About Your Resignation Then, Mr Shorten

THE RUTHLESSNESS with which the ALP has tackled the question of its parliamentary leadership for 30 years means that after sustained abysmal polling — particularly, this week’s Newspoll — Bill Shorten’s resignation is not a matter of “if,” but “when;” and should he attempt to defy the consistent message that voters can’t stand the sight of him, that resignation — deferred for now, but not averted — will soon be involuntarily obtained.

In taking the highly unusual — and foolish — step for a political “leader” of offering journalists analysis and comment on Labor’s disastrous numbers in the Newspoll published in The Australian this week, Bill Shorten inadvertently highlighted the fatal truth that must spell the end of his tenure in Labor’s top job.

Desperately seeking to deflect attention from his shocking personal approval figure of just 23% — and the humiliating finding that just 14% of Newspoll respondents preferred him to Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister — Shorten announced to a press pack yesterday that “Labor’s vote is 47-53 (sic) and I think the two-party preferred vote is relevant.”

It is, and therein lies the rub.

A two-party result of 47% at an election (which would be a swing to Labor since 2013 of 0.6%) translates to the ALP winning just three of the 21 seats it needs to reclaim if it is to form a government; such a result would leave the ALP with just 58 of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives and facing the very real prospect of at least a further two terms in opposition before winning government became a realistic proposition.

Such a result would mean that, in round terms, Labor would have completely failed to rebuild after its landslide defeat in 2013.

And that’s assuming the swing was uniform; a 53-47 result at an election could very well see the Turnbull government win a handful of additional seats once state-by-state factors are taken into account.

Six weeks ago, I revealed in this column that Shorten was set to resign his “leadership” of the ALP; clearly that has not as yet happened, despite the (impeccable) information I received suggesting this would occur in November or early this month, and one or two left-leaning readers who clearly regarded it as their mission to split hairs over literal interpretations of dates and events tried, without success, to divert discussion in this column down the tangent of MEAA guidelines and “unfair” representations of Shorten’s position, blissfully oblivious to the fact politics — no matter how immovable some things might seem — is an eternally fluid business.

Indeed, I have been emphatic ever since that as reliable as my sources invariably are, the potential for events to intervene was real: and it isn’t a great stretch to assert that had the twin issues of Ian Macfarlane’s attempted defection from the Liberals to the Nationals and the brouhaha over Mal Brough’s alleged involvement in the Peter Slipper/James Ashby matter not materialised, Shorten may have already been pushed onto his sword.

Yet the party that sacrificed its leader the day an election was called in 1983 to seal a victory that was probably a certainty anyway has shown no tolerance toward likely losers ever since: and having executed many of his predecessors since then, Shorten is unlikely to escape an identical fate.

It has grown abundantly, and increasingly, clear that voters just can’t stand the sight of Bill Shorten: with his approval rating now situated in the toilet at 23% and his disapproval rating at 61%, he is as unpopular as Tony Abbott ever was; preferred as Prime Minister over Turnbull by just 14% of Newspoll respondents, not even the paltry 33% who said they would give their first preference vote to the ALP supports him for the job.

These are damning findings, to be sure. But alarmingly for Shorten and Labor, there remains room for him to fall further, and drag the party down with him.

As a conservative — and notwithstanding my well-documented concerns about Malcolm Turnbull leading the Liberal Party — I would like nothing more than to see Shorten “lead” the ALP into an election campaign; the consequent disaster would be no less than he deserves, and an appropriate return on the spiteful, deceptive rhetoric and destructive tactics he has employed ever since securing his position through a union-controlled vote of MPs that saw him triumph over the wishes of the Labor rank and file.

But the decision isn’t mine, of course, and the ALP — which has shown itself to be utterly ruthless in sacrificing leaders it believes will shepherd its flock to electoral slaughter — is unlikely to permit Shorten to continue in the post much longer.

There is a school of thought that has been given some air of late that having been comprehensively beaten in 2013, Labor will “stand behind” Shorten on the basis all of its existing MPs would hold their seats at an election under his stewardship, but such a contention is based on a false premise.

And in any case, the latest Newspoll was taken at the end of a torrid fortnight for Turnbull and his government: not only did Shorten go backwards at one of the more propitious times Labor has encountered under his “leadership,” but his party failed completely to make any headway whatsoever against the government.

Which takes us neatly back to Shorten’s pronouncement that Newspoll’s key finding was that ALP support, after preferences, sits at 47%.

If — after Mal Brough, Ian Macfarlane, the North Sydney by-election, and lingering distaste for Malcolm Turnbull among the Liberal Party’s more conservative supporters — 47% of the two-party vote is the best Shorten can rustle up, there is absolutely nowhere for him to hide.

Ominously, given his deep and inextricable links to the union movement, the Royal Commission into the unions hasn’t even reported yet, although key figures — most recently CFMEU Victoria chief John Setka — are already being prosecuted on charges arising from evidence the Commission has uncovered.

The inquiry may well have declared that Shorten personally has no case at law to answer as a result of its deliberations, but the potential for him (and Labor) to be hit hard by collateral damage is real, virtually inevitable, and will only be mitigated by a switch to a leader far less personally enmeshed with Trades Hall than Shorten is.

In other words — before we even factor in the lack of any meaningful policy agenda — the prospect things will get worse for Labor under Shorten is all but certain.

Far be it for this column to advocate in the best interests of the ALP, for I couldn’t care less where such considerations are concerned.

But irrespective of whatever delusional ambition or fatally misplaced belief in his suitability as a candidate for high office he fortifies himself with, the simple — and irrefutable — truth is that if Shorten genuinely gives two hoots about his party beyond what he thinks is its capacity to inflict him on this country as its Prime Minister, then his resignation is already past due.

The 47% two-party result Shorten has tried to parade as vindication for his “leadership” should, in fact, be used to crucify him; and Anthony Albanese — already supported by 63% of the Labor membership, which we know from the ballot that took place two years ago — could scarcely manage worse.

As surely as night follows day, the change will come; Shorten’s execution might have been stayed, but has not been averted; and if he won’t go voluntarily, the brutal ruthlessness of the ALP where questions of leadership are concerned points to the matter being taken out of his hands when Parliament — and the ALP caucus — reconvenes in early February.

It’s time to go, Mr Shorten.

 

Bill Shorten To Resign As Labor Leader

LABOR “LEADER” Bill Shorten is set to resign his post, and possibly from Parliament, next month; with the ALP now recording poll numbers commensurate with his abysmal performance and set to be hit by fallout from the Royal Commission into the unions, Shorten’s departure will terminate a shameful era for Labor. The move raises questions around timing, and of who will replace him to face a snap double dissolution in December or early 2016.

