A Timely Reminder: Bill Shorten Is Not A Leader

THREE DAYS from an election he is almost certain to lose, Bill Shorten is thrashing around in desperation — saying literally anything he thinks will frighten voters into voting against the Coalition — in a mad lunge for power designed to achieve his delusional lifelong “destiny” to be Prime Minister: and little else. With the passage of time, people can forget who it really is they are dealing with. Tonight, we offer them a timely reminder.

Near the end of one of the most uninspiring and visionless election campaigns seen in Australia for some time, I think it is safe to say there will be a lot of let-down people in this country on Sunday morning, irrespective of their political stripe; terrified of upsetting the delicate relationship with the conservatives in his party, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has offered a tepid and limited agenda that will do little to redress the critical structural problems that are becoming endemic in the governance of the Commonwealth — and this, combined with an upper house campaign likely to cede, rather than gain, ground — probably means that most of Turnbull’s offering will never be legislated anyway.

Bill Shorten, however, is a different proposition altogether.

It used to be the case in conservative eyes that despite political differences, the Labor Party produced leaders worthy of the title and deserving of cross-party respect; even the ones who never made it — the Beazleys, the Creans, and even the Lathams of the ALP — were decent and thoughtful individuals dedicated to what they believed in and to what their party stood for (even if, from the other end of the political spectrum, many of us thought they were wrong) and who could rightfully claim to have upheld traditions of public service that befit those elected to perform it.

About a decade ago, this fine history was shattered — perhaps irrevocably — with the ALP leadership becoming the plaything and the preserve of faceless factional thugs and other hoodlums with no known connection to the national interest; from the imbecilic cretin Kevin Rudd (with his coterie of adolescent advisers and his vile, abusive, micromanaging narcissism) to shyster and union cat’s paw Julia Gillard, nobody could accuse Labor of producing leaders in recent years who merit and/or warrant public respect.

But Shorten — currently lying to Australia for all he is worth about some fictitious Liberal Party plot to privatise Medicare — takes the biscuit.

Shorten’s goons actually had the temerity to complain in social media last week that the panel for the ABC’s lamentable #QandA programme — the week he appeared on the show solus — was “stacked” because three of the five panellists were not fully owned, completely controlled mouthpieces of the ALP and/or the wider Left; “ABC bias” was the catchphrase, and aside from the fact host Tony Jones could be seen as automatically squaring the ledger 3-all, the idea of the ABC (and of that God-forsaken programme in particular) ever exercising wilful political bias toward the Coalition ranks as the dumbest pronouncement on Australian politics this year to date.

The reason I raise this story is because organising squads of goons — to hit social media, or to turn up as rent-a-crowd ballast at ALP-sponsored demonstrations to provide “community” support, or to rig the questions at a Labor members’ forum on his way to securing the leadership against Anthony Albanese in 2013 — is not a mark of a leader.

It might make Shorten adept at organising people and persuading (or forcing) them to do what he wants them to do: this is not leadership.

And in every aspect of Shorten’s performance of his duties as “leader” — the lies, the distortions of opponents’ words and statements, the bloody-minded obstruction, and the fantasy of his entitlement to the Prime Ministership — this lack of leadership has been palpable, tangible, and is likely to prove the ultimate difference between Turnbull being re-elected or losing on Saturday evening,

Tonight’s article is intentionally brief; I want to share with viewers a very short trip down memory lane, to the last (and only) time any serious attempt was made by the Coalition to tear away the myth of Bill Shorten the “leader.”

Clearly, there are many things I could add — as I have in the past few days, and will likely also do in the next — but the problem with fast-moving 24/7 media cycles these days is that all too often, things get swept away in the rear view mirror: and rather than them never be seen again, the proper use of certain materials is to ensure they are recycled, placed once again before the target audience, and repeated whenever appropriate.

With Bill Shorten expecting to become Prime Minister on Saturday, now is indeed such a time.

I would like to urge readers to not only spend the three minutes reacquainting themselves, through the video posted this evening, with Shorten’s dubious rap sheet since entering federal Parliament, but to consider distributing it throughout their networks (along with this article) to ensure that as widely as possible, this message on the dreadful specimen masquerading as a suitable candidate for the top job in Australian politics is heard, shared, and recirculated.

If Turnbull indeed wins this election — as consensus now indicates he will — it is to be hoped the ALP can break with the dubious “modern” tradition it established a decade ago of identifying the least electable shitbag in its midst, and making him or her the leader of the party: I might be archly partisan, and it is true I oppose the ALP with every fibre of my being. But I wouldn’t mind having an opponent led by a decent human being for a change. The tone of my critiques would temper considerably were it to occur.

But I have heard, like everyone else, that Shorten thinks he should be given a second chance to win for Labor if he goes down, as expected, on Saturday; the national interest will be well served if his political career is instead terminated altogether in three days’ time, and to this end, let’s all get busy — and start spreading the word.

 

More Lies: Bill Shorten Nails His Own Coffin Shut

THE ELECTION RESULT is all but a foregone conclusion now, with an increasingly rattled Bill Shorten seemingly unable to make a case for office based even remotely in fact; not content with the fairy story of a Liberal plot to privatise Medicare, the ALP “leader” has resorted to selective misquotations of the Prime Minister and cynical exploitation of gay couples in a “defining moment” that sounds the death rattle of Labor’s election campaign.

For something a little different, I’ve been contemplating recording a video comment at the end of the week to actually talk to readers about some of my final conclusions before polling day, but as fate would have it — and as readers with germ distributors children in their households will understand — a vicious ear and sinus infection that struck late on Sunday night has temporarily left me half deaf and unable to speak without sounding half drunk (or at least, that’s how it sounds to me at present). If the antibiotics I’m on clear the worst of it in the next day or so, we may indeed have a conversation on Friday; and if we can, it might be an opportunity for a more interactive comment and discussion forum on election eve (which was the thinking behind the idea in the first place). Stay tuned.

The curious thing from a Labor campaign that was always based on “smart” answers and being just a bit too clever — or arrogantly cocksure of itself — for its own good is that until less than a fortnight ago, it seemed increasingly likely that however improbably and however distastefully, Bill Shorten would end up moving into the Prime Ministerial suite next week.

In some respects this isn’t surprising at all; the Coalition has spent three years unable to manage its budget measures through the Senate, unable to sell any kind of message to the wider electorate, and unable to puncture tactics used by the ALP that have variously been opportunistic, shabby, duplicitous, and wantonly destructive, gambling with the welfare of this country in pursuit of a naked obsession with power for its own sake.

I make no apology for labelling Bill Shorten “a lying prick” in this column on Monday, for that is precisely how he has chosen to conduct himself; personally (and like millions of other Australians) I am absolutely fed up with the ethical debasement and entrenched dishonesty that too often passes for political debate these days — with the Labor Party the chief proponent of this dubious art — and with Shorten, despite serious competition for the mantle from the likes of Wayne Swan and Julia Gillard, being the worst perpetrator of it of the lot.

On what planet — on what planet, for goodness’ sake — would any decent (and rational) individual solemnly declare that the Coalition intended to privatise Medicare — a monolith that is inadequately funded despite record real levels of expenditure on health, would constitute a dreadful and unacceptable risk proposition for any serious investor in healthcare assets, and which loses about $10bn per year?

The only reason to do so — and it plumbs the depths of irresponsibility coming from a man purporting to be fit to lead Australia — is to frighten shitless the poor, the very sick, the very old, and the helpless: the very people Labor, and Shorten especially, claim to act for.

Shorten knows that there is not an atom of truth or fact to his shrill claims about what the Coalition would do to Medicare, and as I observed yesterday, the possible privatisation of the payments system that forms part of Medicare (which is ancient, outdated, sorely overdue for replacement and close to dysfunctional) does not in any way substantiate nor legitimise the ridiculous and reprehensible statements Shorten has been making.

Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke — whose government introduced Medicare in the first place — lowered his colours this month by agreeing to buy into Shorten’s bankrupt politicking on the issue, and any Labor person who genuinely thinks their “leader” is onto something ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Will it shift votes against the government? Some, almost certainly, yes, and that’s the truly offensive aspect of this episode: people who’ve been scared by Labor (be they gullible, stupid, or just downright terrified) will support the ALP for the base reason of an utter lie told to them by people they believed they could trust.

But without bogging down on Medicare, even Shorten found a new low to plumb yesterday, with his presentation of a “defining moment” in the campaign that was no more than showing an ability to cut and paste words together to form whatever sentences and/or messages are desired.

It was, Shorten cheerily told the National Press Club, the “gaffe that marked the end of the Prime Minister’s credibility:” a statement attributed to Malcolm Turnbull that what political parties say they will support and what they do in practice are two different things; and one of those breathtaking displays of chutzpah from Shorten, this time trying to crucify Turnbull over the exact sin he is guilty of committing himself — rank dishonesty and the inability for anyone to be able to trust him.

What was missing was the rest of the Turnbull statement.

“You have seen the Labor Party has opposed many measures of ours at which they have subsequently supported or subsequently changed their position on. The best-known of those is obviously the School Kids Bonus, which they made an iconic issue and launched petitions and campaigns and said they were going to fight all the way to election day to restore it and then did a very quick backflip on that.”

Shorten, in the past week, has taken to rhetorically asking voters, “who do you trust?” in attempting to frame his case for office.

The numbers on his election costings don’t add up — an inconsistency he simply waves away — despite the level of debt in this country rightly troubling an increasing proportion of the electorate, engineered as it was by the ALP in the first place.

The magic pudding equation of how spending can be ramped up, whilst failing to raise taxes or cut other spending sufficiently to pay for it, and whilst paying down Commonwealth debt — all of which Labor insists it will do — is an algebraic anomaly for which Shorten has no answer; its costings discredited and its own admission that the national books would deteriorate under its management are paid trite lipservice by the assertion that in a decade’s time (the political equivalent of the never-never) everything will be all right.

Who do you trust? The answer, almost certainly, is not Bill Shorten.

And just to cook up a diversion, Shorten has taken to trying to out-Green the Greens on gay marriage, claiming the first piece of legislation a Shorten government tables would be a bill to legalise the measure. But this — apparently being used as a last-gasp stunt to save a couple of seats in inner-western Sydney from the Greens’ clutches — is unlikely to resonate with the majority of the electorate either, which is just as fed up with being marginalised whilst minorities are feted as it is with being lied to.

There now seems to be a consensus that despite throwing everything at winning this election (however dubious the calibre of that effort), Labor will lose on Saturday; it is a judgement I have been cautious about endorsing until just these past few days — I thought Malcolm was dead in the water two weeks ago — but whilst Turnbull hasn’t exactly given Australians a clear and tangible set of reasons to re-elect him, the efforts of Shorten to shoot himself in the foot in recent weeks transcend anything Malcolm might, or might not, have done.

I’m not suggesting the Liberal Party will be an especially deserving winner on Saturday, despite my decades-long membership of that fine organisation; a timid and confused period under a new leader has produced a timid and decidedly thin election agenda against a backdrop of scandal and disarray, which has been advocated during a campaign seemingly designed to ignore (or wish away) the most important issues the country faces and at times appearing contrived to actually throw the election away.

And I’m not suggesting Malcolm Turnbull will be re-elected in particularly robust shape — the likely nightmare scenario of an equally unworkable and wilfully obstructive Senate to the one it replaces will be but one symptom of the lack of voter enthusiasm for the government — although the result in the lower house, whilst now almost certain to be an outright Coalition win, could yet fall anywhere between a simple majority of 76 of the 150 seats or something approaching a landslide: there are three days of campaigning, and scope for everyone on all sides to stick their feet in their mouths, to go.

Either way, Shorten has gifted the Prime Minister a win: that’s the bottom line.

For the Coalition’s agenda — thin as it may be — is infinitely preferable to the scorched Earth outcomes that would result from any serious attempt to implement the half-baked platform being peddled by Shorten, and I think the electorate has realised, if sullenly, that reality: add in a few poor judgement calls (like admitting Labor would legislate the very budget cuts it spent two years flatly blocking) and a bit of bad luck in the form of world events likely to drive domestic sentiment behind the sitting government (the “Brexit” vote in Britain), and Shorten is as good as cooked.

And when it comes to the would-be Prime Minister of Australia deliberately misrepresenting his opponent in the fashion Shorten did yesterday, that is another lie; the sin of omission is just as bad as an outright untruth. The accusations Shorten have been making against the Coalition have been disgraceful, but his attempt to frame Turnbull as a liar by deliberately misquoting him borders on defamatory.

It should surprise nobody, of course, for Shorten — since the day he became opposition “leader,” if not years or even decades earlier — has repeatedly demonstrated that there is no depth to which he will not descend, nor no low too low for him to plumb, in his obsessive quest for power and self-advancement.

Yesterday was a “defining moment,” all right: it was the time Shorten managed to nail his own coffin shut.

Pray for Shorten’s sake that the final few days of the campaign are mercifully swift; his party, if it is a repository for any intelligence whatsoever, will do what it had initially determined to do in November once the election is out of the way, and toss Shorten overboard. Nobody will miss him when he has gone.

The responsibility — and the blame — for electoral defeat on Saturday must be sheeted home to Shorten, and to Shorten alone.

In the meantime, any further utterances from the Labor camp — and particularly from Shorten himself — should be recognised for what they are: the death rattle of a campaign that remained alive for longer than it deserved to, and which amounts to no more than the desperate ranting of an outfit well aware that it faces imminent, and certain, defeat.

Nothing shocks me in politics, and very little surprises me these days, either. But it never ceases to amaze me just how low the ALP can sink, and once again, Shorten has demonstrated that the ethical crevasse into which he has sucked his party is a bottomless abyss indeed.

 

Union Filth: CFMEU, Trades Hall Bid To Rig Election

WITH Bill Shorten vowing to block a restored Australian Building and Construction Commission and “any special inspectorate” to win the ALP leadership, it’s fair to suggest the CFMEU will run Australia if he wins on Saturday; ominously, unions also fund a range of “Independents” in what can only be seen as an attempt to rig the election. Unions are entitled to want Labor to win, but not to derail democracy by working to create a one-party state.

When those of my fellow Liberal Party members look askance at me for criticising the party (and particularly at this time, its insipid election campaign), the issue I want to touch on today should serve as a clarion call as to the reasons why.

For once I am going to say something nice about Jacqui Lambie — and more on that later — but for all the trenchant criticism this column has levelled at the regrettable Tasmanian Senator and the deserved charge we have levelled at her of being the stupidest individual ever elected to any Australian Parliament, Lambie at least had the good grace to provide a straight answer to a straight question, which is more than can be said for most of the rest of the scum seeking to leach up to $1.2m out of the taxpayer for the six years on Easy Street that a Senate berth offers.

But The Australian today carries revelations of undertakings given by Bill Shorten back in 2013 — apparently in return for the backing of militant construction sector unions, including the CFMEU, for the ALP leadership — that Labor under his stewardship would oppose any restored incarnation of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, the Fair Work Building and Construction inspectorate, or “any separate industrial inspectorate for the construction industry” (and disband these if they existed upon election to government) on the breathtakingly hypocritical grounds that he did not “believe in laws that unfairly discriminate against workers in different industries, including providing different powers for regulatory agencies.”

It sits in stark contrast to Shorten’s gung-ho, string-the-bastards-up approach to a Royal Commission into the banking sector, which in turn we suspect is nothing more than a diversion from the entrenched violence and lawlessness that is endemic in the union movement, and in the construction sector in particular: as we noted yesterday, dozens of Shorten’s old union buddies are facing prosecution on charges arising from a Royal Commission into Trades Hall; as The Australian notes, quoting FWBC chief Nigel Hadgkiss, 948 breaches of federal workplace laws were committed mostly by the CFMEU last year in what Hadgkiss characterised as an “alarming rate of lawlessness.”

