And to be honest, the same ALP that railed for decades against the excesses of the likes of Joh Bjelke-Petersen and Bob Askin gives every indication that in its modern form, it aspires to nothing less than a one-party state with itself and its union masters at the helm. After all, election defeats are disregarded with cavalier abandon, and those Liberal governments that find their way into office are attacked in ways that could hardly be construed as reasonable, or even democratic.
The most recent example of this occurred last week, with the so-called “March4” protests an object lesson in Labor’s and the unions’ dedication to their members’ interests; a bystander could be forgiven for thinking it was just an attack on the Liberal Party, because that is all it was.
Bands of lawless thugs spilling onto the streets, disrupting cities for hours in the name of exercising “a right to protest,” this had nothing to do with advancing the lot of those poor bastards who pay their union dues every fortnight; the packs sporting shirts that read “FUCK TONY ABBOTT” and “FLICK THE PRICK” could scarcely have made themselves clearer that whilst they invoked the spectre of their paying members, the only thing that mattered was a political point those members had no direct input into.
I read Piers Akerman’s column in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph yesterday morning, which postulated on what form a Labor government might take if Luke Foley were to triumph over Mike Baird in a few weeks’ time; Labor thinks itself on a roll in the states, augmented and buttressed by the unpopularity of the Abbott government, and it looks north of the Tweed to see an LNP government wiped out on a 14% swing after a single term in the knowledge that less of a two-party movement would see a similar fate befall the Coalition in the Premier State.
Let’s just stop for a second. What does Labor offer any state in Australia as a government?
In Victoria, Daniel Andrews was a one-trick pony who campaigned on the analogy that the Coalition was “a circus;” in this enterprise he was aided by the do-nothing nature of the Baillieu years, and subsequently by the offensive presence of Liberal-cum-Independent Geoff Shaw, who held the Napthine government to ransom through no fault of its own on account of the fraught numbers in the lower house (for those who do not remember there were 44 Coalition MPs, 43 from the ALP, and Shaw).
The only thing Andrews had to work with was the numerical state of the Parliament. What did Napthine do wrong?
Certainly not the East-West road link, announced a year out from a state election (even if the contract was signed nine months later): governments are elected to govern, and the Coalition, after Baillieu’s departure, got on with it.
But Andrews beat Napthine; and despite solemn promises the contract to build this road was “not worth the paper it was printed on,” the Victorian government is now caught between either legislating its way out of the contract — throwing up the real issue of sovereign risk for future investment in infrastructure in Victoria — or paying out $1.2bn in compensation money Andrews swore unequivocally was not due and would not be payable if the road project was cancelled.
Labor tilled the ground by leaking the contents of a stolen dictaphone recording of former Premier Ted Baillieu speaking off the record to a journalist: a piece-of-shit act for which it was never brought to account.
And militant unions like the CFMEU have seen to it, in the few metaphoric minutes Labor has been back in power, that the state’s building code has been repealed — ending, as it were, any redress against thuggy miscreant unions on building sites that would wilfully damage the state’s business and construction interests lest their agenda of control of industry and government be threatened.
The same thing looks likely to happen in Queensland, where Labor — elected in a shock revolt against the excesses of Campbell Newman’s government — pledged to discontinue asset sales; “once they are gone, they are gone forever,” its campaign literature bleated of Newman’s privatisation agenda.
Yet even now — five weeks on — the Queensland government is wriggling around to make a privatisation program possible; Queensland, it must be remembered, remains in more or less the shitty soup Labor left it in three years ago, and whilst the LNP under Newman made great strides in beginning to redress the damage, it appears the Palaszczuk government has realised too late that without the money from privatisation, finishing the reconstruction job will be impossible.
NSW Labor, under Foley, is singing from the same cracked record as Palaszczuk did in opposition on the privatisation of electricity assets, which were central to Newman’s plan to retire a huge chunk of the debt Queensland had been saddled with under 14 years of incompetent Labor mismanagement.
But the common thread in all three states (and the others we haven’t talked about, to be sure) is the use of unions to do Labor’s bidding, and the abject lies not only about what Liberals may or may not be doing, but about the reprehensible damage Labor governments do whenever and wherever they are elected to office anywhere in the country.
Dangerously militant unions like the CFMEU and the ETU lie at the heart of every “successful” ALP campaign in all of these states: their money, their manpower and their agenda are central to the arguments prosecuted, and central to the priorities of whatever government prevails if their efforts are fruitful in electoral terms.
There will be real and adverse consequences for the good burghers in Queensland and Victoria from the ghastly Labor governments that have taken office in those states, and for NSW if Labor somehow manages to triumph there on 28 March.
But it is difficult to fault voters, many of whom still trust what they hear from political parties they remain favourably disposed toward, despite the low regard in which politics generally is held in Australian communities nowadays.
In the final analysis, it is this trust the Labor Party is guiltiest of abusing: bare-faced lying, defaming its opponents, and saying literally anything to win a vote, this incompetent and utterly useless political entity would stand for nothing at all were it not for the irrelevant but lethal union monoliths that prop it up.
Labor might be smug, confronted with a troubled Abbott government that has been more accident-prone than inept: it is difficult, in the federal Coalition’s case, to be convicted of any offence when its bills simply can’t pass the Senate.
And Labor might be cocky, too, watching its poll numbers climb through the roof.
But its spite is without limit, for as much as Labor has spent decades criticising the Liberal Party for a “born to rule” mentality, the odium and rancour it emits when denied the levers of power knows no bounds, and dwarfs anything it ever accused the Liberals of as it pursues a mad lust for power — with a smile on its face, no less, and empty promises of nothing bad.
It’s not much better than the stereotypical paedophile in a park, in a raincoat, with a bag of lollies: so low has modern Labor stooped.
All the Labor Party cares for these days is beating the Liberals and getting the arses of its chosen vessels into green leather chairs — and executing the instructions of its union masters to the letter — and any voter in Australia who thinks differently is either one of its ilk or is deluding themselves.
Make no mistake, whatever the election and to whatever jurisdiction it applies, the Australian Labor Party is not fit to call itself after that great institution it once constituted, and of which ordinary Labor voters should be ashamed.
It stands for nothing more than the path of least electoral resistance: no policies, no agenda (beyond the union movement, that is) and no principle other than the overriding instinct to control things, and to inflict misery on anything or anyone that disagrees with it.
In short, the ALP isn’t fit to shovel shit, let alone merit the privilege of government.
And the sooner Coalition forces around Australia attack it on those terms, the better the country will be for it.
LOTS of links, some to articles containing even more links, today: a big multi-faceted subject with a lot of ground to cover that makes retracing a few steps a good idea into the bargain. And plenty of holiday reading and associated “alleyways” to disappear into with the extra day off.
*If Peta Credlin would like at any stage to exercise a right of reply and/or to rebut the accusations made against her, this column will faithfully reprint up to 1,000 words submitted by her (subject to my personal verification of their origin): I am even prepared to do so as an image, should such a submission come scanned in a suitable format, to avoid any charge of tampering.
I won’t hold my breath, however, and neither should readers — even if this offer finds its way to Ms Credlin, one of the commonest charges my sources have levelled against her is a complete sense of immunity from criticism or reproach, or admissions of error in any way but the most patronising and insincere. If we hear from Credlin at all, readers will be the first to know.