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Day to Day Politics: What about Shorten and Labor?

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.

An observation

“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.

25 comments

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  1. Peter F

    Too silent for its own good? Are you saying that they should be leading by 25% in the polls. I believe that the silence is in the reporting.Take the opportunity to listen to a speech by Bill Shorten ( there are quite a few available). You might be surprised, John.

    Happy new year 🙂

  2. Wam

    The flat mouth and resigned eyes picture says it all. ‘Whomsoever leadeth the libs will be PM’.
    Fixed terms are for regulated wimps, DDs are great. Whitlam, frazer, hawke, did little johnnie have one?, and trumball allwere great fun.

    ps
    ‘Why is it so’ should be copyrighted to julius sumner miller rather than annoyingly attached to an oft repeated thought.

  3. Jack Straw

    70% of Australians do not know what is going on. And unfortunately they outsource their own minds to a Bolt, Milo, IPA or Murdoch Media for their uninformation; rather than do their own critical analysis. Extreme Captalism has got us by the balls and got us where it wants us; on the ropes. Is their any fight left in us or do we just take it up the arse or do we start learning to speak Chinese in readiness for the friendly takeover of Australia in 2038?

  4. Terry2

    I tend to think that the Bennelong result was quite good for Labor with a 5% swing in what is a traditional Liberal seat and John Alexander was a good candidate.

    Turnbull played a cynical game of demonising the Beijing influence on Australian politics knowing full well that a majority of the Chinese diaspora in Bennelong have no love for the Chinese government. I predicted at the time that as soon as the by-election was behind him, you would hear no more of the Beijing bashing and that’s what occurred, immediately and instantaneously.

    The Dastyari affair was conflated well above its importance and Labor could have handled it better. But if you look at the political donations of Mr Huang Xiangmo, the Chinese gentleman associated with Dastyari, you get a much clearer picture of how our political parties suck-up to wealthy foreigners. All of the following are companies associated with Mr Huang and who they donated to :

    Chaoshan No. 1 Pty Ltd Bayside Forum, Liberal Party of Australia (Victoria) 17/11/2014 $50,000

    Yuhu Group (Australia) Pty Ltd Bennelong Forum Annual Subscription, Liberal Party of Australia (NSW) 02/04/2015 $20,000

    Mandarin International Investments Pty Ltd Boardroom lunch with Hon. Bill Shorten, ALP National 20/10/2015 $55,000

    Chaoshan No.1 Pty Ltd Canning – WA Liberal Party 14/6/2016 $10,000

    Chaoshan No 1 Pty Ltd Gilmore FEC – Liberal NSW 30/5/2016 $10,000

    Chaoshan No.1 Pty Ltd Eric Hutchinson FEC – Liberal TAS 30/5/2016 $10,000

    Chaoshan No.1 Pty Ltd Deakin FEC – Liberal VIC 16/6/2016 $20,000

    Jade Fisheries Pty Ltd Tangney FEC WA Liberal Party 30/5/2016 $10,000

    Jade Fisheries Pty Ltd Dobell FEC – Liberal 30/5/2016 $20,000

    Jade Fisheries Pty Ltd Andrew Nikolic FEC – Liberal TAS 6/6/2016 $20,000

    Chaoshan No.1 Pty Ltd NSW Labor Federal Campaign 14/6/2016 $30,000

    Mandarin International Investments Pty Ltd Sturt FEC – Liberal 5/6/2016 $20,000

    Chaoshan No.1 Pty Ltd Senator Mathias Cormann Campaign – Liberal WA 23/6/2016 $20,000

    The most important work of our parliament in 2018 is to stamp out foreign donations to politicians and political parties.

  5. corvus boreus

    Welcome back, John Lord, and felicitations for the new year.

    Where to this year for Bill Shorten and the ALP?

    The ‘Bradbury gambit’ (skate along, slow and steady, waiting for your opponents to self-sabotage) seems to be the default setting.
    This is a pragmatically justifiable, if not inspiring, strategy, especially given the combination of Shortens public ‘charisma deficit’, and the fact that whenever Shorten attempts to make policy statements, the media not only refuses to amp his mic, but insist on making loud fart noises to drown out his message.

    .Within these handicaps, I still think Shorten could do a few extra things to both deflect attacks and harm his opponents.
    He could refute the repeated accusations of ‘class warfare’ by clearly and consistently redefining such as a ‘fight against inequity’ in our society, which is, after all, supposed to be classless in nature.
    He could also come out in clear and unequivocal support of a federal anti-corruption commission (‘fed-ICAC’), which would not only make a fundamental refutation of the ‘as bad as each other’ meme, but would also help erase some of the lingering public perception of shadows and stains upon Shortens own conduct.
    Plain and simple, loud and clear, repeat as necessary.

    Given the evident fact that the wheels on the wagon of the Mal-administration are so obviously a-wobble, methinks it would be beneficial to apply a little extra pressure to help persuade them to crash.

