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.