We generally do not break news in this column — mainly because I simply don’t have the resources at present to operate as a journalist on a fulltime basis — but this morning is an exception, and whilst we will relay the news in the conversational discussion style readers are familiar with, the details are very much an early break on a developing story.

Usually reliable sources report that the ALP is preparing for the imminent resignation of its “leader,” Bill Shorten, during one of the two parliamentary sessions scheduled for November.

The development comes in the wake of the leadership change at the Liberal Party, with new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull now outscoring Shorten in some polls as “preferred Prime Minister” by a four-to-one margin, and ahead of the likely release of the final report by the Royal Commission into union corruption and misconduct in either November or December.

It is unclear at this stage whether Shorten intends to recontest his seat of Maribyrnong, in Melbourne’s inner north-west, at the looming federal election, although this column understands there is a distinct possibility he will resign from Parliament altogether.

News of Shorten’s intention to vacate the Labor leadership comes as the ALP’s opinion poll numbers have collapsed on trend beyond the woeful 33.4% primary vote it scored at the 2013 election under Kevin Rudd, and we understand just one further round of shocking polling could be decisive in determining Shorten’s position.

It is understood that rather than face a leadership challenge in the ALP caucus, Shorten will stand aside voluntarily.

The prospect of Shorten’s imminent departure as Labor “leader” comes as little surprise; the motivation for it, however, and the identity of his replacement remain matters for conjecture at present.

Already adversely named in testimony before the Royal Commission, it is possible Shorten — irrespective of whether charges are recommended against him — may elect to vacate the Labor leadership to provide a fresh start for a new leader, freed of the lingering malodorous effects of the dirty union linen that has been aired.

It is not known whether Shorten has advance knowledge of any possible action to be recommended against him and/or his associates from his past career as a union official, or whether such a consideration has motivated his mooted resignation, and this column makes no suggestion or implication to that effect.

Either way, it is understood that a replacement Labor leader will be chosen with a single candidate nominating for the post, avoiding the need for a messy, protracted and potentially divisive campaign lasting weeks or months, and avoiding the risk of a snap election being called whilst the ALP is — quite literally — leaderless.

It is unclear at this point who the new Labor leader is to be: however, factional considerations dictate that the Left cannot simultaneously hold both the leadership and the deputy leadership (ruling out a ticket comprising Anthony Albanese and Tanya Plibersek); Chris Bowen is known to want to wait longer before contesting a leadership ballot, meaning he is likely to run as deputy to either Albanese or to Plibersek.

This column understands that as soon as Shorten announces his resignation, preparations to engineer a double dissolution election that are currently afoot in Liberal Party circles will be activated; the timing of the election will to a large degree depend on the timing of Shorten’s departure as Labor “leader.”

The last practicable date on which to hold an election this year is Saturday 19 December, and for constitutional reasons, such an election would need to be called on or before Tuesday 17 November.

Federal Parliament is due to sit twice in November: from the 9th to the 12th, and again from the 23rd until 3 December: clearly, unless Shorten’s resignation occurs before or during the first of those sitting weeks, any election will be delayed until the new year.

Should that occur, it is understood a polling date in late February or early March is under active consideration.

This timeframe — and the need to be ready, should Shorten pull the pin sooner rather than later — places an obligation on the government to reintroduce whichever of its stalled bills is necessary to the Senate, with great urgency, to provide desired double dissolution triggers that can then be passed at a joint sitting: the Registered Organisations Bill, which if passed will enforce the same regulations and standards of governance upon the union movement as the business community is already subjected to, being chief among them.

But on the other hand, an election at the end of this year or early next carries the prospect of substantial adverse findings against union and ALP figures providing a backdrop to the campaign, against which the ALP will struggle to present a palatable or credible offering to voters.

By way of commentary, I offer that Shorten has been a poor “leader:” this column has consistently refused to acknowledge him without qualification as the leader of his party, when even Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd were thus acknowledged.

Bill Shorten — lampooned in this column as “Billy Bullshit,” with good reason — isn’t a leader’s bootlace.

Shorten’s tenure as Labor “leader” represents a shameful period in ALP history, driven as it has been by blatant attempts to stoke class warfare and envy among Australians, punctuated by mindlessly obstructionist Senate tactics in cohort with the Communist Party Greens and a willing crossbench composed mostly of supposed conservative independents and minor parties, and publicly articulated in fundamentally dishonest terms that have lowered the bar for standards of political decency in this country and unforgivably assumed of voters the lack of intelligence or perception to see through the contemptible tactics on show.

A self-acknowledged liar who has admitted to deceptive and untrustworthy conduct among his colleagues is unfit to hold the leadership of his party, let alone the great office of Prime Minister, and Shorten — in the absence of Tony Abbott, whom Labor personally demonised and defamed for years — is regarded in reputable opinion polling by voters with the contempt he deserves now he has been judged solely on his own merits in the absence of the frenzy his party whipped up around Abbott.

If Labor is smart, it will replace Shorten with Plibersek and give her two attempts to win for the ALP; if it is predictable, it will instead anoint Albanese. Both offer tantalising contests against Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull: Albanese representing the product of a not-dissimilar background that evolved in a very different direction, and Plibersek (her gender notwithstanding) being a warrior of the Left on many of the issues Turnbull is noted for championing from the Right.

But either way, the departure of Shorten from senior political life will be no loss whatsoever to this country, and in the big scheme of things won’t matter a tin of beans.

Shorten isn’t even yesterday’s man, unless your preference yesterday was for a lying, scheming, manipulative union thug with a penchant for burying axes between the shoulder blades of those supposedly closest to him.

The prospect of Shorten as Prime Minister should horrify even those most apathetic about politics; the emphasis of the ALP in stoking envy, hatred of success and war between classes on his watch has placed a great stain on that party, and Shorten’s tenure at its helm will come to be viewed by Labor people as a matter of deep embarrassment that dishonoured it.

Nobody will miss Shorten when he is gone. This column is waiting, eagerly, for the anointed day to arrive.

Ipsos Poll: Coalition Storms Ahead, But Can Honeymoon Last?

ANOTHER OPINION POLL — this time from Ipsos for the Fairfax press — shows the federal Coalition storming ahead of Labor since its change of leadership last month; restored to its election-winning position of 2013 and with both the ALP and Bill Shorten crashing, the temptation is to interpret this as part of a general recovery in the Liberal Party’s stocks. Yet the government remains vulnerable, and would be unwise to become complacent.

