Thursday, May 30, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

In defence of Bill Shorten
Let’s not forget what just happened

Source: Sky News

It’s been a case of no love lost since May 18, when Australians turned their backs on a disappointed Bill Shorten, the never-popular Opposition leader who lost the unlosable election. And as factional rivalries threatened to boil over within the Labor Party yesterday, it was unbelievable to read that a party source had told The Sydney Morning Herald that Shorten still had ambitions to the leadership position. Shorten has lost all claim to lead the Labor Party. He had the incredibly good fortune to be backed in by caucus over the will of the members when new rules made mid-term leadership change impossible, and had not one but two opportunities to win an election over six years of unprecedented stability and loyalty from his team. However, Shorten, who today gave a stirring speech to Labor’s first caucus meeting since the election, deserves praise for losing the way he did.

Shorten and his team embraced a “large-target” strategy, taking a gutsy, well-costed and well-thought-through policy platform to the election, and for that he and they deserve praise. We constantly moan about a lack of substance in politics – well, here was substance in spades. Stinging criticism from former senator and NSW premier Bob Carr was fair in some but not all respects. Why criticise Tanya Plibersek for promising to restore $14 billion in desperately needed spending on public schools, when just this week we read of a publicly funded elite private school, Scots College in Sydney’s east, building a $29 million library?

We could argue forever about the platform. There undoubtedly were policies that could have been approached differently – the unprecedented wage subsidy for childcare workers; equivocation on Newstart; the painful fence-sitting on Adani – and there was altogether too much to take in. But Labor had made a genuine effort to tackle outstanding problems, particularly on taxation, and its solutions will have to be revisited. Cash-refundable franking credits are a gaping hole in the budget. Ditto multinational tax avoidance, tax havens, and concessions for property investors. And, although no one will probably touch negative gearing again, housing affordability, if the market is about to turn, will only get worse. Penalty rates – tick. Uluru – tick. Republic – tick. It goes on.

Shorten declined to genuflect to Rupert Murdoch and for that he deserves praise – there is probably no other politician in the country who would risk the ire of our most powerful media mogul. Shorten finally stood up on asylum seekers, if ever-so belatedly, by backing the medivac laws in the face of a race-card election. Most importantly, after six years and after seeing off two Liberal prime ministers, Shorten grew confident in the job and, in a couple of moments of real insight, put his finger on the problem that is ailing Australian democracy: the loss of faith that politics even matters, that it even makes a difference, and the corresponding rise in the belief that the system is rigged against the ordinary person for the benefit of a few.

Scott Morrison has pulled off an amazing win – convincing Australians that he cares about them, and cares deeply – but his government has shown no sign of even recognising the problem of growing inequality, let alone having the answers for it.

“Unfortunately today there is no carbon price. And unfortunately it is free to emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It doesn’t feel right and it shouldn’t be like that. There needs to be a cost to change people’s behaviour.”

BP’s global head of carbon management Gardiner Hill, on the sidelines of the APPEA oil and gas conference, defying calls from Resources Minister Matt Canavan for industry to abandon support for a carbon price.

“Sometimes I think we might be biased. I think sometimes we could do with more diversity of views. Sometimes I think, people without really knowing it, let a bias show through.”

New ABC chair Ita Buttrose, apparently agreeing with critics of the broadcaster.


The number of Sri Lankan asylum seekers who were returned to Colombo after the boat they were on was intercepted in May. Those on board were detained at Christmas Island, and their asylum claims were rejected.

“He deserves to be comfortable and, to the extent that he may find some comfort looking out from the balcony to see his beloved beach and boardwalk, it is reasonable for that to be provided to him.”

Judge Wendy Strathdee of the NSW Dust Diseases Tribunal orders James Hardie to pay $664,000 to dying mesothelioma sufferer Ron Phillips, 84.

The list

“Almost all of the takes written in the immediate aftermath of an election result are wrong. It is too early for commentators to know anything beyond their own preconceptions, but the hack’s need for speed exists for a reason: already the name ‘Bill Shorten’ feels consigned to the past. Perhaps it always did. But before his memory is submerged, weighted by criticisms, we should add a bouquet to the wreaths: Bill Shorten did everything he was supposed to do.”

“This is a story of a runner being discriminated against. Even this month’s Court of Arbitration for Sport decision, which found in favour of a new rule that banned her, described the rule as ‘discriminatory’ yet ‘necessary, reasonable and proportionate’. In more nuanced terms this is a story of the intersection between sex determination, gender, human rights and disputed scientific evidence.”

“Appealing to the broader community is not the average Young Liberal’s immediate problem. Their biggest issue seems to be getting along with each other. As the ferry sails further down the river, supporters of Alex Hawke and James Stevens sit on opposite sides of the cabin. One gets the feeling that if someone from, say, the Left were to fall off the boat, nobody from the Right would rush to sound the alarm.”

From the Heart
Having once been rejected by government, the Uluru Statement from the Heart is readying for referendum. Stephen Fitzpatrick on what is next for Indigenous recognition.

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is also the author of three books, including a recently updated unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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