  6. Joseph Carli

    When oh when are Labor going to give that useless Feeney the big kick up the arse!?..He’s a goofball of monumentous proportions who has and will again get Labor bad press…He even LOOKS like a goofball..and don’t give me that old “can’t find the paperwork shit”…the jerkoff never even did the paperwork…what’s he think we all are…?

    The workers of the world are craving for honest…f#cking honest representatives…not bloody lawyers or accountants or some other private-schooled, silver-spooned careerist growing fat on their parliamentary salary and perks of office..Nor some old codger who is ready to kick the bucket within ten years…Where are the young radical idealists?…The Don Dunstans and Gough Whitlams..and yes Margaret Whitlams of today?…They are out there, but is the factional system still in place restricting access to the political life and an “old boys club” restricting the most radical women a “wild-card”entry?

    Labor must MUST ..MUST ..MUST get more radical…more verbally aggressive….AND BLOODY LOOK LIKE THEY EFFING MEAN IT!!!!!!

  7. bearbrooke

    Considering your question John Lord — why are Australians indifferent to politics betwixt elections? Which cannot be answered without a stack of value judgements — we inconsequential voters don’t make judgements based on truth or facts or tangible realities, else why would our politicians so consistently and energetically lie to us?

    The Circle Dance of our democracy happens tri-annually (more or less) with our pollies capering hand-in-hand with their leaders singing ballads allowing we, the inconsequential judges, to choose the best performers.

    Because that’s what it is, and everyone knows it, a tri-annual festival of song and dance.

    After which is the return to normal — fabrication, obfuscation, buggeration.

  8. Egalitarian

    Yes Corvus. Like the very clever Wordsmithing like being called racist if you complain against 457 or overseas workers or that big business needs to be unshackled by tedious regulations like eg work safety etc..Labor seems to be very flat footed when these accusations are thrown at them. It’s not like they haven’t heard it before.

  9. Jack Russell

    What do you do if you are denied a voice, and denied it by every dirty, petty trick in the political/corporate book?

    Townhall meetings. Face to face. All over the country. For years now,

    Word-of-mouth has enormous power – it’s just not very noisy in the beginning, or in the middle, because the goal is the end … said the ALP tortoise to the hare.

  10. Freethinker

    I just hope (and dream) that the 2018 will be the year when the left faction in the ALP will say enough with neoliberalism and moderate right policies within the party, that the 2018 will be the year when the left in the union movement with Sally as a leader will step in in force and take more leadership in the ALP.
    I wish that will be the year when the left with in the Greens remove their leader or just walkout of the party to form a socialist broad front.
    Now it is the time for an education revolution with in the university and high schools to teach a different in macroeconomics and barefoot economics so our future leaders can change the damage caused by the present ones.

  11. Arthur Tarry

    Hello Bearbrooke. What do you think is the cause of this very widespread apathy and indifference to policies of government, both federal and state ?

  12. Harry

    It will be an enormous task to roll back the damage to our society caused by the failed ideology of neoliberalism. “Trickle down” economics must be exposed for the fraud that it is.

    It is no surprise that economic outcomes for a rising proportion of the population deteriorated as we shifted from society to economy – from a mixed economy where public services were valued to the individualistic, selfish ideology that rules today.

    The challenge for Labor is to firmly and stridently reject more of the same or to be just a neoliberal government with a somewhat kinder face than the Coalition. The challenge is to rebuild a fairer and more sustainable Australia, where unemployment is low, wages rise (and catch up with labour productivity), where the government is prepared to use its fiscal capacity to adequately fund education, health and actively intervene to promote equitable distribution of opportunities and outcomes, not dependent on family wealth.

    I am far from confident that Labor will do more than tinker with the system but I live in hope.

  13. Terry2

    On the subject of trickle-down economics, Donald Trump in a rare moment of clarity, declared to an assembly of his rich mates that the corporate and personal tax changes he had introduced :You all just got a lot richer.

    This was at his golfing resort at Mar-a-Lago in Florida where the joining fee is $US200,000, and the club’s annual membership fee is $US14,000.

    So,Trump’s trickle-down effect is more like a conveyor-belt of loot into the pockets of the rich and powerful.

  14. Joseph Carli

    I’m with you , Freethinker…one gets sick to the back teeth of false leadership…Labor better watch its step…there is mood in the community for active participation and this softly-softly- wait for them to trip up approach is wearing a bit thin..I for one want to see active politics…attack politics..

  15. David Fitzpatrick

    High political farce…the only real culture Australuans are exposed to. Curiously (along with our unaccountable sense of humour lol) it is our salvation.

  16. Jack Russell

    We’ll see attack politics … Shorten is NOT meek and mild. He’s a determined, outcome-focused strategist who knows where he’s going, and how to get there … and without gratuitously scaring the horses.

  17. guest

    It seems to me that some commenters are asking Bill Shorten to do some things which will sharpen up his performance – but what they suggest are the very things Shorten himself advocates: attacking inequality, pushing for a federal ICAC, clear policy separation from the Coalition, targeted public criticism of Coalition failures…

    One ideological “solution” which surfaces occasionally is Modern Money Theory. There are also critics of the idea of merely printing money. When something looks dodgy, it probably is.

