shorten

SHORTEN SPOOKS CONSERVATIVES

Yesterday at the National Press Club, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten put the collywobbles up the conservatives who make up the bulk of Coalition voters by talking about change. Not his change, of course, but that which Shorten claims the Abbott government is going to inflict on the Australian populace.

For if there’s one thing conservatives don’t like, it’s change. They take comfort from the status quo, and when faced with change they get anxious. If this anxiety reaches a high enough level, conservatives can feel resentful and eventually turn on whomever they think is responsible for causing the upheaval.

So this was a curious feature in what was otherwise a pedestrian first speech as Opposition Leader to the NPC.

shorten

The speech ostensibly was an attempt to frame how the opposition would (and the media ‘should’) judge the upcoming May federal budget. Proving that Treasurer Joe Hockey’s rather jaded debt and deficit routine still stings, Shorten provided another defense of Labor’s spending record and regaled listeners with the well-worn story of how Kevin and Wayne saved us from the GFC.

“The Liberals see the 2014 Budget as a political opportunity to tip a bucket on Labor’s economic record and to falsify the past,” Shorten warned. “I will not let this go unchallenged.”

The Opposition Leader listed four criteria on which the budget would be judged, because “every budget is a window onto a government’s soul”. (Yes, he really did say that). These KPIs are that: Australia must remain in the world’s 10 wealthiest countries, the Coalition must deliver the one million new jobs they promised, Australia must retain our AAA credit rating, and taxes must not increase as a percentage of GDP.

Significantly, these are not necessarily measures of good economic management, and therefore not really about the budget at all, but rather tests of whether Abbott has fulfilled his election promises.

Perhaps recognising that broken promises don’t always put off voters, the Opposition Leader also scattered allusions throughout his speech to the changes Abbott will wreak, and the concerns Shorten holds for those who will either be adversely affected or left behind:

“…I have also seen the consequences of people being left stranded by change. Too often these are the people who can least afford to lose out: older Australians, Australians on a fixed income, Australians with fewer transferable skills and Australians with disabilities…

“A government’s priorities can determine whether people are the victims of change – or its beneficiaries. That is why the choices the Government must make in its upcoming Budget are so important. There is a bleak, hopeless brand of Darwinism that argues adapting to economic change requires deep cuts to services, longer unemployment queues, lower wages and lower levels of government support. We utterly reject this.”

And later:

“I want an Australia that shares the benefits of change with everyone. An Australia where economic transformation is not seen as an inevitable cause of unemployment and social dislocation but an agent of opportunity…

“Because the way a government responds to change – and anticipates change – is the best measure of its values, and conclusive proof of its priorities. In the last six months – Tony Abbott has failed to show leadership on how to handle change for all.”

So Shorten took great pains to warn that the winds of change were upon us, and that, really, conservatives aren’t all that bad:

“I do have respect for conservatives. I admire the sheer persistence of John Howard. And I do have respect for Tony Abbott – of course I do. But that doesn’t mean I have to agree with him – or imitate his idea of leadership.”

He later pressed the point again, saying “I don’t dismiss people because they’re not traditional Labor voters.”

It will be fascinating to see whether this tactic bears fruit. The first measure of its success could be the Senate election re-run in WA where Labor already is polling strong. Wobbly conservatives may not be prepared to shift their vote to Labor though, and may end up switching to Clive Palmer’s candidates instead.

If that occurs it could have been misguided for Shorten to test-drive his ‘beware the change’ campaign so early. A better use of Shorten’s speech would have been to explain what he and his party stand for. This is more likely what poll-weary voters in Western Australia were looking for.

Sure, Shorten treated listeners to a grocery list of what the Labor Party believes in: economic growth, job creation, increased living standards, migration, multiculturalism, good unions (not bad union officials), ideas, profits, and not treating employers as the enemy. Bundled together, Shorten described these beliefs as ‘delivering prosperity with fairness’.

The Opposition Leader also outlined his own vision for the party: to reach out to new constituencies in order to represent the diversity of modern Australia, and to be the champion of small business, science and innovation, equal pay for women, and the regions.

But it’s likely voters who are unhappy with the Coalition government are looking for more than fine words from Shorten. Now more than ever, they’re conscious of the chasm that yawns between political rhetoric and action.

Labor voters who’d drifted away during the Rudd-Gillard war would have at least been heartened by Shorten admitting the party needed to build a modern, outward-looking, confident and democratic party. And in answer to a question, Shorten also indicated he’d have more to say soon on ‘modernising’ Labor’s relationship with unions.

Kevin Rudd and Simon Crean were the last Labor leaders to try tampering with the nexus between unions and the ALP – and both were cut down by the unions in retaliation.

Shorten’s message to beware the winds of change may spread further than he first intended. So it will be interesting to see whether unions or conservatives become the most spooked by the Opposition Leader’s foreboding NPC proclamations.