The notion of the CFMEU forming the muscle and direction behind current-day Labor governments is not new; state Labor outfits in Queensland and Victoria are beholden to the thuggish junta, having accepted manpower, vast sums of cash and other support to help achieve their return to the treasury benches in those states, and the CFMEU — on one level, unsurprisingly — wants its pound of flesh and its share of the spoils once the power and patronage of government have been secured and can be carved up.

Yet unlike the unions — and especially under the kind of regime apparently proposed in acquiescence by Shorten — the banking sector is well-regulated and is subject to regulatory oversight by corporate watchdog ASIC that, whilst imperfect, has weeded out more than its fair share of rotten eggs from the depths of Australia’s financial services industry.

On the kind of regime that might apply to unions if promises of abolishing specific oversight of a perennially troublesome sector are kept, the militant unions would face the Police — always under-resourced when it comes to investigating the kind of industrial breaches to which Hadgkiss alludes, which are for the most part not the jurisdiction of the states anyway — and little else to keep them in check.

Which, of course, is precisely what these lawless monsters want: they believe, wrongly, that they run this country, and that the only law that counts is the one they decree; this is a situation that cannot and must not ever be allowed to eventuate, let alone be tolerated, and the assurances of just that to help win his party’s leadership merely reinforce the reasons why Bill Shorten is an utterly inappropriate candidate for the Prime Ministership, or any other responsible public office in Australia.

I wanted to raise this issue today because it dovetails with a little research exercise I conducted during a break last week: or at least, I tried to conduct it, for the co-operation factor was virtually nil when it came to asking questions of candidates purporting to stand on accountable platforms for public office.

But it has been widely discussed in recent months that unions (and not just the most militant ones) have been pouring money not just into the Communist Party Greens — who are happy to take the wages of sin that the ALP shuns on “principle” whenever its union chums disgrace themselves — but also into the coffers of virtually every non-Coalition candidate who might stand a plausible chance of being elected at Saturday’s election.

First, I sent a note to Jacqui Lambie on Twitter, who directed me to a page of “recent donators” (sic) and, curiously, explained that she had turned down approaches from the MUA and the CFMEU.

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It took all of a mouse click to find out why she was anxious to tell me she had turned the MUA and the CFMEU down: this apparent aversion to dealing with the worst of the worst was clearly not a unilateral one, for the page of “recent donators” included $25,000, in two chunks, from the notoriously militant ETU.

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I said I would say something nice about Lambie, and I will; she deserves acknowledgement for answering a direct question, even if the answer was less than desirable. She didn’t try to hide behind a wall of obfuscation and for that at least, readers should pay credit — even though it seems her backers are just as unfit for purpose as she is a worthy candidate to sit in the Senate.

But whatever you think of Lambie — a nice girl I’m sure, if limited — there is no praise forthcoming for other, more credible candidates who perhaps forgot the answer to the same question when asked.

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I’m sure it won’t surprise readers that not one of the six — Nick Xenophon, Bob Katter, Cathy McGowan, Glenn Lazarus, Andrew Wilkie or Tony Windsor — even bothered to acknowledge the contact, let alone respond.

I just wanted to hear it from the horses’ mouths, with plenty of media coverage in recent times having suggested most or all of these candidates had taken union donations. Pauline Hanson wasn’t asked (I don’t know if she has an official Twitter presence and, if she does, whether it is manned). Derryn Hinch, I understand, has not accepted union donations, although I am happy to be corrected if evidence materialises that he did.

But whilst I am prepared to publish, fulsomely, an acknowledgement on behalf of any of these candidates who can substantiate that no union monies have been received by themselves and/or their campaign funds, the insidious flow of union cash into the coffers of any of these individuals at all places a very large question mark over just how “independent” any or all of them are.

And this, in turn, brings me back to the central point: the determination to evade any official oversight on the part of the union movement — using the ALP as an accomplice and an accessory before the fact — but also an apparent attempt by Trades Hall to rig the election altogether, by purchasing the allegiance of those it believes stand a good chance of being in a position to block any Coalition legislation that seeks to bring them to account.

What do these candidates — Lambie included — think they are expected to do: hold a tea and scones morning to show their gratitude? Whether explicitly articulated, or implied on a wink and a nod, these donations serve no other purpose than to oblige parliamentary votes on relevant legislation if and when the time comes, and to provide the unions with mechanisms for leverage (read: thuggery and standover tactics) if whomever the gullible unfortunate, who merely though he or she was taking a token of generosity at face value, refuses to play ball.

It raises a chilling prospect: no longer content merely to treat the ALP as its plaything, and to use it as a vessel for carrying out the legislative work required to shield itself from any accountability whatsoever, the union movement (or at least, the most undesirable elements of it) now appears determined to rig an election altogether, by donating funds to multiple parties and individuals beyond the confines of the ALP, in what can only be interpreted as an attempt to begin to drive Coalition candidates out of electoral contention altogether on as widespread a basis as possible.

For all the talk of campaign finance reform at the ALP and the Greens (which, conveniently, always excludes union money from any consideration of the matter), an obvious first step would be to ban any donor — corporate, union or private citizen — from giving money to any more than one political party (or independent campaign) at any given election: and in fact, such a restriction would go some way to cleaning up the regime of political donations at a stroke.

Of course, no such step will be championed by the Left now; its newest strategy is to spread the dosh around as widely as possible, and this is just another manifestation of behaviour that might be technically legal, but can hardly be construed as democratic.

And of course, no union can be accused of criminal misconduct if there is nobody or nothing to investigate and prosecute the misdemeanour in the first place; state Police forces are stretched enough as it is without having this kind of responsibility lobbed at them, and in any case — as I said earlier — most of the breaches that would be involved are not state matters at all.

Which is pretty much everything the unions, and their sock puppets at the ALP, are trying to engineer.

For now. I mean, who knows what might come next if this latest outrage isn’t jumped on and stamped out?

Yet having secured a double dissolution on union misconduct and the need to restore the ABCC — a promise for which a mandate was obtained in 2013, and which was more than validated by the findings of the Heydon Royal Commission — the Coalition, in round terms, has said nothing about the unions, the ABCC, or anything else to do with the lawless and evasive nature of these entities that really are the absolute filth of Australian society nowadays for the duration of this election campaign.

At some point in the future, the volume of money spent at elections will see the Coalition outgunned, overall, by multiples: and a majority of that money, the longer this practice is permitted to continue, will eventually emanate from the militant unions who think they own and control Australia.

It’s about time the government started talking about these matters while there remains time before the election to do so. After all, the recipients of the union monies are — Lambie excluded — obviously too ashamed or sensitive to admit the donations, and if the Coalition is serious about cleaning up union behaviour at all, this would be a reasonable place for it to begin a conversation.

But it won’t. You know it won’t.

 

A Paper, A Poll, The PM And A Prick: It’s Over…And Just Beginning

INELEGANT it may be to say so bluntly, but Bill Shorten is a lying prick: and this candid assessment of the ALP and its pathetic “leader” is, finally and belatedly, the reason it will lose Saturday’s election — possibly very badly. It is an indictment on the Coalition that it should have fallen to a newspaper to enact a rudimentary demolition of its electoral rival: and whilst Malcolm Turnbull will win, retaining government should be the least of his concerns.

“If a man tells you that a mountain has changed its place, you are free to believe it; but if a man tells you he has changed his character, do not believe it.”

— Arabic proverb

It’s one of those ironies that having rounded the straight into the final week of the election campaign, I finally have time to publish content in this column more regularly; and whilst we’ve missed a lot of the campaign here in terms of the day-to-day goings-on of the objectionable circus that has this time passed for an election campaign, there is a sense afoot that anyone who might have tuned out for the past seven weeks would have missed very little at all.

There’s a Newspoll out this morning; The Australian is carrying a poll that shows the Coalition leading Labor after preferences, 51-49, for the first time in months; it shows both Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and opposition “leader” Bill Shorten regarded as far more unpopular with voters than popular, and shows the clear but unconvincing lead Turnbull has maintained on the “preferred PM” measure remaining intact.

