It didn’t take long, did it?
After yesterday likening himself to Gough Whitlam, this morning Bill Shorten used Labor’s greatest peacetime prime minister’s death to claim he’s Bob Hawke’s successor. He boasted he is building on Hawke’s legacy in health, Medicare and education.
But he failed to mention Hawke’s greatest achievement: the economic modernisation of Australia. Hawke’s recognition that our future prosperity, and our ability to be a compassionate society, depends on promoting greater productivity, deregulation, economic liberalism and wealth-generating free enterprise
He failed to mention Hawke and Paul Keating had the foresight and courage to do what they believed was right, not what was popular or expedient, even if it meant staring down their own Labor and union constituencies.
He failed to mention Hawke was popular, not populist, and as prime minister put the national interest ahead of his party’s.
He failed to mention Hawke believed that the private sector runs commercial businesses, not governments, and boldly privatised where no previous Labor – and indeed Liberal – prime minister dared go.
He failed to mention Hawke was elected on a promise to “bring Australians together”, not pit them against each other by fomenting the politics of wealth and intergenerational envy.
Listening to John Howard talking to the ABC’s Sabra Lane about Hawke this morning, and his subtle but unflattering comparison of the Hawke and Shorten agenda and messages, one was reminded of 1988’s vice-presidential debate between Dan Quayle and Lloyd Bentsen.
When Quayle sought to invoke JFK by claiming he had as much experience as Kennedy did when he sought the presidency, Bentsen delivered one of the most devastating putdowns ever.
“Senator, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy”. In those few words, Quayle was not only framed for the electorate, but diminished as a man ever after.
Shorten has wasted no time in politicising Hawke’s memory to his own ends. With less than a day to go, Scott Morrison would do well to do as John Howard did this morning, and remind voters that Bill Shorten is no Bob Hawke, and never will be.
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