Flat White

Caught by the Shorten curlies?

28 June 2018

5:19 PM

28 June 2018

5:19 PM

Can you imagine the temperature under Bill Shorten’s collar right now? Positively boiling. His neck is probably generating sufficient heat to act as an alternate source of renewable energy, if only we had the technology to harvest it.

With around a month remaining to the Super Saturday by-elections things are not going well for the currently besieged Labor party leader. A superficial glance would suggest that the conundrum was caused merely by a political misstep – the infamous rolled gold guarantee that all Labor MPs had their citizenship situation in order.

In a reductive way, this is true – the by-elections would never have had to happen if all parliamentary members adhered to the constitution. But the furore and controversy could have been largely avoided if it were not for Shorten’s insistence upon taking a condescending and derisive stance based on flawed information.

This speaks to his character in a deeper way and illustrates why Super Saturday is probably going to be more about Bill Shorten than any of the compliance missteps committed by his caucus.

Take then his recent disastrous promise to repeal tax cuts for small and medium business. Pundits are already referring to this as his Captain’s Call moment – and why wouldn’t they? It reeks of all the same unpleasantness that Tony Abbott was accused of, namely arrogance and a tone-deaf willingness to pursue a personal agenda.

In a subtler way, it serves to re-emphasis Shorten’s embarrassing reliance on ‘people vs. business’ rhetoric, as well as the extent to which he’s eager to attempt absolute consistency in his glib soundbites. Is it possible that Shorten was so enamoured with the thought of repealing a flagship Liberal policy that he failed to consider the fact multi-million-dollar turnovers don’t necessarily align with, as he would put it, the top end of town? Given that Shorten has never run a business himself it’s entirely understandable that he harbours a misconception regarding the link between revenue and size.

These events play out in the context of Bill Shorten already being the most unpopular opposition leader in Australian history. This, of course, begs the question – how is he so disliked by voters? How is it that Labor is leading the two-party preferred but Anthony Albanese is the more desirable leader?

There’s a simple answer – authenticity. Bill Shorten finds himself sorely lacking. Australians are beginning to see Shorten for who he really is – a man who can equivocate, obfuscate and complicate endlessly but who lacks the basic qualities most important to voters – honesty and decency.

The life-cycle of any political leader includes a sort of honeymoon period, a length of time where to some extent the character of that leader remains an unknown quantity. Bill Shorten has long run out of public goodwill – numerous skeletons are being unearthed in his back garden.

A comprehensive list would require a syndicated column, but that’s beside the point. We already know that he’s reversed his historical position on company tax cuts, sold out Cleanevent workers in a horrendous enterprise agreement, brokered dirty power deals with hard-left Union factions (including the CFMEU), oversaw suspicious funds transfers between the AWU and GetUp! and perhaps most egregiously of all, changed his AFL team to appeal to Victorian voters.

Any one of these revelations could likely stand alone to cast an apprehensive shadow over a political persona. How is it that Bill Shorten is still standing as a viable opposition leader when we know he’s been involved in all of them?

Finally, there’s the growing discontent with the ALP itself. Anthony Albanese knew this when he gave a speech detailing his vision of a broad progressive centrist party, cut free from the tainted union connotations that hinder Labor today.

Malcolm Turnbull really did hit a nerve when he delivered his famous ‘sycophant’ takedown in parliament – arguably articulating the thoughts of so many Australians who always felt that something was a bit off about Bill Shorten but could never find the words to express it.

Coincidentally, The Australian recently published a detailed list of assets held by Labor frontbenchers. As one would expect they’re nearly all obscenely wealthy. This, of course, leads us to the ridiculous position Bill Shorten finds himself in today – a self-styled champion of the working class leading a team of multi-millionaires to fight a policy that he once supported.

During the Bennelong by-election campaign, Bill Shorten and Kristina Keneally made a number of smug statements to the effect that the by-election was a referendum on the performance of the Turnbull government.

I assume the same logic applies to the by-elections on the July 28, which now become Bill Shorten’s own personal referendum. One suspects that Labor voters are finding Bill Shorten somewhat less palatable than they previously did if early opinion polls are anything to go by.

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