Monday 1 January 2018
Having yesterday assessed the Coalition’s performance in 2017 what are we to make of Labor’s. Well, for me it was underwhelming, lacking any inspiration. Having said that, it is not unusual for oppositions to take a nap, so to speak, for the period of time preceding an election year.
For Labor it was a year of silence while the other mob traded blow for blow with itself. Conventional wisdom would have it that you never interfere with your opposition while they are committing suicide.
Was it too silent for its own good though? Its underwhelming performance in the Bennelong by-election has those in the inner circle worried. Certainly there was a swing but those of the left believed a large dent should have been left in the Coalition’s rear end.
Since being relegated to Opposition in 2013, Labor has led the policy debate and when they have been at their peak, Labor has been at its best.
I have expressed the view that this year will be an election year and from now on it must be prepared to pick some fights with Turnbull. Bill Shorten in 2017 wasn’t really called on to defend much. Barnaby Joyce spent most of the year, well you know what he was doing and it wasn’t just stealing water.
The Prime Minister spent most of the year trying to confirm with the populace that he was serious about his hypocrisy. Both indulged themselves in full-time refereeing the various fights that frequently broke out during the year.
It wasn’t until December that Shorten’s charmed life came to an end. His decision to not refer to the High Court the Labor MPs who failed to renounce their British citizenship in time so that the focus remained on the Government, came back to bite him on the bum.
The Government has had its share of by-elections and for a number of reasons (none of which are representative of current political trends) won each. Now rightly or wrongly it’s Labor’s turn. I say rightly or wrongly because the lack of information supplied by other Coalition MPs raises some doubt about their eligibility.
The Government has the numbers to refer three suspicious Labor MPs to the High Court next year to join David Feeney, who has already been referred.
So we could have four by-elections in three marginal seats. Good luck with that. Labor’s best antidote for problems – real or imagined – will be policy. I include Shorten in that. Despite Labor leading well in the polls people are still uncertain about him. Only well-thought through policies can rectify that.
On that point Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen is as enthusiastic as Bill Shorten when it comes to policy and has been at the forefront of the policy push, heralding more to come ahead of the election:
“We are very competitive. We came very close in the last election. We are tackling the big things. We are not out there saying we are a small target.”
“You might disagree with some of our policies, you might love some of the others. But one thing we cannot be accused of is saying to the Australian people ‘everything will be alright, just vote for us.”
“We are making tough decisions and we are seeking a mandate to do big and bold and ambitious things.”
I think there is little doubt that this election will be fought on equality. Turnbull will call it class warfare and Shorten shouldn’t be half-hearted in agreeing. As I said yesterday, the richest people on earth became $US1 trillion ($1.3 trillion) richer in 2017.
“Never in the history of this nation have the rich and privileged been so openly brazen.”
Whereas once upon a time the electorate didn’t or wouldn’t understand the complex descriptions of institutionalised neo-liberalism politics, it now does, and it would be to Labor’s advantage if they came up with some common good unique new policies bathed in fixing the inequality that unfairly insinuates itself upon this world.
With the year only a day old and it only being 18 months since the last election perhaps its time for the Opposition Leader to open the political discussion with a forthright question. One that sets the tone for 2018 with a re-evaluation of just where our democracy stands.
“Prime Minister, would you be prepared to go to the polls with both of us agreeing to future parliaments being fixed to a four year duration and a fixed date?”
My thought for the day
“We exercise our involvement in our democracy every three years by voting. After that the vast majority takes very little interest. Why is it so?”
PS: May you all be blessed with the best year possible. Sometimes it’s better to make things happen rather than just allowing them to.