And that’s about all anyone needs to know about Newspoll today; some of the other polls concur and some still suggest a Labor lead, but just as we said a fortnight ago — when Shorten finally confessed that in order to try to fix the federal budget, a Labor government would have to adopt most of the very savings measures it has flatly opposed since the 2014 budget — the election was probably won or lost the minute Shorten’s press conference ended, and I now believe that in Shorten’s case at least, the losing hand was the one he had attempted to play when the reality of a possible election win collided with the utter crap he had spent nearly three years spreading across Australia.

We already knew Shorten was a liar, and we knew it because he was humiliatingly forced into admitting as much when the ABC’s excellent documentary The Killing Season called out inconsistencies between various (and varying) public accounts he gave at different times where loyalties to successive leaders he knifed in the back during Labor’s last stint in office were concerned.

But since obtaining the ALP leadership in October 2013 (by using union strictures to bind the votes of MPs to override the wishes of grassroots Labor members, almost two-thirds of whom rather astutely didn’t want him), Shorten has had the temerity and the gall to criss-cross Australia, lecturing about “fairness,” masquerading as some paragon of principle, when his words and his actions really constituted nothing more than another colossal set of untruths.

Lies about the parlous state his party left the country in when it was kicked out of office. Lies that untrammelled, profligate spending — doling out wads of the folding stuff to anyone Labor thought could be bought — was responsible and sustainable. Lies about the motives — real, perceived or (almost invariably) fabricated — of his political opponents. Lies about the supposedly pristine state of his beloved union movement, the purity of which is somehow divorced from the pending procession of dozens of his old buddies through the courts to face prosecution on charges arising from a Royal Commission.

Yet just as Shorten tried to assure everyone that he had changed — and that he wasn’t proud that he lied when he was a minister in Julia Gillard’s government, until he sank the dagger into her — his narrative (which might more fittingly be termed a diatribe) has exuded dishonesty, duplicity, and the clear intention to take voters for a ride.

Perhaps the naked lust for power, or some half-baked undergraduate delusion of a “destiny” to be Prime Minister, were just too strong to resist the temptation, but one thing nobody could accuse Bill Shorten of during his term as Labor’s “leader” is being entirely honest.

The thought bubble of perhaps privatising the payment transaction system — just the payments system — that is part of Medicare does not equate to a policy to privatise Medicare altogether: but this is what Shorten has explicitly claimed during weeks of disgracefully misleading campaigning.

His negative gearing policy — lauded by Labor and the shithead trolls it marshals across social media as an end to the “rort” enjoyed by rich people, and which will get the snouts of “piggies” in the property industry and on millionaires’ row out of the trough  — in fact contains a provision that will allow the richest Australians to continue to negatively gear, even on new investments in existing housing stock, writing their losses off against capital gains when they sell their assets in order to (you guessed it) minimise their tax bills: in other words, anyone with deep enough pockets to carry the losses rather than writing them off against their income tax each year (as the 75% of investors earning less than $80k per year do) can negatively gear property until the cows come home, locking those on modest wickets out of the market and permanently tilting the market in favour of the “rich” Shorten claims to despise.

We now know he lied about a large proportion of Joe Hockey’s 2014 budget for two years: suddenly announcing Labor would honour a fair slice of it does not change that fact, and any debate on the political merits of that budget are in fact irrelevant; if those Australians who listened to Shorten for so long vote for him, Shorten’s admission means he will hit them with exactly what he promised he would prevent them from being hit with.

There is no attempt to reconcile how hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending is consistent with a budget deficit already running at $50bn per year that Labor’s own figures now admit will worsen by $16.5bn over four years if its policies are ever implemented.

He deliberately misled voters in late 2013 — when Hockey moved to abolish Labor’s $300bn debt ceiling (itself a stunt to force an incoming Liberal government to be frustrated in the Senate when seeking funds to pay for the recurrent spending Labor left behind) — announcing that the Liberals “were putting debt up to $500bn” when all they were doing was ensuring Labor’s legislated spending, which Senate numbers meant the Coalition had no chance of repealing, did not have to become a daily shitfight for the Coalition to have to prosecute.

Ironically, federal debt has indeed now reached $500bn, as the direct result of the spending traps Labor itself legislated into the budget. But Shorten and his cohorts can’t be honest about that either; they were absolved of all responsibility the day Labor went into opposition, apparently.

It is an indictment upon the Coalition — after a wasted start to the year, and a largely wasted election campaign — that it fell last week to Sydney’s Daily Telegraph to finally smack Shorten down; depicting the Labor “leader” as a liar, and highlighting even more of the dishonest and duplicitous offerings that have emanated from the ALP cabal for years, the Tele belatedly did what the Coalition should have been doing almost three years ago: but never did or, to the extent it tried, its attack was misdirected, poorly framed, and completely ineffective.

BILLY BULLSHIT…at the eleventh hour, Shorten was kicked to pieces over his “principled” positions: the damage from this slapdown will endure longer than any of his vapid promises. (Image: Daily Telegraph)

For the past couple of weeks, luck has been running the way of the Prime Minister — not that he has created any of it, despite his exhortations to do precisely that at the Liberal Party’s campaign launch yesterday.

In fact, Turnbull and Co can probably count themselves as very lucky indeed, for as recently as ten days ago it seemed the election might have slipped from their grasp, and the fact it appears instead to now be a question of how much they will win by owes far more to the actions of others than to any positive movement on the Coalition’s part to present a compelling case for victory.

And there’s the rub.

I think — where the House of Representatives is concerned — that Malcolm Turnbull will now win.

Whether by a sliver or in a canter remains to be seen, for there is still ample time for things to happen between now and polling day.

But winning an election in the lower house really isn’t good enough; not least when a double dissolution for both houses is underway, with the stated objective of “sweeping the current crossbench” out of the Senate, and on the necessary issue of legislating reforms to union governance that have barely rated a mention since Turnbull was granted his election for both houses by the Governor-General.

Even if the Coalition wins a reasonably solid majority in the House, it seems almost certain that it will barely improve its 33 spots in the 76-member Senate, or even go backwards: armed with potent issues to fight on and faced by the least suitable candidate for the Prime Ministership placed in front of voters in at least 50 years, we’re talking about a very poor overall result.

So poor, in fact, that the Coalition may not even be able to bother with a Joint Sitting to legislate the union governance measures it would have won mandates for not just once, but twice: it might simply not have the numbers across the two chambers to win the required votes.

Such a “win” — perhaps as bad as falling across the line in the lower house and going backwards in the Senate — would do nothing to resolve questions posed repeatedly in this column over whether Turnbull is “a solution” as Prime Minister or not, for the hard truth is that he has wasted half a year this year and will have been re-elected to do very little indeed.

At least the thin Coalition program is one that has been placed before voters upfront, however; the pathetic exhortations of Shorten in asking “who do you trust?” — as if stealing lines from John Howard might somehow force people to respect him — are oxymoronic when weighed against the rest of the claptrap he has offered as “leader.”

And whilst it has taken a vicious attack by a Sydney newspaper to belatedly make the rudimentary political attack on a completely unelectable candidate for high office, there is no guarantee the second term of this Coalition government will be any more effective than the first: for all of the same reasons, including poor tactics, inept communications, and a Senate determined to destroy it in defiance of its mandate at literally any cost.

There isn’t even a guarantee Malcolm will make it through a full three-year term as Prime Minister, although in saying that I should point out that such a prospect for uncertainty is merely the “new normal” in Australian politics, not some wish for Turnbull to meet with the same fate as his three most recent predecessors.

But governing — seeing it now appears certain that task will again fall to the coalition — will be no easy feat.

At the start of the final week, I see a Coalition win and a Labor “leader” in line, quite deservedly, to be humiliated. If it comes to pass, Shorten will have only himself to blame. His colleagues should feel no compunction in terminating his political career next Sunday morning.

