The premise of my last post for THE AIMN, ‘’ Bashing Bill Shorten’’ was this.
‘’ In terms of political strategy I think for any
opposition leader to draw attention to himself (other than making
rudimentary comments) while his opponent is in self-destruct mode would
be political folly. The same goes for the release of policy. Timing and
patience is required. The only exception would be commentary on the
reform of his party’’
The Prime Ministers incredulous appointment of Prince Philip as an
Australian Knight and the following furore serves to reinforce my
The fact that we have knighthoods at all is insulting and
fundamentally undemocratic, and to give it to a bloke whose interest in
Australia is at best marginal, is extraordinary.
Then the PM with spellbinding cringe worthy ignorance calls social media
“graffiti on a wall” while his government spends 4.3 mil on finding out
the extent of its influence. One word suffices to describe him, it is
Luddite. But then the Prime Minister has always been guilty of being
‘’Thus the captain of team Australia continues to bat for the other side. Nobody wants to play on his.’’
If he had not already lost the peoples trust his decision to Knight a
92 year old boring Greek who has survived on the public purse all his
life most certainly has.
However, when reading the comments on my previous piece, two things
were apparent. The first was that Bill Shorten was not popular. This is
confirmed by similar postings on Facebook. The consensus seemed to be
that Bill Shorten should, with much urgency, become more aggressive,
spruik policy together with ideas and a planned future pathway for the
nation and a narrative that explained it all in Whitlam style
What was misunderstood in my piece was the presumption that I was
unsympathetic to these objectives. I am not. I want the same passion
advocated by other writers on this blog, but I was suggesting there were
a number of contexts’ to consider before making any ideological pitch
to the Australian public. And given Abbott’s pre disposition to terminal
political illness there was no hurry. He should be left to squirm and
fester in the cancer he has created.
Let’s look at context.
1. in the latest Essential survey when asked
‘’How much trust do you have in the following institutions and organisations?’’
Political parties were placed last on 13%. Regaining peoples trust is of
major importance to the progressive side of politics. (See list at the
end of this article.) Shorten has to build his and not rely on Abbott’s
2. It must be remembered that if in the unlikely event the Liberal
party replace Abbott with Turnbull (Bishop would be a major leap of
faith.) there would be a 10% turn around in the polls. This would not
make their task impossible because Turnbull would not necessarily be
able to turn around their stinking policies because there is enough
distrust among the Dries against him. He might be tightly reigned in,
and they may not give it to him regardless.
3. Many Labor policies are probably still a work in progress.
4. There is a widespread belief that the political system, our democracy, is corrupted.
5. It suffers from an emptiness of explanation that needs to be addressed.
6. The next Australian Labor Party National
Conference takes place in Melbourne next July. The conference is still
the supreme decision-making body of the (traditionally) centre-left
major party of Australian politics. National Conference is therefore the
main opportunity to secure ‘progressive’ change in ALP policies during
this term of Parliament, including on those issues affecting the LGBTI
7. 6% of eligible voters went missing at the last
election believing they were disenfranchised from the system. Given they
are probably disaffected Labor voters, Shorten has to win them back.
What should Shorten do?
In my piece, I counseled well thought out patience, letting Tony
Abbott self-destruct at his own pace. Of course he can’t afford to wait
around for Abbott to become terminal; it may not happen, and if it does,
it will only mean that he will fight another, and perhaps more
What I am advocating is that Shorten should firstly take on the high
moral ground starting with the repair of our democracy. Necessarily
required because of the destruction caused to it by the Prime Minister.
There is any amount of evidence for it.
There is no doubt that the Australian political system is in need of repair, but it is not beyond it.
Labor has already taken a small but important first step in allowing a
greater say in the election of its leader, however it still has a
reform mountain to climb. Besides internal reform that engages its
members, it needs to look at ways of opening our democracy to new ways
of doing politics: ways that engage those that are in a political
malaise so that they feel part of the decision-making process again.
Some examples of this are fixed terms, and the genuine reform of Question Time with an independent Speaker.
No Government questions etc. Mark Latham even advocates (among other
things) its elimination in a new book ‘’The Political Bubble’’. In fact
he makes many suggestions of considerable merit.
