LABOR “LEADER” Bill Shorten is set to resign his post, and possibly from Parliament, next month; with the ALP now recording poll numbers commensurate with his abysmal performance and set to be hit by fallout from the Royal Commission into the unions, Shorten’s departure will terminate a shameful era for Labor. The move raises questions around timing, and of who will replace him to face a snap double dissolution in December or early 2016.
We generally do not break news in this column — mainly because I simply don’t have the resources at present to operate as a journalist on a fulltime basis — but this morning is an exception, and whilst we will relay the news in the conversational discussion style readers are familiar with, the details are very much an early break on a developing story.
Usually reliable sources report that the ALP is preparing for the imminent resignation of its “leader,” Bill Shorten, during one of the two parliamentary sessions scheduled for November.
The development comes in the wake of the leadership change at the Liberal Party, with new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull now outscoring Shorten in some polls as “preferred Prime Minister” by a four-to-one margin, and ahead of the likely release of the final report by the Royal Commission into union corruption and misconduct in either November or December.
It is unclear at this stage whether Shorten intends to recontest his seat of Maribyrnong, in Melbourne’s inner north-west, at the looming federal election, although this column understands there is a distinct possibility he will resign from Parliament altogether.
News of Shorten’s intention to vacate the Labor leadership comes as the ALP’s opinion poll numbers have collapsed on trend beyond the woeful 33.4% primary vote it scored at the 2013 election under Kevin Rudd, and we understand just one further round of shocking polling could be decisive in determining Shorten’s position.
It is understood that rather than face a leadership challenge in the ALP caucus, Shorten will stand aside voluntarily.
The prospect of Shorten’s imminent departure as Labor “leader” comes as little surprise; the motivation for it, however, and the identity of his replacement remain matters for conjecture at present.
Already adversely named in testimony before the Royal Commission, it is possible Shorten — irrespective of whether charges are recommended against him — may elect to vacate the Labor leadership to provide a fresh start for a new leader, freed of the lingering malodorous effects of the dirty union linen that has been aired.
It is not known whether Shorten has advance knowledge of any possible action to be recommended against him and/or his associates from his past career as a union official, or whether such a consideration has motivated his mooted resignation, and this column makes no suggestion or implication to that effect.
Either way, it is understood that a replacement Labor leader will be chosen with a single candidate nominating for the post, avoiding the need for a messy, protracted and potentially divisive campaign lasting weeks or months, and avoiding the risk of a snap election being called whilst the ALP is — quite literally — leaderless.
It is unclear at this point who the new Labor leader is to be: however, factional considerations dictate that the Left cannot simultaneously hold both the leadership and the deputy leadership (ruling out a ticket comprising Anthony Albanese and Tanya Plibersek); Chris Bowen is known to want to wait longer before contesting a leadership ballot, meaning he is likely to run as deputy to either Albanese or to Plibersek.
This column understands that as soon as Shorten announces his resignation, preparations to engineer a double dissolution election that are currently afoot in Liberal Party circles will be activated; the timing of the election will to a large degree depend on the timing of Shorten’s departure as Labor “leader.”
The last practicable date on which to hold an election this year is Saturday 19 December, and for constitutional reasons, such an election would need to be called on or before Tuesday 17 November.
Federal Parliament is due to sit twice in November: from the 9th to the 12th, and again from the 23rd until 3 December: clearly, unless Shorten’s resignation occurs before or during the first of those sitting weeks, any election will be delayed until the new year.
Should that occur, it is understood a polling date in late February or early March is under active consideration.
This timeframe — and the need to be ready, should Shorten pull the pin sooner rather than later — places an obligation on the government to reintroduce whichever of its stalled bills is necessary to the Senate, with great urgency, to provide desired double dissolution triggers that can then be passed at a joint sitting: the Registered Organisations Bill, which if passed will enforce the same regulations and standards of governance upon the union movement as the business community is already subjected to, being chief among them.
But on the other hand, an election at the end of this year or early next carries the prospect of substantial adverse findings against union and ALP figures providing a backdrop to the campaign, against which the ALP will struggle to present a palatable or credible offering to voters.
By way of commentary, I offer that Shorten has been a poor “leader:” this column has consistently refused to acknowledge him without qualification as the leader of his party, when even Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd were thus acknowledged.
Bill Shorten — lampooned in this column as “Billy Bullshit,” with good reason — isn’t a leader’s bootlace.
Shorten’s tenure as Labor “leader” represents a shameful period in ALP history, driven as it has been by blatant attempts to stoke class warfare and envy among Australians, punctuated by mindlessly obstructionist Senate tactics in cohort with the
Communist Party Greens and a willing crossbench composed mostly of supposed conservative independents and minor parties, and publicly articulated in fundamentally dishonest terms that have lowered the bar for standards of political decency in this country and unforgivably assumed of voters the lack of intelligence or perception to see through the contemptible tactics on show.
A self-acknowledged liar who has admitted to deceptive and untrustworthy conduct among his colleagues is unfit to hold the leadership of his party, let alone the great office of Prime Minister, and Shorten — in the absence of Tony Abbott, whom Labor personally demonised and defamed for years — is regarded in reputable opinion polling by voters with the contempt he deserves now he has been judged solely on his own merits in the absence of the frenzy his party whipped up around Abbott.
If Labor is smart, it will replace Shorten with Plibersek and give her two attempts to win for the ALP; if it is predictable, it will instead anoint Albanese. Both offer tantalising contests against Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull: Albanese representing the product of a not-dissimilar background that evolved in a very different direction, and Plibersek (her gender notwithstanding) being a warrior of the Left on many of the issues Turnbull is noted for championing from the Right.
But either way, the departure of Shorten from senior political life will be no loss whatsoever to this country, and in the big scheme of things won’t matter a tin of beans.
Shorten isn’t even yesterday’s man, unless your preference yesterday was for a lying, scheming, manipulative union thug with a penchant for burying axes between the shoulder blades of those supposedly closest to him.
The prospect of Shorten as Prime Minister should horrify even those most apathetic about politics; the emphasis of the ALP in stoking envy, hatred of success and war between classes on his watch has placed a great stain on that party, and Shorten’s tenure at its helm will come to be viewed by Labor people as a matter of deep embarrassment that dishonoured it.
Nobody will miss Shorten when he is gone. This column is waiting, eagerly, for the anointed day to arrive.