With everyone else in politics, the media, the independent commentariat and those who observe politics watching opinion polls like a hawk at the moment, we might as well too — and viewed through this prism, the latest offering from the Fairfax press makes for some interesting reading indeed.

Shortly after Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister — and we’re not going to split hairs over either the merits or the method of the change today — I had a series of private conversations around political strategy with a number of Liberal Party insiders scattered across the country (and some of those are exceedingly well positioned adjacent to spheres of influence within the party) in which I suggested, on balance, that the smartest thing Turnbull could do was to immediately advise a double dissolution election and take the endorsement he had received from MPs to the people to seek a final seal of legitimacy.

By and large, the response was that I was wrong. Remember Gillard, they said. Look at the anger on the Liberal Right and consider the potential for malicious mischief, they said.

Different circumstances involving different people five years ago on the other side of the political fence are an unreliable indicator of what might happen here and now, and to some degree, the Ipsos poll being carried in The Age today offers little to alter my view.

With the best will in the world, an election held early next year in March or April, ahead of the budget (or even on schedule in September or October) may very well see the Turnbull government returned to office.

But the longer it’s left, the less certain it will become; and the longer Labor’s numbers — which have descended into the toilet in every major poll — remain depressed, the higher the likelihood the ALP will get rid of Bill Shorten and remove its greatest impediment to an election win.

The central point is not a belief Turnbull has gone off like a firecracker (so to speak) and will plunge to Earth as Kevin Rudd did when restored to the Prime Ministership; rather, I think that having wasted two years and an ocean of opportunity tolerating Tony Abbott’s indulgence of his Chief of Staff, spectacularly abysmal performances by a handful of key ministers and an advisory pool selected for compliance rather than performance whose overall political efficacy was non-existent, the Liberals are faced by an ALP that is only a decent leader away from an even start at any election campaign, and are hobbled by latent resentment and anger toward the government irrespective of whether “God” has now taken charge of it or not.

Let me be deadly clear: what I am saying should in no way be taken in jest.

But first things first: The Fairfax Ipsos poll records Labor’s vote crashing well past the embarrassing 33.4% it recorded against Abbott two years ago to now stand at just 30%, down 6% since its last national survey two months ago in the final days of Abbott’s leadership; it finds support for the Coalition at 45% (+7%), the Communist Party Greens at 14% (-2%), and “Others” at 11% (+1%).

On a two-party preferred distribution of preferences based on flows at the 2013 election, this sees the Coalition (53%, up 7%) leading Labor (47%, down 7%).

The Ipsos finding mirrors the trends that have now been identified by every reputable opinion poll that has conducted research on voting intention since Turnbull replaced Abbott — and we’ll come back to that — but the numbers in the contest between Turnbull and Labor “leader” Bill Shorten are even more stark.

Ipsos finds 68% of its respondents approve of the born-again leadership of Turnbull, with just 17% disapproving; by contrast — and based on its August polling — it finds 32% (-7%) approve of Shorten’s performance as Labor “leader,” with 56% (+7%) disapproving.

On the “preferred PM” measure — and using the variance from Abbott’s final result on this count — Ipsos’ figures see Turnbull (67%, +28%) a country mile ahead of Shorten (21%, -24%) on the question of who voters rate as most likely to perform best as Prime Minister.

I think there are two things happening here, and whilst they appear to be moving in unison for now, the prospect that they may (and probably will) diverge ought to be a sobering one that places great restraint on any temptation within the Coalition camp toward triumphalism, complacency, or even hubris.

If we talk very broadly, every major poll conducted since the leadership change — Newspoll, Essential, Galaxy, ReachTel, and now Ipsos — has found Coalition support bounding out of the doldrums to draw level or ahead (to different degrees) of the ALP on the two-party measure. Even the notoriously fickle Morgan poll, with its historically wild movements out of nowhere and its tendency to favour Labor out of kilter with all the other polls, has identified the same movement (and with typical Morgan excess, its latest survey — putting the Coalition at 56% — is the most heavily pro-Liberal finding of the lot).

And again, talking broadly, every one of these polls has recorded spectacular approval numbers for Turnbull and a collapse in those for Shorten, who on the “preferred PM” measure — in all of them, irrespective of the Coalition support recorded — is now being routinely belted by the new Prime Minister.

My point is that a pattern appears to be forming where questions of Malcolm Turnbull as a leader and Prime Minister are concerned: people like him — even those who didn’t or don’t support him and/or will never vote for him like him — and even after six weeks in the job and judged against a flurry of early polling, there seems no end in sight to stratospheric personal approval numbers or a crushing lead over Shorten as preferred Prime Minister, which I have described previously as amounting to a return to “normal” settings on that question for a new Prime Minister faced by a first-term opposition leader following a landslide election loss.

But on the voting intention side of things, the early signs of ambivalence are already evident.

Two Newspolls: the first found the Coalition ahead, 51-49; two weeks later, that poll recorded a dead heat, 50-50.

Three Essential polls (or at least, three that count, given one week’s findings are combined with the next in a rolling survey): two and three weeks ago respectively, it found 52-48 for the Coalition (after, indeed, a huge spike after the leadership change from a 52-48 Labor lead) but last week, that had slipped to 51-49 — and given half last week’s Essential “result” was actually the fieldwork done the week before, a 51-49 outcome last week actually had to be a 50-50 finding in the field to pull down a 52-48 finding a week earlier.

ReachTel is yet to record a lead for the Coalition under Turnbull at all.

And if we forget about opinion polls altogether for a moment, nobody can seriously deny that with the exception of the election of a Liberal government in Tasmania 18 months ago, the overall political movement around the country has been almost all Labor’s way ever since the Abbott government was first elected.

Irrespective of the reasons (and yes, we all know the filthy tricks the ALP and the unions use to hoodwink people), Labor has reclaimed office in Victoria and Queensland after a single term in opposition in both — the latter after a swing of almost 14% from the wipeout it suffered three years earlier — and despite nevertheless losing, scored a two-party swing in NSW this year of almost 10%; anecdotal evidence is that it is making great headway against an entrenched Liberal government in WA, and that despite trailing 49-51 in latest polling would nevertheless score a 3% swing to the 13-year-old Labor government in SA if an election were held there now, resulting in a comfortable majority win on that state’s notoriously rigged boundaries.

As we all know, Labor led the Coalition in every major federal opinion poll for 18 months until about six weeks ago, in some cases by wide margins.

And it remains to be seen whether the trend across the polls continues, but it does now rather look as if Turnbull’s stellar personal numbers are holding, or even rising further, whilst the big hit in voting intention already gives every indication of very slowly beginning to recede.