    Then there is the idea that Oz can decouple from neo-liberal capitalist economics. Yet when we look at leftwing governments around the world there do not seem to be many great successes. The countries on the rise such as China and India are embracing capitalism – despite the fact that the problems of capitalism are in full view: exploitation of workers and destruction of the environment, the same problems burdening Oz into the future.What to do when everyone is hell bent on personal wealth creation as exemplified by the 1% – the American Dream.

    And how well is Democracy working for you? See the disfunctional governments in Oz, UK and USA driven by faulty political decisions made by ignorant and misguided (often mis-informed) voters led astray by ideological myopia and deliberate lies and corruption.

    So we wonder where the leadership is going to come from. Some speak of the people, by the people and for the people, but the mechanics of that seems to be far from perfect, Some speak of honesty, but even the most ignorant person can be honestly mistaken. For a person to represent a slice of the populace with fairness and energy is a big ask – and a bigger ask is to manage a ministerial portfolio, while the task today becomes more and more complex and difficult. Just anybody in off the street is inadequate.

    What to do? How to wake up the Oz populace from its “calm and comfortable” torpor? Take for example this farce where a specific requirement in the Constitution requires that political candidates renounce dual citizenship – yet a swag of offenders have survived for years without meeting that requirement. It has something to do with accountability.

  18. corvus boreus

    guest,
    Has Bill Shorten really been ‘pushing for federal ICAC’?
    Seems to me that he has more been occasionally leaning into the thought, rather than doing any active shoving.

    He has advocated “having an open and honest discussion about a federal ICAC”. (16/1/17).
    More recently, he has added that “Labor’s support for having a Senate committee investigating the merit of a National Integrity Commission seem quite on the money”.(18/5/17).
    Such statements amount to approval of continued discussion of the topic, but Shorten has not explicitly advocated for the formation of such a body, nor is support for such part of current ALP policy.

    When the senate select committee on the subject released its findings (13/9/17), the outcome was merely a recommendation of the tightening of existing controls. Hinch and the NXT and GRN members went further, offering additional/dissenting amendments calling for the establishment of a ‘fed ICAC’, but the Labor members went with the more conservative view.
    http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/National_Integrity_Commission/IntegrityCommissionSen/Report

    If you have any new/differing information on either Labor or Shortens position on this issue, I would be more than glad to hear it.
    This is not only because I strongly favour the formation of an anti-corruption watchdog, but because I believe that a clearly anunciated statement of principled policy on this issue would undoubtedly be to Labors electoral advantage.
    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/federal-corruption-watchdog-needed-say-80-per-cent-of-australians-poll-20170113-gtqva3.html

  19. Harry

    Guest: I note your criticism of MMT. When people talk about “printing money” I think they do not really understand the concepts.

    We live in an MMT world; its a description of what occurs now, ie sovereign governments create money by the act of spending and do so every time they spend, not some of the time, but all the time. No printing involved.

    Could I suggest you read the article linked to below ?

    https://era-blog.com/2017/01/15/federal-treasury-finances-a-functional-perspective/

  20. Florence nee Fedup

    Are there any country that practices pure capitalism? Suspect not. We need to acknowledge that political ideology and economic models are not interchangeable.

  21. guest

    Harry,

    my misunderstanding about MMT arises from the advocacy by some commentators here, as if it was not already happening but should be. I have read explanations of MMT here as well, but I am still economically ignorant. Part of the reason for my ignorance is all the hoo-ha that has been made about deficit and debt, when others say there is no such thing, and merely comes and goes as ideological grandstanding.

    Florence,

    I do not believe that “political ideology and economic models” are interchangeable, but there are some here who claim they cannot tell the difference between Labor and Coalition policies – and seek a far more left, socialist policy from Labor. One only has to see here in Oz the amount of anti-socialist claims that anything socialist is communist, and the amount of union-bashing and human rights-bashing to see how the right vilify anyone who is unemployed, homeless and poor because they perceive them to be lazy scoundrels deserving of punishment. Such is the kind of class war waged by the right and such is the tactic of claiming that reds are under the beds.

    You are right; ideology and economic models are not interchangeable – and it should be more widely emphasised because there are some who think they are.

  22. Luke

    Bill Shorten was the last straw for me. He manipulated & cojoled in private to knife Rudd; then Gillard & he’s rewarded with the leadership. He’s selling out of the workers in the AWU & gifts from billionaire bosses.
    Labor has lost its way & will only win the next election despite Bill Shorten. He is a symbol of brazen corruption. I won’t vote Labor while that crook is muddying the water

  23. Alpo

    A favourable swing to Labor in a traditional Conservative seat is supposed to be underwhelming?…. Maxine Mckew’s result in 2007 was more than extraordinary, expecting to became the rule is wishful thinking.

    The only ones sleeping have been the commentators, this is Labor’s National Platform, that they have produced in preparation to the (most likely) 2018 Federal election: https://cdn.australianlabor.com.au/documents/ALP_National_Platform.pdf

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