Every parent knows the problem. An errant child who is always telling lies, whether it’s ‘I didn’t take them’, ‘I don’t know what happened’ or the old faithful, ‘I didn’t do it’. Invariably a half-smirk is plastered across their face, betraying a habitual, almost comical deceit.
In watching Bill Shorten’s company tax somersault last week, it occurred to me he’s the great fibbing man-child of Australian politics. He never disappoints in living up to his social media nickname of ‘Bull Sh-tten’. Instead of saying he had stuffed up badly on company tax, Shorten invented the most fantastic excuse. He said that when he announced his intention to repeal tax cuts for medium-sized companies, this had been the policy of Labor’s economic shadow ministers that particular Tuesday. Yet come Friday, everything had changed. The ALP’s stance was ‘amended’ to support the legislated cuts, supposedly with the unanimous support of those who had thought differently three days earlier.
In the classic style of all who are ‘economic with the truth’, Shorten assumes the people he’s talking to are stupid. He tries to take the voters as mugs. Given a choice between a frank assessment of reality and a Bull Sh–tten opportunity to get himself off the hook politically, he always chooses the latter.
There’s a reason why Shorten has high disapproval numbers, why the public regards him as chronically insincere. It’s because he is. His press conferences are callow, cast in the style of a school kid who has over-rehearsed for an end-of-year play. As a Labor insider puts it, ‘Bill doesn’t believe in anything, other than his own career advancement.’ Shorten has a 30-year history of using people to get ahead and then discarding them when they are no longer of use to him. It takes a fair bit to unite Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard but Shorten has done it, with both former prime ministers carrying the scars of his treachery.
With Gillard, Shorten was so subservient he famously declared, ‘I haven’t seen what she’s said, but let me say I support what it is that she said.’ But then he turned on her, with a savagery he normally reserves for pie-shop owners.
During last year’s dual citizenship scandal, Shorten again threw the switch to political convenience: lying through his teeth that every Labor MP had their paperwork in order. He has taken a similar stance on union corruption, pretending it doesn’t exist, particularly in his old union, the AWU.
I first got to know Shorten in July 2004, as Labor was determining its policy on the proposed US-Australian free trade agreement. As head of the AWU, Little Bill had made a series of tub-thumping speeches, declaring he couldn’t support something that threatened members’ jobs. Yet when I sat next to him in Melbourne’s Crown Casino ballroom, at the annual AWU knees-up, he told me to back the agreement. I said I thought he and his union were against it, to which he replied, ‘That’s just for the members, we need to say that sort of thing when they reckon their jobs are under threat. I want it to go through, as the US alliance is too important to do otherwise.’ As I recorded in my diary, ‘Great, the two faces of Little Billy Shorten: Public Shorten against the FTA, Private Billy in favour of it.’
I next saw him during the 2004 election campaign when, as Dick Pratt’s consigliere, he organised an intimate fundraising dinner for the richest of Melbourne’s rich. Again, it was a case of Two-Faced Shorten: a cloth-capped unionist by day, a billionaires’ fan-boy by night.
If there is any justice in politics, Shorten will lose the Braddon and Longman by-elections later this month and trigger a challenge to his Labor leadership.
Every morning Anthony Albanese checks the bus timetable to see if he can throw Shorten under one. Unfortunately for the Australian people, the choice between Shorten and Albanese is like tossing up between Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders.
Both believe in big-spending, high-taxing government. Both support identity politics, with its divisive focus on race, gender and sexuality.Both want a ‘humane approach to asylum seekers’ – code for the boats sailing again and thousands of foreigners drowning at sea.
No matter who leads Federal Labor, in government they are set to import the Daniel Andrews Victorian model to Canberra. That is, a nanny state on steroids, in which people lose the basic freedoms of speaking, thinking and behaving as they see fit. This is the tragedy of today’s Labor Party. The children are in charge.
Juveniles have taken over the working man’s party, with a spoilt, patronising view of the world. They assume the Australian people are as clueless as they are, requiring the heavy hand of government control to run their lives.
Welcome to Bull Sh-tten’s schoolyard.
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