Barring some miracle, retaining office is now the least of Malcolm Turnbull’s concerns: and having paid scant attention to the Senate until yesterday (by which time it was almost certainly too late to have any meaningful impact on voting for the upper house) there are already some in Coalition circles prepared to privately concede that this is one election that it might be better to lose, for the coming quagmire is one it alone will be blamed for — irrespective of what vandalism Labor and the Greens, perhaps in cahoots with Nick Xenophon and/or the insidious Jacqui Lambie, subsequently get up to on the floor of the Senate.

 

Yes, Labor Has Peaked; Its Momentum Has Stalled. But…

TWO WEEKS from polling day — in what ranks as the most insipid contest in years, if not ever — the unlikely but unmistakable march of the contemptible Bill Shorten toward The Lodge has been stopped in its tracks; what seemed a shock upset a week ago has been turned on its head by inadvisable pronouncements from Shorten on the economy and on asylum seekers. Yet just when the tide runs the Coalition’s way, along comes Malcolm Turnbull.

There are those who will say the result of this year’s election was never in any doubt; that Malcolm Turnbull — principally because he isn’t Tony Abbott — was always destined to gallop off to a thumping election win, carrying the Liberal and National Parties on his back.

Perhaps he will — and perhaps the government will survive its meeting with voters on 2 July almost unscathed — but I still believe this is a see-sawing contest, not because the polls say it is, but rather brutally because both sides appear to be held in such low esteem by the general public that whoever makes the fewest mistakes will win.

Until a week ago, unbelievably, it seemed the prize was there for the moronic Bill Shorten to take.

I apologise to readers for yet another leave of absence; perhaps it is time to say I will aim for two, three, four articles per week (as opposed to the five to seven that were a regular feature before my workload ramped up so drastically a year ago) and to stop apologising for being busy. But this morning, in restarting proceedings, I want to speak very broadly about where I think we are at.

Six days ago, I opined that thanks to his admissions on what a Labor government would do with the federal budget if it was elected next month — namely, to drop the pretence that Labor’s Senate obstruction over the past two years had been in any way responsible, and to admit the party would adopt in government tens of billions of dollars of Abbott government cuts it derided as “cruel” and “unfair” — Shorten had ensured the 2 July election would come to be seen as having been won or lost on that day; I am beginning to think that diagnosis was right on the money, and it looks as if Shorten’s attempt to dump the bad news at a time the country was heading into a long weekend and with three weeks in hand to recover will explode in his smarmy face.

Or does it?

The tone was set on Tuesday by Mark Kenny from The Age, in his article exploring the notion that Labor’s campaign had peaked; Kenny made no mention of Shorten’s budget proclamations, but he didn’t have to, for the only “game changing moment” that has occurred in this campaign to date was the hurried press conference on Thursday last in which Shorten and his Treasury spokesman, Chris Bowen, effectively admitted to millions of intending Labor voters that they had been duping them all along.

And of course, it has been all downhill for Labor from there.

Not content with peddling the ridiculous lie that a re-elected Turnbull government intended to privatise Medicare, this week Labor wheeled out ageing former Prime Minister Bob Hawke to bolster its scare campaign; that the ALP should place such faith in such a grotesquely crass smear is bad enough, but for Hawke to lower his colours to be dragged into it speaks volumes for both the desperation that must be seeping into the Labor bunker, and for the complete lack of credibility Labor’s predictable, formulaic and decade-old prophesies of doom in Australian healthcare under the Coalition have come to assume these days.

Labor rattles the tin of “Liberals to kill hospital beds and nursing jobs” with such monotonous regularity one could set a watch by it: and in any case, it’s a mark of just how pathetic Labor’s offering as a party of national government really is that whether credible or not, it really only ever builds its campaigns on two state issues — Health and Education.

Yes, it talks about other things too, but the mentality that if Labor simply talks about these two subjects it can win anything is so pervasive as to be almost literally tangible.

Meanwhile, Shorten — who has had inordinate trouble keeping his sheep within the fold when it comes to the fraught issue of boat arrivals and would-be economic migrants paying people smugglers to circumvent proper process — also announced this week that the 30,000 arrivals left over from the 50,000 who turned up during the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government would, under a Labor government, be granted residency, work and welfare rights: overturning, once again, the successful policies of a Coalition government that stopped unending (and ever-increasing) streams of people chancing their luck to get to these shores by sea, with over 1,200 drowning in the process during the ALP’s last stint in office.

It’s a win for the socialists and compassion-babbling Chardonnay drunks at the Greens and the hard Left, but mainstream Australia will be unimpressed; it took Rudd on his word, in good faith, when he dismantled the Howard government’s Pacific Solution, with solemn assurances that no human tide would suddenly bear down on this country looking for the easy way in.

It won’t be quite so trusting now.

From Sideshow Alley, Shorten’s trusty mate in Melbourne, union hand puppet and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, has treated the country to a spectacular demonstration of the ALP’s political judgement and strategic nous, choosing the middle of a federal election campaign to create the unwanted distraction of capitulating to a union Labor owed its 2014 state election win to — the hard-Left United Firefighters’ Union — by sacking the independent board of the (largely volunteer-comprised) Country Fire Authority in order to ram through a deeply reviled “enterprise” bargaining “agreement” that is, in all but name, a takeover of the CFA by the UFU and a blunt message to the volunteers to either submit to their new union masters or to fuck off.

In a gift that really doesn’t keep on giving for Shorten — or at least, not in a way that is of any use to anyone but the Liberal Party — the details of the so-called EBA have become public over the past few days, including details of stamp duty refunds on houses purchased by firefighters posted to other locations within Victoria (savings of up to $40,000 that the rest of the population doesn’t get) as well as thousands of dollars in extra pay-offs and perks, all at taxpayers’ expense, that can amount to nothing more on a reasonable assessment than a payment for services rendered.

It isn’t a case of the “benefits” of being a union member: rather, an illustration of how public finances are abused by unions, with the ALP deeply complicit in the rort, to gain control over sinecures that can be taken over for no other reason than they simply can’t resist once a government — a Labor government — adds its muscle to the endeavour.

Next time you see people at a polling booth masquerading as firefighters and ambulance drivers, you can get a fair idea of just how lucrative the abuse of their public positions for political gain really stands to be for their unions.

But it has added weight to the growing public acceptance of the line that Labor governs solely for the benefit of the unions; with less than 15% of the working population now choosing to belong to one union or another (and with the proportion likely to be down to single figures now, when public sector employees are excluded), this anachronistic approach to public office simply doesn’t fit with the contemporary outlook of the vast majority of people who live in modern Australia — an uncomfortable reality for a Labor Party that has grown increasingly beholden to violent and lawless outfits like the CFMEU.

Everywhere you look, Labor’s luck — and the cohesion of the past two-and-a-bit years that was founded on a series of “smart” answers, deceptive half-truths, and outright lies — is suddenly beginning to falter.

It was reflected in Shorten’s performance on the ABC’s ghastly #QandA programme on Monday night; the rent-a-crowd brought in by the ABC predictably clapped and cheered, in a characteristically partisan production that showcased the alleged merits of the Left’s latest hero in all his ugly glory.

But Shorten’s virtuoso performance was, in fact, terrible; his vocal delivery alternated between a dead flat drone and a ghoulish, wavering screech that sounded like a bizarre mixture of excessive excitement and a death rattle. His points were shallow, his attack lines predictable, and much of what he had to say was downright dishonest: like his repeated characterisation of negative gearing as “a subsidy” as he persists with a policy ostensibly designed to win support by kicking hell out of “rich” people, but which instead will hurt hundreds of thousands of mum-and-dad investors badly before it even gets to anyone who might be described as “rich” at all — and probably causing a recession along the way for good measure.

He didn’t do himself any favours, and those who can be bothered revisiting this excruciating piece of television can access the video file here.

Of course, there are other things Shorten and the ALP have been up to; after 18 months of opinion poll leads prior to the ascension of Malcolm Turnbull to the Prime Ministership, and the re-establishment of a winning position over the past few months, Labor suddenly can’t take a trick.

And the polls, whilst not lurching toward the government en masse, are picking up shards of it: Essential saw Labor move back into the lead last week with a 51-49 margin over the government, and Ipsos, for the Fairfax press, found the ALP maintaining the same buffer over the Coalition.