In arguing for an immediate election when Turnbull replaced Abbott, one point that stood out for me was that Gillard — the great example, in so many ways, of what not to do — was, despite some kudos over two-and-a-half years as a minister and a chequered record in shadow Cabinet in opposition, still a relative unknown when she became Prime Minister even after 12 years in Parliament and every possible advantage to fast-track her having been accorded to her.

By contrast, the “Turnbull’s an unknown quantity” argument was rubbish: he might be new as PM, but he’s been around, and highly visible, for decades: as a lawyer in the Spycatcher case. As the head of the republican movement. From his days in enterprise at OzEmail and at Goldman Sachs. On account of his profile working for the Packer empire. And with 11 years in Parliament, three as a minister under John Howard, and one stint as leader already under his belt. As what the News Corp journalists refer to as the “co-host” of the ABC’s #QandA programme.

No, unlike Gillard, nobody in Australia is under any illusions whatsoever as to who Malcolm is.

Putting aside both my political opposition to Malcolm and my genuine regard for him personally, I think the hostility and bile that appears to have abated since the downfall of Abbott is still there: it may be concealed for now by good poll numbers and euphoria in non-Labor circles, but it’s still there, and as we’ve briefly seen, the country has shown that in its current mood it is not averse to electing Labor governments — whether it likes them or not.

One of the things I think has been missed (or at least horribly underplayed) is Shorten’s, and Labor’s, poll collapse: yes, this was always to be expected, and in that sense the “sugar hit” Liberals were banking on emerged right on cue as the first post-coup polling was published.

But what has to some degree been overlooked is the fact that sugar hit coincided with weeks of ceaselessly dreadful testimony emanating from the Royal Commission into the unions that Shorten was every bit as complicit in attempts to neuter or shut down as any of the other bozos over at Labor or Trades Hall, who are panicking and desperate to keep their arses out of the sling.

Additional corroboration of allegations of fake invoices and other ostensibly fraudulent measures to enrich unions whilst simultaneously trading away legislated worker entitlements, whether ultimately found to conclusively implicate Shorten in any wrongdoing or not, will nevertheless rebound on him with full force anyway. That’s how it works. It might not be right and it might not be “fair,” but people en masse jump to conclusions based on the whiff of scandal, and do not readily forgive or forget even if exoneration follows. That — whether you like it or not — is human nature, however much some try to deny it or to rationalise it away with sermons about being innocent until proven otherwise.

(It is, not to put too fine a point on it, exactly the reason Labor under Gillard invested so much energy smearing Abbott as a violent misogynist).

In the context of our discussion, it means Labor has been hit with the negative of a Liberal leadership switch to a man identified in most polls as the most popular politician in Australia, and then belted again by the septic runoff from the Royal Commission hearings that makes Shorten, his party and its thuggy masters at Trades Hall all resemble the pre-treatment contents of a sewer.

And as if the twin hits of the Turnbull ascension and the Royal Commission revelations aren’t enough, Shorten has apparently determined to flirt with fate even further by responding with the announcement of “policies” that simply distilled equate to tax, tax and more tax, in addition to the pre-existing announcement he and his colleagues dare not utter again: to abolish the private health insurance rebate, which would decimate healthcare in Australia if ever implemented.

My best estimate of the average Coalition two-party vote across the latest round of polls is somewhere near 51.5%, or fractionally higher. Given the opposition it is faced with and considering the removal of the electoral liability the Abbott regime had indisputably become, I think the Coalition should be sitting between 55% and 60% — even in the atmosphere of a new leadership sugar hit.

But it isn’t.

Some of the reasons why the Coalition hasn’t climbed higher than it has are its (and Turnbull’s) own fault; we looked at some of them last week.

But deep down — and even though the Ipsos numbers would spell heavy defeat for Labor if repeated at the polling booth — I think the damage caused to residual Coalition support by the Abbott-Credlin-Loughnane government, not-so-ably supported by the likes of Kevin Andrews and Joe Hockey and Ian Macfarlane, is probably proving more enduring than anyone imagined.

Or, if they were honest, than Coalition strategists might fear.

That Shorten is an insipid, dishonest, untrustworthy, slimy imbecile is beyond dispute.

Yet he stood to profit from the distaste he and his intellectually bankrupt cohorts had spent many years creating and fanning where Abbott was concerned, and with Abbott now gone from centre stage, Shorten is being seen by voters for what he really is: a nothing. A charlatan. A joke. And a downright dangerous one at that.

It is no wonder that where personal approval ratings are concerned, Turnbull is trouncing him.

Yet were the ALP to find the bottle to jettison Shorten (and we know the mutterers are muttering inside the ALP tent, but either can’t find the votes required to get rid of him or can’t count) and replace him with someone more credible, then Turnbull could find himself in a world of trouble.

People may be interested again in what the Liberal Party has to say now there’s a new leader at the helm, but it would be unwise to regard the lift in its voting intention numbers as anything other than very soft.

If a Chris Bowen (or even a Plibersek or an Albanese) could abandon his vulgar penchant for parroting the vacuous slogans so typical of a Shorten or a Rudd, and fashion an alternative with sensible policies that have mass appeal rather than pandering to Greens lunatics and union thugs, then the next election would end up being a real fight.

It ought to be unthinkable based on the miserable and disastrous record of the ALP in office between 2007 and 2013, but I believe people are far more open to electing a Labor government than current polls perhaps suggest at first glance.

And if (I stress, hypothetically, if) Shorten were forced to resign as a result of the mess being aired at the Royal Commission, the ALP — far from being damaged by the involuntary departure of its “leader” — would instead grasp the opportunity to retrieve the election win it seemed on track to score until very recently.

In those circumstances, the Labor beast would quite literally fight like hell to drive the Liberals from power, the fact of Turnbull’s messianic leadership notwithstanding.

The longer the government takes to go to the polls, the greater the likelihood that just such a scenario will materialise.

I must emphasise, once again, that my personal views on any or all of the individuals we have discussed in no way colour my remarks this morning: today’s article is purely analytical in intent.

But having missed the opportunity to make the announcement of an election date his first act as Prime Minister, Turnbull now embodies a modified version of that old real estate adage about the best time to get into the property market: the only time better than today for Turnbull to call an election is yesterday.

For now, the Coalition leads Labor in every poll, and in a couple quite handsomely.

But the lead isn’t very much, and when the honeymoon comes to an end, so might the government’s best chance of scoring a clear election win. Shorten will only take Labor to a smashing election defeat if Turnbull engineers an election now. It is inconceivable the ALP will allow him to remain in place for a further 12 months.