Shorten needs to promote the principle of transparency by advocating things like no advertising in the final month of an election campaign, and policies and costing submitted in the same time frame. You can add reform of the Senate into this mix, and perhaps some form of citizen initiated referendum. Also things like implementing marriage equality and a form of National ICAC. Perhaps even a 10 point common good caveat on all legalisation. A plebiscite on the question. Should we have an Australian as head of state?
Address inequality. The world’s richest 1 per cent will
own more than the other 99 per cent of the world’s wealth by next year.
It must promote and vigorously argue the case for action against
growing inequality in all its nefarious guises, casting off its
socialist tag and seeing policy in common good versus elitist terms. The same fight must also be had for the environment.
Appeal for bipartisan government for the common good as Howard did with Hawke and Keating. On top of this is the need to do something about politicians expenses and there justification.
We need to exercise our creativeness, use our brains, and talk about
what is best for ourselves as individuals, couples, families, employees,
employers, retirees, welfare recipients and what is affordable for the
future of the country.
The biggest issue though is a commitment to truth.
He needs to convince people of the need for a truly collective
representative democracy that involves the people and encourages us to
be creative, imaginative and exciting. In a future world dependent on
innovation it will be ideas that determines government, and not the
pursuit of power for power’s sake.
His narrative must convince the lost voters who have left our
democracy to return. (And I am assuming that most would be Labor),
Shorten has to turn Labor ideology on its head, shake it and re-examine
it. Then reintroduce it as an enlightened ideology-opposite to the Tea
Party politics that conservatism has descended into.
He must turn his attention to the young, and have the courage to ask
of them that they should go beyond personal desire and aspiration and
accomplish not the trivial, but greatness. That they should not allow
the morality they have inherited from good folk to be corrupted by the
immorality of right-wing political indoctrination.
He might even advocate lowering the voting age to sixteen (16 year
olds are given that right in the Scottish referendum). An article I read
recently suggested the teaching of politics from Year 8, with
eligibility to vote being automatic if you were on the school roll.
Debates would be part of the curriculum and voting would be
supervised on the school grounds. With an aging population the young
would then not feel disenfranchised. Now that’s radical thinking; the
sort of thing that commands attention. It might also ensure voters for
Why did the voters leave?
How has democracy worldwide become such a basket case? Unequivocally
it can be traced to a second-rate Hollywood actor, a bad haircut, and in
Australia a small bald-headed man of little virtue. They all had one
thing in common. This can be observed in this statement (paraphrased):
“There is no such thing as society. There are only
individuals making their way. The poor shall be looked after by the drip
down effect of the rich”.
Since Margaret Thatcher made that statement and the subsequent reins
of the three, unregulated capitalism has insinuated its ugliness on
Western Society and now we have an absurdly evil growth in corporate and
individual wealth and an encroaching destruction of the middle and
lower classes. These three have done democracy a great disservice.
Where once bi-partisanship flourished in proud democracies, it has
been replaced with the politics of hatred and extremism. Where
compromise gets in the way of power, and power rules the world.
3.3 Million Australians have tuned out of politics because of the
destabilisation of leadership, corruption on both sides, the negativity
and lies of Tony Abbott, the propaganda of a right-wing monopoly owned
media, and the exploitation of its Parliament by Abbott. Somehow the
lost voters must be given a reason to return. A reason that is valid and
worthwhile. A reason that serves the collective and engages people in
the process, and a politic for the social good of all – one that rewards
personal initiative but at the same time recognises the basic human
right of equality of opportunity.
Shorten needs to campaign for a robust but decent political system that
is honest, decent, and transparent, and where respect is the order of
the day. A political system where ideas of foresight surpass ideological
politics, greed, disrespect, and truth. Where respect, civility and
trust are part of vigorous debate and not just uninvited words in the
“The right to vote is the gift our democracy gives. If political
parties (and media barons, for that matter) choose by their actions to
destroy the people’s faith in democracy’s principles and conventions
then they are in fact destroying the very thing that enables them to
The reader might determine that the writer is an idealist of long standing. That is so and I make no apologies.
There is much in the way of common sense to support the narrative I
suggest but will a politician of Bill Shortens ilk take the plunge?
2015 will reveal the character of his leadership.
As President Obama said.
“A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s
basic decency instead of our basest fears. A better politics is one
where we debate without demonising each other; where we talk issues and
values and principles and facts rather than ‘gotcha’ moments or trivial
gaffes or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily
The Essential Report is a very interesting survey on how people rate our institutions.