 

paula-matthewson*Paula Matthewson has worked in and around federal politics for nearly 25 years, variously as a media adviser and lobbyist but now as a freelance writer. She’s been tweeting and blogging about politics, the media and social media since 2009, and in 2013 founded the popular group blog AusOpinion. She blogs at Drag0nista’s Blog and tweets as @Drag0nista.

 

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39 Comments

  • Reply March 27, 2014

    oldfart

    good article

  • Reply March 27, 2014

    jg

    Full Speech here
    http://billshorten.com.au/national-press-club-address-2

  • Reply March 27, 2014

    Mr. J. W. van Egmond

    While Labor changes are forward looking, the government is changing at least trying to change into a nineteenth century mode.
    Which give the two parties each a different face. Both impossible we are not granted a place in which time runs both ways. The cliff of a Black hole would defeat both outcomes. That said the future is always closer than the past.

  • Reply March 27, 2014

    damelarksong4 (chris)

    I think Shorten’s line that you can tell the soul of a government by its budgets is spot on. You can also tell the soul of a government by its bigots, of which this government has plenty.

  • Reply March 27, 2014

    jg

    I like the lines,

    “I want to be a leader who unites Australians, not one who divides them.”

    “He’s (Abbott) an ideological bruiser who relentlessly crusades to divide Australian society into ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’.”

  • Reply March 27, 2014

    Mark

    I listened to Bill’s speech very closely and would describe it as a very good first speech …not sure what you mean by “pedestrian”

    It’s clear that Labor understands the need to move away from it’s Union roots …and engage with a broader constituency. Bill is the man to convert this idea into action.

    Bill also pointed out Abbott’s strategy of lying to the Australian people & exaggerating the debt/deficit situation which clearly doesn’t amount to the “budget emergency” they created to scare the populace into reluctantly accepting the austerity measures that will drive us into an unnecessary & highly damaging recession.

    He also confirmed that he will not be distracted by Abbott’s stunts, which are becoming more bizarre by the day. Bill has his mind firmly fixed on the long games of party reform and good progressive policy development.

    He is a very impressive politician in my view.

  • Reply March 27, 2014

    Gongite

    Didn’t enjoy this article. It is basically attempting to undermine Shorten and the ALP. For example, first the author suggests that Shorten did the wrong thing in criticising the Coalition as extreme, rather than defining what Labor stands for. Then, while admitting that Shorten did list what Labor stands for, she says voters want actions rather than words. Then when Shorten foreshadows action to reform the ALP relationship with unions, she claims this might scare the unions off. Can’t win against critics like that….

  • Reply March 27, 2014

    Gongite

    I should add that I am not particularly a Labor supporter. Just don’t particularly like articles like this that have an unacknowledged agenda.

  • Reply March 27, 2014

    JoanneH

    I agree with you Gongite. Labor defining what they stand for is good, but what are these “actions rather than words” that they can use in Opposition?
    It is too early in the electoral cycle for them to make policy promises, and it is the job of any Opposition to oppose/criticise – Bill Shorten is a long way off being a a ‘Dr No’.
    I thought Shorten had a good day yesterday; at the Press Club, where he spoke well, and in Parliament where he looked more confident.
    I think Labor really upset the Government by laughing at Abbott’s ridiculous revival of Knights and Dames. Abbott was snarling, and the media commented on how miffed he was, even printing some photos of him looking very aggressive – the way he looked at Julia.

  • Reply March 27, 2014

    bb

    There is no reason to “falsify the past” as Labor’s economic record stands for itself… absolutely woeful.

    Yes, we may have survived the GFC, but at what cost? Hundreds of billions of dollars in debt, tens of billions of dollars in budget deficit.

    The current government is going to have to work extremely hard to repair the damage done by Labor/Greens over the last 6 years. Our children will be paying their debt off for generations to come.

    His line that you can tell the “soul of a government by it’s budget” is an absolute joke. What exactly does the “soul of a government” look like when that government has promised over, and over, and over again to deliver a budget surplus, but instead delivers a massive deficit?

    I doubt that this speech will worry the government too much.

  • […] Shorten spooks Conservatives. 2nd post of the week at The Hoopla! […]

  • Reply March 27, 2014

    dg

    You gotta love the armchair economist!

  • Reply March 27, 2014

    Lucille

    Labor and the DLP stands for imprisoning refugees without hope, the DLP embraces bigotry. The Greens stood by those who knifed Julia. I am embracing the Russell Brand philosophy, and will not be voting for any party from now on.

