Politics

The view from Billinudgel

‘Socialist’ Shorten and the small businessmen
The government is becoming increasingly desperate to paint Labor as a poor economic manager

After the past fortnight, Bill Shorten will have to update his Wikipedia entry. It appears that apart from being, as he insists, a Victorian, he is also a Cuban, an East German, a member of the Taliban, a Stalinist, a New Zealand double agent and, perhaps worst of all, a hereditary Pom. Is there no end to the man’s iniquity?

Well, apparently not, because now Malcolm Turnbull has managed to draw enough breath to point out that the Opposition leader and his colleagues are not small businessmen; instead, they are largely trade unionists and party apparatchiks, which of course makes them totally unfit for office, unlike the stalwart burghers of the Coalition.

This is at least plausible, if only in comparison with the nonsensical bombast of the previous diatribes. It is true that few small businessmen are attracted to the Labor side of politics; their natural habitat is the Liberal Party and a few may be found in the ranks of lawyers, bankers, accountants and public relations merchants who throng its ranks.

Of course, it can be argued that running a union is no less demanding than running a family store, and in many cases requires considerably more expertise. But given that Turnbull appears to be trying to tell us that Shorten’s mob will bugger up the economy while his own team is the one to fix it, our prime minister is on shaky ground.

The melancholy truth, as has been shown for many months now, is that since the change of government in 2013, things have got not better but considerably worse. Not only has the debt and deficit emergency ballooned and productivity stalled, but the mantra of “jobs and growth”, which Turnbull still insists is not a slogan but an outcome, has signally failed to deliver.

Growth is at best sluggish, certainly compared with the rest of the world, which has generally recovered from the depredations of the global financial crisis rather more robustly than has Australia. Admittedly, the rest of the world fell faster and further – it did not have Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan to cushion the impact. But the current figures make it plain that Australia is lagging, and continues to lag.

And as for jobs – the government is relying on spin to produce alternative facts rather than the harsh reality that households (and of course hard-working families) have to suffer. It is true that some jobs have been created, but most of them are part-time jobs; the percentage of workers with full-time work is down from 2013.

Hours worked have, inevitably, decreased to a historic low. Long-term and youth unemployment have soared. On any objective assessment, the Rudd–Gillard–Rudd regime was considerably more successful than the Abbott–Turnbull replacement.

Turnbull and his spin doctors continue to blame Labor, or the rest of the world, or just about anyone and anything for their own failings; if forced to admit that things aren’t actually rosy, they fall back on the rejoinder that even if there are problems, things would be worse under Labor and its (shudder) “socialists”.

The problem is that history shows otherwise. But history, as Henry Ford pointed out, is bunk. We may revere the lies on statues of Captain Cook, so why not the lies on the economy? Next week: Shorten reincarnates as Darth Vader.

Mungo MacCallum

Mungo MacCallum is a political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy. Visit his blog, The View from Billinudgel.

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