For the Liberals, the cost of delay — however nobly framed about serving a full term — could very well be an early return to the opposition benches.

Perpetuating Uselessness: Chris Bowen Channels Wayne Swan

AS BILL SHORTEN — rattled by Malcolm Turnbull’s ascension — injects panic into his spiteful, deceitful political “narrative,” shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen has opened a new front in Labor’s quest for power, avowing himself “a Keynesian” and eulogising the self-important but essentially useless Wayne Swan. Australians worried another ALP government would bankrupt the country should heed the unexpected warning Bowen has provided.

If you’re a politician, and aspiring to a senior Cabinet post at that, profiles and feature pieces in mass circulation news publications are the lifeblood that potentially connects you to an electorate wanting to get to know you, and (with luck) wins people over; the problem is that if you’re really honest — and haven’t got anything of value or substance to sell — you’re just as likely to shoot yourself in the foot.

So it is today with Labor’s shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen; the ALP — looking decidedly silly in the wake of “leader” Billy Bullshit’s declaration that penalty rates somehow enable families earning between $40,000 and $60,000 per annum to send their children to private schools (I’d like to see how) — has been gifted a piece a soft-soap coverage in The Australian today by its Editor-at-Large, Paul Kelly.

Characteristically, but unwisely, Bowen has used the opportunity not to eschew his Rudd government reputation as a mindless slogan regurgitator; the shadow Treasurer — well-regarded personally on both sides of politics, and rightly recognised as one of the ALP’s brighter talents — has instead chosen to parrot the meaningless, delusional drivel that “modern” Labor holds out as the most recent “legend” of its fine service to Australia and its people in office.

People whose decision to eject the sorry Rudd-Gillard-Rudd outfit from office at least partially on account of the disastrous fist it made of the country’s books — with some $300 billion of red ink sitting on them in September 2013, and increasing thanks to the opposition’s opportunistic intransigence in the Senate — will be alarmed to learn that Bowen, who aspires to take control of Australia’s financial reputation and welfare, glowingly ascribes Wayne Swan a place in the “upper echelons of Australia’s Treasurers.”

Brazenly declaring himself “a Keynesian” — not something one might have thought it prudent to trumpet, given the ineptitude Labor exhibited between 2007 and 2013 where its handling of money was concerned — Bowen spruiks the virtue of economic stimulus despite object evidence his party went too far, wasted too much, and never turned off the tap when it said it would: the old borrow-tax-and-spend model historically beloved of socialists the world over proved impossible to resist.

Bowen fails, dismally, to contextualise issues like GST reform and industrial relations reform by eschewing them: far from the right-wing ideological crusades Labor likes to smear both objectives as the embodiment of these days, such change (if it ever proves possible to enact) is about necessary structural economic reform.

This is especially true of the GST, at a time revenue continues to grow but sees expenditure growth (mostly the handiwork of ALP bribes legislated under Julia Gillard and Swan) rocketing away to the point the entire integrity of the Commonwealth budget is at risk.

Of the three broad sources of revenue — income tax, company tax and the GST — the PAYE system is lagging in real terms as the workforces ages and begins to retire, and as more and more income support is channelled out in the form of government benefits; business tax remains vulnerable to a cyclical downturn in the economy, which has to be regarded as better than a 50-50 proposition in the medium term after decades of uninterrupted growth.

It is only by taxing consumption — efficiently, as broadly as possible, and with adequate offsetting compensation to the least well-off — that offers a sustainable river of revenue that can be consistently relied upon to grow.

Similar criticisms can be made of Bowen’s refusal to countenance labour market reform; this is not, despite his attempts to dress it up as some “third way” to realise gains in productivity and workplace flexibility, but an unabashed sop to the thuggish unions that dominate the ALP and demand their interests remain completely unmolested by government (and I use that word most deliberately, for the protection of their rotten sinecure is so personalised by the union thugs who stand to profit from its existence that “molestation” is in no way an inappropriate term to describe the accountability and compliance at law they are so desperate to shun at any cost).

The simple truth is that reforms championed by conservatives — like GST reform, or industrial reform — speak to further liberalisations in the economy that are entirely consistent with the open, market-based reforms commenced by Labor in the Hawke-Keating years; one is about the sustainability of the government portion of the system. The other is about realising improvements in productivity and the cost of labour, which are areas Australia now lags most comparable Western countries, thanks to byzantine strictures of the Fair Work Act. No fairy story or populist deception will fix those problems. And to date, Labor has nothing on the table other than slogans and rhetoric and fairy stories.

Yet just like the effective sloganeer he proved to be during his brief tenure as Treasurer under the reborn Kevin Rudd, Bowen is quoted as seeking “an age of entrepreneurism” that sounds suspiciously like an “education revolution” or a “ladder of opportunity” that exudes the distinct aroma of magic pudding; Bowen claims it is “not the job of Canberra” to determine where jobs come from. But even in a friendly piece such as Kelly’s today, the only thing he offers are a “collection of ideas” and a “sector by sector” approach, whatever that might be in the absence go government intervention.

Ignore those, and you will miss nothing.

But the most alarming aspect of the Kelly piece about a man who aspires to assume control of the national economy is his extollation of the cretinous, self-important, pious, vapid, useless, imbecilic, sanctimonious, gormless, shameless, oxygen-thieving oaf Labor imposed on a trusting public for the better part of six years, and on whose watch great harm was committed against the rigour of Australia’s economic management and the health of its financial fundamentals.

It is true Bowen acknowledges Swan wasn’t perfect — noting the mining tax and the carbon tax failed tests of “political durability” — and as Kelly notes, talk of an “open and broad engagement with business” could be interpreted as an implicit criticism of Swan, who wasn’t exactly noted for seeing any value in Australian enterprise aside from smothering it with regulation and taxing it.

But to place Swan in a pantheon of Treasurers past just one rung below Paul Keating (in his view, our best ever –a subjective call I only partly disagree with) and alongside Peter Costello (which is an outrageous and baseless insult to Costello) is ridiculous.

Talk of stimulus aside, the fact remains that Swan’s the Treasurer who pissed away $45 billion Costello had squirrelled away in sovereign wealth funds — and did so before the GFC had even been heard of — succumbing immediately to the stereotypical Labor temptation to spend whatever money was in the tin the moment it got itself into office.

Swan’s the Treasurer whose “reforms” directly created $300 billion in government debt where none existed beforehand: and whilst protestations of the GFC and “stimulus” are well and good, the fact remains that even the most generous estimate of how much money was spent on it extends only as far as $96 billion.