  • Reply March 27, 2014

    Lucille

    NLP

  • […] Matthewson, writing in The Hoopla this morning, has produced a typically interesting column on the Labor leader Bill Shorten’s address yesterday to the National Press […]

  • […] Matthewson, writing in The Hoopla this morning, has produced a typically interesting column on the Labor leader Bill Shorten’s address yesterday to the National Press […]

  • […] Matthewson, writing in The Hoopla this morning, has produced a typically interesting column on the Labor leader Bill Shorten’s address yesterday to the National Press […]

  • Reply March 27, 2014

    ro.watson

    Form over substance. Shorten in your photograph accompanying this article, looks a bit like JFK? huh?

    • Reply March 27, 2014

      JoanneH

      ro., I think he does have a ‘Kennedy’ look, that photo reminds me of Ted and Bobby as well.

  • […] Matthewson, writing in The Hoopla this morning, has produced a typically interesting column on the Labor leader Bill Shorten’s address yesterday to the National Press […]

  • Reply March 27, 2014

    hels1

    I watched Bill Shorten’s speech yesterday and was heartened somewhat in that it felt like they had finally figured out what Abbott and his ‘men’ are up to and targetted this in a calm and direct manner. They rattled Tony in cabinet yesterday about his decision to reinstate dames and sirs (even John Howard turned away from this decision) and today finally brought a vote of no confidence in the Speaker(it failed but it is finally starting to get air play)

    They are beginning to look foolish and fast becoming a laughing stock. So all I can say is Come on Bill! We can get rid of this despicable group of dinosaurs who only want to punish its citizens and line their pockets on the way.

  • Reply March 27, 2014

    Sarah

    what happened when Labor was in back stabbing and putting Australia into debt. did they do us any good even i could make a speech with writers doing the work,I longer longer have any faith in the Labor party.

  • Reply March 28, 2014

    Dianne

    Conservative – averse to change, attached to traditional values.

    Does that define today’s Liberal party.

    Not on your nelly.

    In my opinion the party is a radical outfit. Some party folk and their supporters, are libertarian to the extent that they wobble on the edge of anarchism. Is that not what happens when government is dismantled?

    Smaller government. Smaller government. Is that not the mantra?

    Of course one can don the ermine cloak of tradition beloved by conservatives: imperial titles. Titles which plug us into a world of tiaras, swashbuckling, deep curtsies, thrones and castles and velvet of deepest plush.

    It is so sad.

    Meanwhile this mob is busy pulling down the scaffolding of our greatest achievement: the development of a nation which had equality for all as its very motor. Not always functioning as well as we would like, not by a long shot, but always chugging along.

    That is our tradition and it is one to cherish and nurture.

    To uphold that most noble of all traditions is your challenge Bill Shorten.

    I hope you take up your swashbuckling sword.

  • Reply March 28, 2014

    Carole/m

    Right on song Bb , with the same stale bullshit , right out of the LNP song book .
    Booring – Booring – Booring .

  • Reply March 28, 2014

    David Balfour

    Mr Abbott is a very confused man. On the one hand he is running a very loud “Cut the red tape” campaign while at the same time running an equally visible attack on the lack of red tape in relation to the pink batts under the Rudd government. The likeliest conclusion to that enquiry will be for more controls, not less.

  • […] Shorten spooks conservatives […]

  • Reply March 29, 2014

    Johnsie

    David, can you point to any of the red tape removal that will result in unsafe work and reasonably foreseeable deaths?

    • Reply March 29, 2014

      David Balfour

      How would I know? How would anyone know? All I’ve seen are images of the PM with symbolic heaps of red tape – with a touch of green – and scissors. Contents unknown.

  • Reply March 29, 2014

    JoanneH

    Abbott has moved into Kirrabilly House. He will be able to play Lord of the Manor, and entertain all his grateful Coalition lapdogs in the manner they feel is their entitlement.

    I thought I heard him say he wouldn’t live there, so I wonder if he will move to the Lodge when the renovations are completed in a few months time?
    He doesn’t have Howard’s rather weak excuse of having children at school in Sydney.

  • Reply March 29, 2014

    annem

    Well , Johnsie, l reckon the lack of red tape for the green army scheme will lead to exactly that!

  • Reply March 29, 2014

    Sandy

    Lack of red tape for financial advisers who won’t be bound to have their client’s best interests when advising and are instead more likely to advise clients to invest in entities which pay the financial adviser the best residual income/commission deal is a very unsafe work practice which could forseeably lead to bankruptcy/depression/addiction/suicide of vulnerable clients.

    Blind Freddy could see that.

    • Reply March 29, 2014

      Johnsie

      Sandy, to say your knowledge if the FOFA reforms and subsequent amendments are superficial would be an overstatement.

      If you are interested here is some guidance on the best interest duty: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/fofa-reforms-gold-standard/story-e6frg6zo-1226864714692#mm-premium

      If you are truly interested in understanding the conflicted remuneration restrictions try google, it will give you better information than relying on glib one liners from Corinne Grant or the Industry (union) Super fund network.

