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.
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.