Swan’s the Treasurer whose legislative handiwork entrenched a gaping structural budget deficit whose underlying quantum seems to be in the order of about $30-$40 billion: hardly the craft of an astute manager of money.

Swan’s the Treasurer who, alone and/or abetted by Gillard, offered no fewer than 600 solemn public assurances that by 2012-13, the budget would be restored to surplus. Yet despite the greatest sleight of hand and creative accountancy on a scale rarely (if ever) seen in this country — pushing out official accounts for expenditure, pulling revenue forward, raising certain taxes and so forth — the target was not only missed, but missed by $18 billion.

Despite a cynical exercise in trying to glitter the turd, Swan’s best efforts didn’t even come close to the mark.

And Swan’s the Treasurer on whose watch a reprehensible effort to “booby trap” the federal budget to ensnare a future Liberal government and render it powerless to properly manage Commonwealth finances was contrived.

None of this seems to perturb Bowen, however, who claims with no basis in fact that Swan “got all of the big calls right.” You’d hate to think of what might have been had he got them all wrong.

And who — for the love of God, who? — implements a tax that raises no money? Even by Labor standards, it’s an errand that should be impossible to screw up. Yet Wayne Swan managed to do exactly that.

What all of this shows is that Labor — and Bowen — have learnt precisely nothing from their mistakes in office: a sobering reality indeed, given Labor remains competitive in polling despite the initial “sugar hit” of a change of Liberal leadership propelling the government into the lead for the first time in 18 months.

It is not inconceivable Labor could form government after the next election: even under the national embarrassment it parades as its “leader,” and notwithstanding the paucity of a meaningful agenda it offers when slogans, thought bubbles and other populist gobbledygook are excluded from consideration.

Those people who concern themselves with the proper management of national affairs — and those mums and dads who worry about an insurmountable burden of debt being bequeathed to their children — will find nothing to allay their fears from the kid-glove spotlight that Paul Kelly shines on Labor’s would-be Treasurer today.

Chris Bowen is a nice enough and decent enough fellow — to whom I have no personal objection whatsoever — but as a potential Treasurer of Australia, he gives every inkling that he would be little better than Swan himself, and that is a disastrous indulgence the country simply can’t afford a second time: and especially not so soon after the last time Labor performed its usual trick of systematically trashing the budget.

But whatever value might be found in getting to know the alternative Treasurer and in the space The Australian has provided him, Bowen’s attempts to capitalise on it falls abysmally short.

Timing, of course, is everything, and whilst the Kelly piece was likely compiled well in advance and over a period of weeks, Labor desperately needed a circuit breaker after Shorten’s latest idiocy over penalty rates.

Today’s article in The Australian is not it.

Institutionalised uselessness and incompetence: even if it sounds like another of the vapid, vacuous, excruciating “modern” Labor slogans this column so vigorously takes aim at so often, it neatly sums up all the ALP has to offer; and far from being soothed or cajoled by Kelly’s profile piece, anyone who reads it ought to be mortified.

With such luminaries as Bill Shorten, Chris Bowen and Wayne Swan at the very forefront of Labor’s loathsome sales pitch for an early return to government, you have to wonder just how much damage the ALP could inflict on itself if the “rats in the ranks” were to find their voices, and to decide to speak out.

 

GST: Hockey Reform Paper To Champion Consumption Tax Rise

IN A U-urn, Treasurer Joe Hockey says he will explore changes to the base and rate of GST in examining possible reforms to Australia’s tax system, and whilst this is commendable — and shows a more realistic approach to budget reform — the probability Labor will scuttle any constructive proposal remains high. Hockey, nonetheless, deserves praise for finally confronting the crucial link in any serious attempt to fix the budget revenue base.

What a difference a few weeks can make.

Today’s post really is a quick one, on the run this morning as I am, but I wanted to revisit the issue of GST reform — something near to my heart where matters of budget policy are concerned — and the apparent about-face the Treasurer has performed on this critical point.

Not three weeks ago, I lambasted Joe Hockey in this column for ruling out anything to do with trying to change the rate or base of the GST — it was all too hard, he said, and there was “no point” — but now, apparently on the pretext that all of the current round of state elections are out of the way, Hockey says he wants to have “fair dinkum discussions” with state Treasurers about broadening and lifting the GST.

A little extra reading from today’s press can be accessed here and here, and whilst these articles may not perhaps address the critical point at the heart of any sensible debate over GST reform, the points they add go some way to fleshing out the case as to why it is this particular tax that potentially holds the key to remedying a gaping (and growing) structural hole in government sector revenue receipts.

Quite simply — and as we have also discussed — the federal government’s reliance on income taxes has become an unhealthy one, to say the least; with an ageing population and a third of the total population dependent on some form of government handout, the capacity of income taxes to contribute adequate revenues to fund government service delivery is shrinking: and the only way to redress this, in isolation, is through bracket creep and lifting marginal tax rates.

In other words, the tax burden is increasingly shouldered by a disproportionate and shrinking contingent of the population: hardly fair, to use a term beloved of Labor, or conducive to savings and wealth accrual (any discussion around “the rich” not on my radar today).

A lifting and broadening of the GST, however — a growth tax that will rise as the economy expands and consumption increases — can fund cuts in income tax and increases to pensions to insulate the less well-off from its effects, whilst also switching the tax mix from emphasising income to expenditure: and partially alleviating the issue of repeated taxation of the same income as savings accrue interest, for example.

It is true that irresponsible Labor and its Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen have flatly refused, at the outset, to countenance any overhaul of the GST; this is entirely consistent with the ALP’s thoroughly irresponsible approach to its politics in the present day and its bloody-minded populism of opposing anything remotely unpalatable in the naked pursuit of winning power for its own sake.

It’s not the behaviour of a party with a well-earned reputation for economic reforms in the 1980s, and is an insult to the Hawke-Keating legacy. But even so.

My point is that tough measures like the GST must be examined if a reasonable and effective solution to the structural hole in the federal budget is to ever be addressed.

Yes, Senate intransigence might very well see any attempt to legislate change sabotaged.

But this government — which to date has mostly slunk away from such defeats, with vague references to the crossbench Senators — needs to play hardball rather than letting the ALP off the hook for its wanton vandalism of responsible government measures.

Yes, it is true the crossbench holds the balance of power. But for it to defeat bills in the Senate, the ALP must first line up against those initiatives as well — and rather than attempt a public discussion over the minutiae of Senate process, the government really needs to be pinning a lot more of the blame for such defeats where it belongs — on the ALP.

I simply note this morning that the GST (and changes to it) are back in prospect: as they rightly should be.