Yet two ReachTel polls showed 51-49 leads for the Coalition — the first in some time — whilst a Newspoll analysis of marginal seats published in The Australian today shows the Coalition would hold onto almost all of the disputed electorates it is defending in a fortnight’s time.

I don’t agree with analyses that show the Coalition nearing 52% of the vote on an aggregation of polling results — experience and gut instinct still suggest it’s nearer to 50-50, and that the government may not as yet have clawed its way back in front. But that is certainly the direction reputable measurements of electoral sentiment are now heading in, and if Turnbull isn’t in a genuinely winning position yet, it can only be a matter of time given the apparent determination of the ALP to surrender whatever credibility — and the winning position — it might have held.

But then, Malcolm reverts to being Malcolm.

Already saying virtually nothing about the disgusting lawless mess that is the union movement these days — the supposed pretext for holding a double dissolution in the first place — and ignoring key issues like negative gearing, genuine tax reform (as opposed to a revenue-yielding patchwork fix) or industrial reform, Turnbull continues to show he has a tin ear when it comes to issues that resonate with the voters he depends on for re-election: the Coalition’s bedrock and those swinging voters inclined to vote with it.

Just days after 102 gay people were murdered or maimed by a Muslim gunman in a vile atrocity in Orlando, Florida, Malcolm saw fit to stage a highly publicised dinner with key Muslims to celebrate the end of their month of fasting: and whilst tolerance and inclusion are well and good, the fact remains that both major parties are guilty of thumbing their noses at genuine voter concerns about Islamic violence — at home and abroad — and their resentment at simply being told they must accept that people like Turnbull know what is good for them.

To add insult to injury, an anti-gay cleric was invited to this gala extravaganza at Kirribilli House: a man whose views on homosexual people, Jews, adulterers and even Christmas border on barbaric.

Turnbull must have known the dinner would have received wide media coverage, and he must have known the attendees — hardly any of whom engender any public support or affection beyond the political Left and the Islamic community — would be closely scrutinised.

Yet when called out over the attendance of Sheik Shady Al-Suleiman — who thinks adulterers should be stoned to death and that God should “destroy the enemies of Islam” — the best Turnbull could do was to blame his staff.

Andrew Bolt, without a syllable of the extremism he is too often (and baselessly) accused of, nails his blistering critique of Turnbull in today’s metropolitan Murdoch publications.

And just as Shorten isn’t doing himself or his party any favours, the same could be said of Malcolm: a telling example is that even after the vicious onslaught against Labor’s economic management “credentials” by Finance minister Matthias Cormann, which arguably wrong-footed Shorten into his humiliating about-face on the budget last week, the subject has been allowed to drop; with the state of the national finances a very real (and increasingly urgent) consideration, the absence of any coherent attempt to prosecute this case once and for all that has marked the span of this government has simply resumed.

But more generally — in the most lacklustre, uninspiring and insipid election campaign in living memory, if not ever — there have been plenty of instances of Malcolm dropping the ball instead of putting it through the hoop for a slam-dunk.

His voice may be harder, more articulate and easier to listen to than the nasal blather of Shorten, but all too often Turnbull’s messages are just as empty and just as full of misdirected slogans as his opponent’s have always been.

The only real difference is that Malcolm is far more honest than little Billy Bullshit: which isn’t saying much, for when it comes to matters of real substance, Turnbull hasn’t actually been saying much at all.

What he has been saying and doing, however, has proven sufficient to get Shorten off the hook: and it may yet prove so once more.

We started this campaign suggesting it was Bill Shorten’s election to lose, and last Thursday, he may well have lost it.

But election campaigns by their nature remain fluid until the last vote is cast: and with the propensity to pander to left-wing fancies and parade “credentials” that will only enrage his own support base, Turnbull may yet hand Shorten the means with which to extract a victory from the jaws of defeat.

This Monday night, Turnbull gets his turn at a solo performance on #QandA: I will be in Brisbane, and a house guest, so I regrettably won’t get to watch it, at least not until I find time a day or two later to catch the archived version online.

But you’d have to say that virtually anything could happen.

The conventional wisdom (and I do agree with it, for these things are inherently changeable) suggests that Labor is cooked, and that Shorten will lose. The only question seems to be by how much; and if it comes to pass, I will have no sympathy for the lying bastard — and neither, for the record, should anyone else. If Shorten’s career ends in a fortnight’s time, the national polity will be greatly enriched by his departure.

In any contest between Shorten and Turnbull, it’s a lay-down misere in Turnbull’s favour; I might not have any truck with the moderate faction of my own party, and I don’t care for the socialist trifles it appears determined to at least flirt with on Turnbull’s watch. But I have no appetite for a stint in opposition to “disinfect” the party (as some on the conservative wing are desperate to engineer) and I do not resile from my position that any government led by Bill Shorten would, in terms of the national interest, be utterly cataclysmic.

But for all that, Malcolm is not home and dry yet: there is still a fortnight to go.

If he ends up somehow losing the election from here, the only person Malcolm will be able to blame is himself.

A deceptively steep hurdle awaits on Monday night. It will be interesting to see whether Malcolm is able to clear it.

 

Simple Solution To Preferences Stink: Abolish Them

THE TRIENNIAL PANTOMIME of “outrage” over “undemocratic” preference tickets from major parties that are a “sellout” are easy to resolve; the complaint — that preference recommendations are undemocratic — is accurate, for there is nothing democratic about distortions of voter intent. Abolishing preferential voting would terminate an oft-abused obscenity, and harm minor parties and Independents less than conventional wisdom suggests.

I know that by this stage in the election cycle — five weeks into an eight-week official campaign which, by virtue of the timetable for engineering it, is more like 10 or 11 in practice — a lot of people are fed up with the pusillanimous circus that Australian election campaigns invariably see play out; the latest act in this intellectually insulting pantomime is the revelation by each major party which other entities they will favour with recommended preference allocations, and as usual, the self-interested outrage and faux indignity from the likes of the Communist Party Greens and others dependent on a rigged electoral system to even exist has been deafening.

Those who complain that all of this is utterly undemocratic are dead right.

And, frankly, preferences should be made optional — or, even better, abolished altogether.

Readers will recall that last month — taking the delicious opportunity to both ridicule the Greens, and to advocate for their enlistment in a useful enterprise for once in their miserable existence — I published an article suggesting that Victorian Liberal Party chief Michael Kroger was right; that Labor is as bad these days as the Greens are; and that on account of this (and given the nature of preferential voting) the Liberal Party should allocate preference recommendations strategically in its own interests just as the parties of the Left have always done, despite whatever lofty rhetoric about principle they direct at others that nonetheless never seems to apply to themselves.

The “broccoli-munching gnomes” might have picked up a seat or two but overall, this would have done nothing at all to advantage the Left as a whole: on the contrary, it would have lobbed a hand grenade into relations between Labor and the Greens. But Kroger was pilloried and shouted down by shortsighted “strategists” within the Liberal Party nationally and, as a result, the ALP will receive the party’s preferences in every seat in the country — making a Labor government, and one secured with an outright majority, that little bit more likely.

That’s “principle” for you: apply it sanctimoniously in the name of preserving it, and you risk dealing yourself out of the game altogether.

Instead, Australians are being treated to a barrage of bullshit this week (and you can access some coverage here, here, here and here) suggesting the Liberal and Labor Parties are trying to lock Nick Xenophon out of the House of Representatives, or that Labor has “sold its soul” by preferencing the Liberal Party ahead of the Greens in some seats; my comment should not be misconstrued in any way as criticism of the journalists publishing those articles, or course, who are simply doing their jobs in reporting this crap.

There is a reason — when Australia’s electoral system was first devised, along with those that originally applied in the states — why voting was conducted on a first-past-the-post (FPTP) basis: the candidate with the most support would be elected; it is the simplest, purest, and least distorted model on which to conduct democratic elections.

