Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Bill Shorten fires up
The Daily Telegraph makes the mother of all mistakes

Bill Shorten has been Opposition leader for 2034 days, but we’ve never seen him raw like this: at a press conference in Nowra the Labor leader fought back tears, before letting rip at The Daily Telegraph for “playing gotcha shit” about his mother’s life story. “Look it up,” he said, schooling the Telegraph’s editor, Ben English, without bothering to name him. As has been observed many times, Shorten has had everything thrown at him in his long, six-year stint in the toughest job in politics. Investigations, royal commissions, biographers, comedians, town hall meetings, unfavourable opinion polls, three prime ministers: he has weathered them all. Not once has there been a glint of a tear in his eye. But a tabloid hit on his late mother, Ann, was too much, and as he choked up at the memory of her belated attempt to break into the law as a fifty-something woman, he showed some vulnerability for what felt like the first time. Who wouldn’t stick up for their mum? It may prove to be the moment that Shorten won the election.

For readers who don’t buy the Telegraph, the paper splashed this morning with the headline “MOTHER OF INVENTION” atop a story purporting to reveal that the Opposition leader’s “heartfelt tale” on the ABC’s Q&A program on Monday was missing a “vital fact”. Shorten had told the Q&A audience that his mother “wanted to be a lawyer, but she was the eldest in the family and needed to take the teacher scholarship to look after the rest of the kids. My mum was a brilliant woman. She wasn’t bitter … But I know if she had other opportunities she could have done anything.” It was powerful. The Tele’s gotcha moment was to reveal that Ann Shorten had eventually studied law, and had an “illustrious career as a barrister”. Gotcha? Hardly. Especially because it was garbage – as if the paper could ever know Ann’s story better than Shorten himself, a story that he has told publicly many times.

“She did her best,” Shorten explained today. “She went down and did some Magistrates Court work, but she discovered in her mid-50s that sometimes you’re just too old – and you shouldn’t be too old – but she discovered the discrimination against older women. And so she eventually... while she kept her name on the bar roll for a number of years, she came back and she did other things. Do you know my mum wrote the book on education and law in Australia? Brilliant. She’s brilliant.” The love in him was obvious.

Shorten explained that Ann, who died of a catastrophic heart attack in 2014, had an encyclopaedic knowledge but, when asked a question, would often say simply: “Look it up.” So after telling Ann’s story, Shorten took aim at the newspaper for trying to orchestrate a political hit on him via his mum: “Whoever’s pulling down a six-figure sum at The Daily Telegraph – look it up. Look it up. All of what I’ve said is all of what has been said before.”

One of the braver things Shorten has done in the lead-up to this election is to refuse to meet with Rupert Murdoch. The fury from the News Corp camp is obvious, and it will surely get worse before the poll on May 18. Today, however, the Telegraph hit has backfired – the paper handed Shorten his best opportunity to show the human side that has been missing until now. Heading into tonight’s final pre-election debate against the prime minister, Shorten’s campaign has finally come alive.


“It is a blatant denial of history for Scott Morrison to allege that the Labor Party cannot manage the economy when he knows the design and structure of the modern Australian economy was put in place exclusively by the Labor Party.”

Former prime ministers Bob Hawke and Paul Keating reunite to condemn the Liberal Party’s economic management credentials.


“I don’t want to see the Labor Party get to office where they tie businesses up with all sorts of union red tape and all sorts of the Greens’ green tape, which would just cost people jobs. The unions are making the case for change to put them in control. They will be more in control than Bill Shorten.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, in an exclusive interview with the Nine newspapers after narrowly missing being egged by a protester in Albury.

The Number

The proportion of adults who rank climate change number one on a list of 12 threats to Australia’s national interests, according to the latest poll by the Lowy Institute – this is the first time that climate change has topped the list since the poll started in 2006.

The Policy

“The coal industry is powerful and has infiltrated Australian government at the highest levels, all the way to the office of Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.”

From the executive summary of a new report from Greenpeace, “Dirty Power: Big Coal’s Network of Influence over the Coalition government”.

The list

“I have previously described Jackson, in the pages of this magazine, as the greatest of all pop stars, and I cannot unsay it, nor would I want to: it remains a true reflection of my critical opinion. But more than one thing can be true at a time. And if it is true that Jackson was a star of very rare musical gifts and unmatched popular acclaim, the likes of which we will never see again, and if it is also true that he was a predatory and organised paedophile whose actions have permanently damaged at least two victims and probably more, what then?”


“According to the Department of Jobs and Small Business, 95 per cent of participants in the scheme are women, many single or sole mothers who, statistically speaking, are also likely to be among the most impoverished people living in our community. ‘It is not a pathway into employment,’ Terese Edwards, the chief executive of the National Council for Single Mothers and their Children, has said of ParentsNext, ‘it is a pathway into homelessness.’”  


“When Scottish satirist Armando Iannucci brought his cluster-bomb insults and disdain for those who facilitate power to Washington D.C. in 2012, Barack Obama was near the end of his first term. Back then, a storyline where Selina might have to deny a rumour that she’d referred to ‘shithole countries’ would have been an absurd exaggeration of the White House status quo. In 2019 it’s just a minor entry on the cripplingly long list of Trump’s transgressions.”

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Inside the Greens and the unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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