There are other, past discussions on the matter readers can access through the GST tag in the tag cloud to the right of this article.

But if the case for change is adequately made, it should be Labor — and not the government — that is forced into the perennial defence of its handiwork or, in this case, for the ritual sabotage of measures aimed at fixing the very problem Labor presided over and exacerbated whilst in government.

I will be back with something else (and a little more time to talk about it) this evening.

 

Institutionalising Deceit: Labor’s Plan To Fiddle Budget Forecasts

THE MASQUERADE of expediency as “principle” is arguably the biggest driver of public discontent with politics — after outright lying — and the ALP is an adept practitioner of both of these dubious arts; today shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen is spruiking an “initiative” in response to ALP claims Joe Hockey manipulated budget forecasts to fit the Coalition’s political goals. The measure clearly seeks to distance Labor from its own incompetence.

There are many people in Australia (and in most other democratic countries, for that matter) who find the idea of removing things from the control of politicians to be a fine idea indeed; as a small government conservative, it should theoretically appeal to me too.

But the idea the shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen is flogging today — that the Parliamentary Budget Office should be invested with the power to “independently” set forecasts for use by Treasury and the Treasurer to then formulate budget policy against — is a red herring, and typical of the sort of sham Labor, with its intellectually lazy but too clever by half approach to opposition politics, has sought to foist on voters since they booted it out of office a year ago.

Chris Bowen is one of the more capable MPs in Labor ranks, and in its depleted state following last year’s election debacle the ALP needs all of the able hands on deck that it can muster.

Yet Bowen — both as Treasurer in the dying days of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government, and again as a shadow minister in opposition — has proven highly adept at the cynical, empty sloganeering that has characterised the worst aspects of the Labor Party over the past decade or so, and his latest offering simply continues that inclination to prioritise meaningless drivel over anything of substance.

And it goes without saying that (surprise, surprise!) his “initiative” makes a none-too-subtle attempt to diminish Labor’s shocking record of economic management in government, and to disown the hapless legacy it saddled the country with that will take years to erase, if ever.

Some people will be impressed by this: under the cover of hitting out at what he describes as the Coalition “mythology” of a budget emergency, Bowen advances what I would term a “principle-style” proposal to remove the ability of elected politicians to modify, adjust or otherwise influence growth estimates and other economic forecasts that are used in framing federal budgets.

Those who find such a concept appealing will be further heartened by the fact Bowen nominates an “independent agency” in the PBO to take this task into its remit, thereby setting down a framework of “rules” by which future generations of politicians, both Liberal and Labor, must abide.

But a big part of the motivation for this seems to stem from the fact that Hockey’s estimates of the size of budget deficits over the next four years were double the size of those published by Labor, when Bowen was Treasurer, just four months earlier.

And it can scarcely be a coincidence that in filing a reasonably detailed report on this issue, The Australian alludes to the budget cuts Labor is ferociously opposing and the $667 billion of debt that is forecast to be accumulated by 2024 without them: a figure never even hinted at by Labor in office, and not publicly uttered by the Coalition until the initial phase of its review of the budget was completed late last year.

As the latest empty gimmick aimed at conning votes out of the gullible, the stupid and the (understandably) apathetic, Labor probably thinks it’s onto a real winner here, no pun intended.

So let’s call a spade a spade, and canvass a few scenarios that are firmly grounded in fact.

Labor, under the stewardship of the self-important and contemptible Wayne Swan, made in excess of 600 explicit pledges to deliver a budget surplus by 2013, none of which were met. On all of those occasions, Swan — as Treasurer — had control over the economic settings and mechanisms Bowen now seeks to strip from the grasp of whoever occupies the Treasurer’s office. Would the mooted change (with the improvement in the quality of forecasting it implies) have enhanced outcomes on Swan’s watch? Hardly.

Former Treasurer Peter Costello (who, unlike Swan, actually delivered surplus budgets: 10 of them in 12 years) developed, over his time in the portfolio, a legendary reputation for the uncanny knack of producing forecasts around economic growth, inflation and other key indicators that were almost invariably more accurate than those provided by Treasury; in the years prior to the Howard government, of course, some Treasurers got such questions right and some got them wrong (and in the case of Paul Keating, he managed to get them both right and wrong at different stages in the economic cycle). Would Bowen’s changes have improved Costello’s performance? Such a proposition is insulting to the intelligence, especially when it emanates even obliquely from the ALP.

With an eye on the preposterous claims to astute and rigorous economic management that Labor arrogated to itself in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis — based on nothing more than the ability to fling tens of billions of dollars around the economy in the most inefficient manner it could find — even a cursory look at the budget summaries during the time Swan spent as Treasurer shows the former government consistently overestimated economic growth and revenue, and underestimated outlays, and these estimates (again, presided over by Swan) were the only way the ALP could get within cooee of producing a surplus, and even then only on paper.

And as affronted as Bowen and Labor appear to claim to be over the Abbott government’s estimates of budget deficits totalling $123 billion over four years, as opposed to the ALP’s estimate of $63 billion, there has not been a single detailed case published by the opposition (or by Treasury, for that matter) to discredit the revised figure produced by Hockey in December last year.

There are several points to make.

One, and it’s simplistic to say this, but things change — sometimes very drastically and very quickly. It was Labor that was in power in August and September 2008, when the global economy began experiencing the seismic first strikes of the GFC. It should have learnt this very basic economic fact from its own experience, but quite clearly, it didn’t. The proposal to rely on an annual set of numbers provided by someone offsite is peculiar, to say the least, when considered thus.

Two, Bowen’s proposal reeks of seeing to “invest” in Labor’s future by outsourcing the blame, in advance, to someone else to provide cover for any future repeat of the ALP’s utter incompetence as an economic manager. On all three occasions Labor has been kicked out of government in the past 40 years, it has left behind an absolute quagmire where the financial affairs of the country are concerned. Being able to point the finger at someone else for providing “dodgy” numbers to work with seems a very cynical pretext for fiddling with official economic forecasting. Costello certainly didn’t need such a crutch, and whatever you think of his budget, the fact Hockey is prepared to put infinitely more dire numbers against his own name suggests he doesn’t seek such a ruse either.

But three — and this is important — there’s a bigger factor here: what do we actually elect members of Parliament to do? So many functions of government are outsourced, handballed, thrown into the laps of disposable advisors (and yes, I say that despite my criticisms of the Abbott government’s advisors) and otherwise placed at arm’s length to those supposedly accountable to Parliament that you have to wonder just how much responsibility for anything some of those in politics are even prepared to accept.

