Leading article Australia

Changing seasons

18 June 2015

1:00 PM

18 June 2015

1:00 PM

February seems a long time ago. It’s not only the seasons that have changed, so too has the entire political climate. Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s recovery grows in strength and confidence, whilst the hapless Bill Shorten clings onto his position by his fingernails.

On the issue of the Indonesian boat payments, the opposition leader revealed the emptiness of Labor’s entire quiver of so-called principles. Eager to find any foothold with which to scramble onto the faux-moral high ground that is always Labor’s haven of desperation, Mr Shorten could barely contain his excitement at the thought of putting pressure on Mr Abbott over this supposedly iniquitous practice. The ABC and others leapt into the fray, convinced that finally they’d found a chink in Mr Abbott’s ‘border security’ armour. Yet as always, the facts betrayed the hyperbole of Labor’s and the Left’s hysteria, once it became apparent that Messrs Rudd and Gillard had also allowed our security forces to bribe, sorry, to ‘disrupt’ people smugglers if the situation necessitated. Blinded by their debilitating Abbott-hatred, and drowning in their own sanctimonious hypocrisy, the Left could not see that there is, if anything, more virtue in occasionally paying criminals to take asylum seekers back to safety than in the ‘sugar-on-the-table’ approach of an open invitation to all and sundry that inevitably results in gruesome deaths of men, women and children at sea. Julie Bishop was right to point out that Mr Shorten was being ‘set up’ – either by his own obtuseness or the mischievous forces on the benches behind him – in attempting to score political points on this subject. If, as is likely, Labor opt for some version of a turn-the-boats-back policy prior to the next election, it will have zero credibility both in the eyes of the electorate and, more importantly, in the eyes of the barons of the people-smuggling trade.

Meanwhile, on the issue of being a responsible opposition, Labor have blunderingly ceded the richest territory of all – economic management – to, of all people, the Greens. Under the astute new leadership of Richard di Natale, and the ever-impressive Scott Morrison, the passing of the pension reforms allows the Greens to partake in government as did the Democrats during the Howard years.

Whether it be climate change, gay marriage or asylum seekers, there is an increasingly hungry target audience for the Greens to pander to. In doing so, they jeopardise the inner-city seats of Labor’s most likely leadership contenders, Tanya Plibersek and Anthony Albanese, if, or when, the party enters another of its periodic power struggles.

On the issue of the AWU leadership putting its own political and financial interests ahead of the best interests of the workers, well, knock us down with a feather! Who’d have thought that the tight union-money-politics triangle of the modern labour movement would breed a seething cauldron of greed, corruption and self-interest? Mr Shorten may well be able to skate through his appearance before the Royal Commission, as did his predecessor Julia Gillard, by relying on technicalities, memory failure and obfuscation, but it is unlikely that he will escape a significant amount of damage to his and Labor’s ‘brand’.

Which brings us to the Killing Season, Sarah Ferguson’s superb documentary series. (The luvvies on the upper floors of Ultimo must be scratching their heads wondering how they ever let this one through.) With the ruthlessness of a Game of Thrones princess, Ms Ferguson has torn back the skin of modern Labor to reveal the dark heart and empty soul that lies beneath. What has become abundantly clear is, dysfunctional and chaotic though he may have been, the decision by Julia Gillard and her cohorts to roll Kevin Rudd remains unjustifiable – increasingly deserving of the epitaph of an Aussie coup d’etat. Ms Gillard, by the evidence of her own words, was a scheming opportunist who put her own ambitions and blind hubris in front of the interests of the nation and loyalty to a leader. That she went on to become our worst ever prime minister is not all that surprising.

This magazine has already declared Tony Burke unfit for high office based on his un-recanted or corrected perceptions of tacit approval of terrorism when addressing the Friends of Palestine, and the Killing Season merely highlighted his apparent lack of principles. It was almost sickening to watch the smirking delight with which Mr Burke, Senator Sam Dastyari and one-time union kingpin Paul Howes recounted and even re-enacted the bizarre scenes of their betrayal of Mr Rudd for Ms Ferguson’s cameras.

But of course the person who comes out worst of all from the TV series is the current opposition leader, Bill Shorten. Labor may try and kid themselves that an individual who is so motivated by such brazen self-interest can ever be elected prime minister, but if they do so, the learning curve will be a steep one. The perception was always that Kevin Rudd stood for nothing. The sad reality is that those around him stood, and still stand, for even less.

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