It is the model that applies in all of the countries to which Australia is culturally closest — the UK, the US, and Canada — and even in New Zealand, where a Labour government once implemented a horrific hybrid system of single-member electorates and proportionally elected list MPs, the single-member electorates are nonetheless elected on a FPTP system.

And as I have often argued in this column in the past, there is nothing democratic whatsoever in forcing people to express a “preference” — any preference — for candidates and parties upon which they would not voluntarily choose to even spit, let alone vote for; speaking personally, I find it an affront to even place either of the Greens or Labor ahead of the other.

There are those who choose to vote for minor party candidates whose choice is just that: to vote for minor party candidates. These people don’t say, “well, I’ll vote Greens to be nice to pinko lunatics, but what I really want is a Labor MP” because if they thought that way, they would simply vote for the ALP in the first place.

In the Victorian state seat of Prahran, a Liberal candidate polling 46% of the primary vote was beaten in 2014 by the third-placed Green, who scraped together just 24% of the votes himself; contrary to the jubilant triumphalism about a “breakthrough” and the march of so-called progressive voters to the Greens that party saw fit to delude itself with, this result was in fact an anti-democratic outrage that made a complete mockery of the idea that elections should produce MPs who enjoy a clear quotient of public support.

And in Queensland, just recently, the Labor government of Annastacia Palaszczuk — heavily dependent on flows of Greens preferences — legislated to abolish optional preferential voting (OPV) in a smash-and-grab exercise conducted with no consultation and no warning, in an attempt to permanently advantage the ALP at future state elections.

This was the same Labor Party which, in 1991 and acting on recommendations arising out of the Fitzgerald reform process to clean up the rotten state of governance in Queensland, introduced OPV: it was ostensibly part of the implementation of Fitzgerald reforms “lock, stock and barrel,” but was underpinned by the ulterior motivation of making merry with the Liberal and National Parties, which to that point regularly engaged in three-cornered contests for both marginal seats and safe conservative turf they tried to poach from each other.

And in Queensland — as in NSW, where the Wran government similarly introduced OPV, in part at least to throw the same hand grenade into the state Coalition — the number of voters declining to do anything other than “Just Vote ‘1’” has steadily increased to the point where at last year’s state election, 60% of voters allocated nothing more than a first preference; far be it for me to argue the merits of abolishing compulsory preferential voting: the stampede of voters themselves, when given the discretion to allocate preferences or not, provides conclusive proof of the point I am making without me needing to incur the accusation of conservative bias.

Besides, politics changes, and so do the priorities of all parties; preferential voting itself was originally a rort to insulate the then-Nationalist Party — a forerunner to today’s Liberals — from the emergence of the Country Party a century ago, which threatened to split the non-Labor vote and gift elections to the ALP under the FPTP system then in place.

This is no less reprehensible than any other fix or rort enacted on Australia’s electoral laws, irrespective of what those distortions were or by whom they were appropriated.

(And don’t get me started about proportional voting, the least democratic system ever devised for “democratic” elections: readers can reacquaint themselves with my thoughts on what should happen to the Senate — and any other upper house employing this ghastly system — here).

Preferences allow factional thugs like David Feeney and faceless factional operatives like Peter Khalil to feel secure in lower house seats like Batman and Wills, despite no relevance to mainstream majority politics; had the Liberals followed through on the threat to preference the Greens in Batman, Feeney would rightly be contemplating defeat. Yet his putative replacement from the Greens would have been as compromised as Feeney will be now, dependent on enemy votes merely to survive.

The same can be said of Khalil in Wills, where a Labor Party serious about putting the best candidates (and, when they are also female, women) into safe seats would have preselected Jamila Rizvi, who ironically would have likely attracted enough genuine support to make the spat over preferences irrelevant altogether.

Preferences allow actual Communist idiots like Lee Rhiannon and pinko lunatics like Sarah Hanson-Young build careers in the proportionally elected Senate when they deserve none, and to do so with minimal actual direct support; this is not democracy, but a sham. Yet the Greens’ is the latest voice arguing its party has been robbed in what has become a depressingly monotonous ritual.

Those who argue for compulsory preferential voting conjure up scenarios like eight candidates in a seat splitting the vote more or less equally, with one elected on less than 13% of the vote: such scenarios are pretty ridiculous at first glance. Or they should be.

But preferences allowed a candidate in Prahran to get up with less than a quarter of the vote — and in so doing, make a mockery of the alleged superiority of preferential voting these types protest.

They express outrage that a party with just under 39% of the vote (as the Conservative Party in Britain achieved at last year’s election) could win a narrow parliamentary majority under a FPTP electoral system.

But this ignores the fact that under their beloved preferential system, Labor under Julia Gillard fell just three seats short of doing just that with 37.2% of the vote in 2010. Bob Hawke won an eight-seat majority in 1990 with 39.2%. Indeed, under OPV in Queensland last year, Labor fell one seat short with 37.5%. What’s the difference? It can be summed up in one word.

Expediency.

And the fact is that by abolishing preferential voting altogether, or by implementing OPV across the country and banning the publication of preference recommendations, minor parties like the Greens would be at less of a disadvantage than they are now: Adam Bandt, with his 42% of the primary vote in the federal seat of Melbourne, would still have won that seat in 2013; yes, outpolled by Labor by 1.9% three years earlier, he would have failed to win the seat, but only because someone else had more support — which is how it should be.

But minor parties and Independents, generally — campaigning on local issues and generating support within their own communities — would in fact face a lower bar to entering Parliament than exists now; all they would need to do is to top the poll for the primary vote.

And be it minor parties or major parties, getting rid of preferences (or adopting the middle option of OPV) would force candidates to get out and earn their support — something Labor is arguably better at doing than the Coalition, even if its methods leave everything to be desired, as recent state elections in Victoria and Queensland showed.

And finally, where the additional red herring objection of the potential for inducements for votes is raised by some, I would suggest any system devised by people, for people, and where the power of government is at stake, contains the inherent temptation for undesirables to engage in corrupt practices; when and if this occurs, such behaviour should be punished with the full weight of the law. But in any case, such considerations are not mutually exclusive to making the electoral system itself more accountable to the expressed (and desired) intentions of voters.

When this election is done and dusted, those with a genuine interest in the probity of governance and truly representative democracy — be they from the Left, the Right, or the Centre — would do worse than to jointly champion the abolition of compulsory preferences altogether, and the outlawing of published recommendations for preference allocations to end this insidious farce once and for all.

After all, some obscure Green, or fringe idiot with a few hundred votes, elected after perhaps dozens of counts because of an arcane preference deal cannot and does not represent a democratic outcome.

There will be those who bleat about “inclusion” and diversity — and frankly, these justifications for distorting electoral outcomes so vastly should simply be dismissed with the contempt they deserve.

If you win the most votes in whatever jurisdiction you contest, you should be elected: and whilst implementing this philosophy in the Senate might be more difficult than in the House of Representatives — short of a model per the article I linked to earlier — it should be made the most immediate priority for electoral reform by whoever wins office next month, and the charade of preference recommendations dispensed with forever.

In the final analysis, preferences are an abuse of democracy, not an enhancement of it. The sooner they are done away with, the better.

 

2 July Approaches: Election Was Won, Or Lost, On Thursday

IN A SIGN tight polls mirror internal findings by the major parties showing the ALP could win on 2 July — and in a response that may well backfire — Labor “leader” Bill Shorten has trashed two years of rhetoric about “fairness” by embracing Abbott-era spending cuts he once derided as vicious, unfair and cruel. It is a belated recognition government involves at least an appearance of responsibility, but may well explode in the vacuous Shorten’s face.

I must apologise for my silence this week; not the result of my workload elsewhere (although that remains very solid indeed) but an involuntary consequence of the death of the computer in my home office, the week has been a very interesting experience in trying to keep balls in the air at all, let alone manage the usual juggle. There has been a lot happening, and I will try to cover off on some of this in a series of shorter posts than usual over the next few days.