Unsurprisingly, this outsourcing — to “independent” bodies, statutory authorities that are laws unto themselves, committees, reviews — tends to occur disproportionately whenever Labor is in office.

I think anything that prevents ministers of the Crown from exercising the responsibility their offices invest in them is dangerous; further — and especially so in this case — ministers must be able to exercise control over their portfolios. If a Treasurer is responsible for producing a federal budget, he (or she) is also responsible for the assumptions, forecasts and settings that underpin that budget. It is almost an abuse of process to suggest these critical functions be handballed to somebody else.

Bowen may complain of fiddling the figures. But the real nature of what he advocates is to absolve a Treasurer of responsibility for something he (or she) would have neither input to nor control over, and that is not representative of the sort of governments we need in this country.

All of this is to be outlined in a speech to the National Press Club later today, the text of which has been obtained by The Australian, and some of which is quoted in its article.

“A government unafraid of accountability and transparency would not be afraid of outsourcing this forecasting in their budgets and economic statements (sic),” it apparently says. Where is the causal link between accountability and transparency, and the total abdication of a key element of the budget management process? There is no such link, of course.

In other words, rather than allow the nasty Liberals (who are “onto” Labor’s shocking mismanagement of the budget in office) to “fiddle” forecasting onto what might be a more accurate footing, Labor’s latest grand plot is to fiddle the entire process altogether: to masquerade as upholders of the “principle” of accountability and independence, aiming a kick at the Liberal Party in the process for daring to expose the ALP as the economic wrecking ball it is, and washing its hands of as much responsibility for its own actions as it can.

Ironically, Bowen inadvertently hits the nail on the head in another passage from his speech reproduced by The Australian today when he says that “while budget decisions will always be a matter for the Treasurer and the government of the day, the underlying forecasts should not be a political plaything.”

Exactly so. Which is why — as the minister responsible for them anyway — the Treasurer should be able to go about his business, free of this kind of semantic nonsense that doesn’t even pretend to pay lipservice to the improvement of final budget outcomes, instead of having it cheaply politicised by Bowen and his cohorts in the name of trying to slither back into government by way of the greasiest and most intellectually dishonest means they can engineer.

 

 

Davos, G20: On Economic Matters Labor Should Keep Very, Very Quiet

BRIEF REMARKS on domestic politics made by Tony Abbott at a forum of the G20 in Davos need to be kept in perspective; for the past six years, this country — through those who governed it — sent the rest of the world the message that Australia’s “miracle economy” was being trashed, and held out the prospect of sovereign risk to those who invested here. If Abbott wishes to drive home his “we’re open” message to a wider audience, so be it.

The tiresome, hypocritical, troublemaking rabble that the Labor Party has reduced itself to knows no low too low to steep to; not only does it deny any and all responsible for the mess it left others to clean up — or that a mess exists at all — but increasingly, it seems determined to stifle that clean up effort for reasons best known to itself. It lost the election last year, after all; one might expect the ALP to wait until after the tough elixir has been administered before trying to score political points from it.

By now, I think everyone knows that the Prime Minister touched, e’er briefly, on domestic political matters in his speech to the G20 today.

To some extent, he had to: this was his first address to the G20 both since assuming office and since Australia assumed the group’s rotating presidency. And whilst a little vision (as melodramatically demanded by opposition “leader” Bill Shorten) may be a nice thing on such an occasion, the reality is that the government still doesn’t know the exact scope of the budget problem it’s inherited, and thus precisely how to proceed as a result.

What it does know, however, is that Labor’s mining tax — despite raising two-tenths of diddlysquat in terms of revenue — sent a dreadful message to Australia’s trading partners, cruelling investment in mining and sending a shudder through other sectors, and signalling a very real prospect of sovereign risk to anyone prepared to invest here on Labor’s watch.

And what the leaders of the G20 countries and their economics ministers know — even if the rest of the world doesn’t glean this from their consumption of news media, and certainly if Australian voters don’t as a result of the best efforts of the ALP to hide it — is that the previous government chewed through close to half a trillion dollars in spending outlays, more than $300 billion of it now sitting on Australia’s balance sheet in debt to creditors, in an unprecedented exercise in pissing money up against a post with next to nothing to show for it.

What the Labor Party does not want Australians to know is that it acquired, through its “negotiations” to win Australia a seat on the United Nations Security Council, an international reputation for wanton profligacy, throwing money at delegates in the form of promises of “special aid” and other bribery, that did the image of the country no favours behind the closed doors of the very international partners Abbott was addressing.

What the Labor Party certainly does not want Australians to know is that it had 80 new taxes in various stages of development when it was thrown out of office: taxes designed to fund even more crazy and unrestrained spending had it been re-elected, but which would have pushed huge numbers of ordinary middle-class families into unsustainable financial territory.

And what it really doesn’t want Australians to know is the huge number of stalled trade and investment deals that were left on the table, mired in red tape, the benefits of which it comprehensively failed to deliver.

In this sense, comments by Abbott that “governments can be like addicts in search of a fix” and the allusion to the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government using the Global Financial Crisis as a pretext to “change the rules and…spend our way to prosperity” are not simply appropriate or reasonable but importantly, were delivered to precisely the audience needing to know, and quickly, the attitude of Australia’s new government to its old where matters of economics and financial management are concerned.

Of course Wayne Swan — that petulant, odious, self-important brat who presided over virtually the entire debt and spending binge as Treasurer — would race out with a self-serving and moralising column in the Fairfax press to waffle on in his own defence.

And of course Shorten would paint Abbott’s speech as “embarrassing,” and he’s right: the track record of the last government was, to be sure, an international embarrassment; far from simply guiding Australia through the GFC six years ago, it went much, much further, squandering the handsome position it inherited and ultimately raising questions in international circles about Australia’s long-term direction.

Yes, that is embarrassing, Bill.

It’s just unfortunate that the real message at the heart of the Abbott speech — the need for developed countries to recommit to free trade with each other, and to refocus on removing trade barriers in the aftermath of the GFC rather than erecting new ones — was completely ignored by Shorten, Swan, and the rest of the shysters at the ALP who want to be taken seriously as candidates for government.

The irony is that in accusing Abbott of offering nothing, they have shown themselves utterly bereft of new ideas of their own.

And whilst Labor is unprepared to own the consequences of its own incompetence, it is happy to shoot the messenger who brings word of fundamental change in the way things are to be done.

The ALP has neither the moral authority nor any record of substance when it comes to economic matters, and not certainly those involving Australia’s international partners at the elite level the G20 represents.

It would better serve its own interests — and that of Australia — by keeping very, very quiet indeed.