And lest there be any doubt, there are some relevant issues (like the Victorian ALP’s dictatorial execution of union demands in sacking the board of the Country Fire Authority over an industrial dispute fashioned to extend and entrench the relevant union against the wishes of CFA members) that may prove influential over the balance of the federal election campaign, and others (like the disendorsement and expulsion of a Liberal candidate for an ultra-safe ALP seat in Victoria) that don’t matter two-tenths of diddlysquat in the wider scheme of things: some of the more salient of these issues will form some of the ground we make up.

But there are two schools of thought about the stunning about-face performed by the ALP, its cretinous “leader,” Bill Shorten, and his Treasury spokesman, the Rudd-esque slogan regurgitator Chris Bowen, on Thursday.

On the one hand, the declaration that a Labor government would adopt a swag of stalled savings measures from the notorious 2014 budget might be seen as a tacit admission that sensing an election win is in the offing, the ALP needed to begin to present at least the facade of economic responsibility where management of the haemorrhaging federal budget is concerned.

On the other, it could be seen as a panicked response to sustained Liberal Party attacks on the ALP’s credibility (and specifically, the credibility of its costings promises) and in particular, the admission by Shorten during the week that whilst the budget would return to surplus in 2020-21 — the same timeframe proposed by the Coalition — deficits over the initial three to four years would be larger than those projected by the Coalition.

On both interpretations, Labor is open to the charge of economic vandalism made in this column two years ago, and guilty of needlessly adding tens of billions of dollars to Commonwealth debt through its bloody-minded obstruction tactics in the Senate, to say nothing of the further billions in interest payments that would not have been incurred to service it over that time.

And on both interpretations, the ALP appears to have gambled that the prospect of what hitherto been an appallingly lacklustre campaign from the Coalition throwing up further mistakes and own goals to diminish the re-election prospects of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull outweighs the very real risk that voters will, en masse, now conclude Shorten and his cohorts are the pack of useless and unprincipled shits we have warned about for two years, and lurch back to the Coalition and the familiarity of the devil they already know.

Joe Hockey’s 2014 budget — whilst likely, as Coalition figures at the time insisted, to go at least some way toward fixing the structural budget deficit bequeathed by the ALP had it been legislated — was a colossal political failure of almost unquantifiable magnitude; rather than seek to terminate unsustainable and massive new recurrent spending programs legislated by Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan to booby-trap the budget, Hockey instead took disproportionate aim at almost every component of the Coalition’s core constituency, with families, middle income earners and pensioners among the groups that would have been hardest hit.

Simultaneously, a misdirected and utterly deficient “communications” strategy saw the budget entrenched as politically toxic in the electorate within days, as a vapid, vacuous Labor onslaught about “fairness” went completely unrebutted in any meaningful sense, and this — combined with unreasoning intransigence in the Senate on the part of the ALP, the Communist Party Greens and the insidious, Labor-aiding Palmer United Party — created persistent wide Labor leads across all the major polls that were ultimately central to the premature demise of Tony Abbott as Prime Minister.

Even so, Shorten’s own program for budget “repair” — a slate of tax slugs said to be worth $102bn over a decade (notwithstanding bickering over whether this figure was accurate or not) — was almost exclusively bound to new spending programs the ALP proposed to implement if elected.

Now, with an election win having begun to look increasingly plausible, a secondary “program” of adopting the very cuts that were once pilloried as vicious, cruel and unfair has been wheeled out at the eleventh hour in a bid to make Shorten and Labor appear as responsible economic managers, even if the reality — should they form government after 2 July — is likely to prove very different indeed.

Everyone knows the publicly published polls have been terrible for the government; for this, Turnbull and his team have only themselves to blame, as a Prime Minister whose personal support has predictably drifted into solidly negative territory over the past six months — people didn’t like Turnbull as opposition leader, and it isn’t a surprise that assessment is being revisited — is being further compromised by a campaign that has hitherto failed to lay a glove on the smugly glib Shorten, nor apparently to convince sufficient numbers of voters of the merits of voting Liberal at all.

I have been receiving word from reliable sources across Australia about private Liberal Party polling that substantially verifies the results of the public polls — and then some.

Prior to last Thursday, the consensus appears to have been that between 10 and 15 Coalition seats stood to be lost to Labor in just Queensland and NSW alone; when it is remembered that Liberals and Nationals notionally approach polling day with 90* of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives, this movement would be sufficient for Turnbull to lose the government’s majority in those two states alone.

At least one extra seat in Tasmania, perhaps two in Victoria, one in SA and up to four in WA — plus the Darwin-based seat of Solomon — rounded out the upper end of potential losses to the ALP Coalition insiders have been bracing for.

Talk of the Liberal Party winning two or three additional seats in Melbourne, on the back of Turnbull’s alleged popularity, evaporated: sandbagging and holding existing territory had become the order of the day.

And more ominously, some research conducted in very safe Liberal electorates showed the Turnbull government’s superannuation changes — replete with the despicable sleight of retrospective taxation — were generating white-hot fury among the party’s most affluent supporters, although the effects of this had not been quantified in terms of a swing against the party in those seats.

These are just some of the things that have made me think a Shorten victory — as distasteful as it would be — was growing likelier.

But all of these things also preceded the bombshell dropped by the ALP on Thursday, in which the families, age pensioners and recipients of some healthcare services that Shorten has spent two years solemnly claiming to represent are all now lined up in the sights of the Labor gun.

At the very minimum, Shorten and Bowen have validated virtually every criticism levelled at them by the government, conservative commentators, and those elements of the press who are independently minded enough to call them out for what they are: wreckers and economic vandals prepared to gamble with the very viability of Australia itself through political tactics designed to slake an obsession with regaining power at literally any price.

In the case of Shorten — already thoroughly discredited as completely untrustworthy as a self-confessed liar, and having done nothing during this term of Parliament to alter that perception among the wider public — Thursday’s backflip will simply feed into the electoral sentiment that he stands for nothing, and nobody, except himself and his delusional view that he is “destined” to be Prime Minister.

But whilst Labor’s breathtaking about-face on the 2014-vintage savings measures will do nothing to engender any credibility for Shorten, the simple truth is that he had little to begin with.

With three weeks to go and an ineffective, mistake-prone opponent, Shorten may well calculate that by getting the yuckiest bit of his own campaign out of the way, there is ample time for Turnbull to slip up, perhaps terminally: the truth be told, and based on the Coalition’s efforts to date, it’s probably a reasonable assessment to make.

And whilst it elicited a lot of noise from Turnbull and his Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann, the equally simple truth is that there is no guarantee their economic attack lines will resonate with voters even now: after all, this Coalition government has been almost fatally defective where communications and tactics are concerned since the day it took office, and this flaw is arguably just as pronounced today as it was when Peta Credlin was in charge of overseeing such things during Abbott’s tenure.

In any case, and perversely, the fracas over the CFA in Victoria on Friday has probably already taken much of the wind out of the Coalition’s sails where federal Labor’s budget backflip is concerned: people, and politics, move on. Politics is an eternally fluid business. Events gazump events. The Shorten-Bowen show is already old news.

Either way, in a pedestrian and moribund re-election campaign, Thursday was the first genuine turning point the Coalition has encountered: and with three weeks to go, it may well be — nay, is probably — also the last.

The big question (to put it very bluntly) is whether — after two and a half years of talking complete shit, violating many of the “principles” Labor has historically claimed to stand for, and playing fast and loose with the country’s economic security by virtue of its behaviour in the Senate — Shorten’s latest gambit amounts to one half-arsed move too many.

I think it’s fair to say that this election was won, or lost — depending on your viewpoint — on Thursday afternoon.

If the Coalition’s fortunes rise from here, it will be obvious that Shorten’s stunt has backfired.

But even if they do, the Coalition can afford no further mistakes: for if a rise in support from the government is followed by more gaffes that lead to that support resuming its decline, then Shorten — unbelievably — may yet have set himself up to triumph with his announcement that despite ranting for years about fairness and cruelty, the whole thing was an act from the very beginning.

Should a Labor win come to pass, then God help Australia.

 

*Includes the seat of Fairfax held by Clive Palmer, which will almost certainly be regained by the Liberal Party on 2 July.