      The enormous red tape on the Financial Planning industry will lead to fewer people accessing advice because the cost is going up. Further, none of the FOFA reform provisions would have prevented the Storm debacle which was the catalyst for the union Suoer fund driven reforms.

      • Reply March 29, 2014

        Sandy

        Absurd as per usual Johnsie. Why would red tape lead to fewer people accessing financial advice? You are too dumb to debate. If only that were true. Financial advisers are like used car dealers. They provide financial advice that will benefit themselves. Again, any dipshit with brains knows this. I realise you know nothing about financial advice. Again, it would be wise to just listen instead of talking all the time.

        • Reply March 31, 2014

          Johnsie

          Oh Sandy, Seems I gave you too much credit by not spelling out the blindingly obvious. But here you go: the enormous increase in red tape in this (and any) industry directly leads to increased costs. There are two primary drivers for the low number of adult Australians (approx 19%) seeking financial advice. Number 1 is cost, number 2 is lack of trust.

          FOFA goes some way to addressing point 2, but exacerbates point 1 dramatically (which is the primary barrier).

          Conflicted REM bans are still there as is the Best Interest Duty as the link above spells out in detail. Let me guess, you made a bad choice of financial advisers right…?. Mine are great and fully disclose all fees like any other professional. They tell me upfront what they will cost and there is no link between product and fees. In fact, they don’t recommend product, just strategy. They work in closely with my accountant and lawyers when required. Such advisers have been around for a long time prior to FOFA. If you want a referral I’d be happy to point you in the right direction.

          If you have any other questions, just let me know and I’d be happy to assist

  • Reply March 29, 2014

    bb

    Carole/M. Yet another ad hominem attack. How utterly predictable, straight out of the leftist playbook :P

  • Reply March 30, 2014

    Carole/m

    Oh Dear ! There you go again Bb .
    Booooooooooooooooring .

    ” Yes , we may have survived the GFC but at what cost ?

    Are you actually serious with this ridiculous statement , do you really think that we would be better off If we had gone into recession , like many other countries , with the associated high levels of unemployment etc etc etc , as opposed to where we are, as one of the strongest economy’s in the world and with one of the lowest debts in the world .

    Too much of the Kool Aid Bb .

  • Reply March 31, 2014

    bb

    Carole. If all my comments are so “booooooooooring” then why do you keep engaging me?

    My wife always has to have the last word too :)

  • Reply March 31, 2014

    Diana

    I urge people like bb, johnsie etc. to familiarise themselves with the policies of neo-liberalism. This is exactly what we are seeing with the Abbot/Hockey govt. I wonder how many people who vote liberal realise the agenda is, in a nutshell, to move capital from the people to the corporations, in the name of their motto “economic growth” which “benefits everyone”. Rubbish! Only if we have effective social services to protect those who are struggling and hold a priority of creating a fair society, can we trust the theme of “economic growth” as priority. It is well proven that “trickle-down” economics does not work. It is the lie of the neo libs and the people who vote for them believe in their nonsense. It is all about looking after the top and forget the rest, “if you are not wealthy, don’t have a job, have a disability, etc. then it is you fault”, this is blame the victim mindset (no heart). When Abbot said on election night “Australia is open for business”, I cringed, because I knew what he really meant was “Australia is up for Sale”. And, so it is. Read about the “great new trade deal with China”, they talk about. Well China won’t be subject to the guidelines of the Investment Review Board, is just one area of concern. Consider these principles of neo-liberalism: MARKET RULES (no govt regulations for private enterprise, regardless of the negative consequences on social harmony, social equity, de-unionised workplaces designed to lower wages and thus increase Profits, not for “everyone to benefit” but for the few. Free trade and investment without a care for national sovereignty. CUTTING EXPENDITURE FOR SOCIAL SERVICES, but happy to subsidise big business with entitlements and tax benefits. PRIVATISE State and National assets (owned by the people) to corporate ownership, hence higher prices. It was recently made public that only 85 people own the huge majority of the wealth. This is a result of the neo-liberal policies that we are just beginning to see so BLATANTLY imposed on this country. Libs are only interested in creating wealth for themselves and the “elites”, anyone else is not their concern.

    • Reply March 31, 2014

      Johnsie

      Diana, thanks for the tip, but I’m already very familiar with the work of modern neoliberalists such as Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, Bill Clinton.

      I’d urge people like yourself to broaden your study to take in a well rounded view on topics. You say we are only just now seeing neoliberal policies Imposed in Australia.

      What of the much lauded policies of Hawke and Keating that were pure neoliberalism: privitisation, deregulation, decreased trade protectionism, floating the dollar, a goal of not running long term deficit.

      There is good and bad in most philosophies, but fortunately in Australia we have an outstanding system of social service to protect those who are unable or chose not to provide for themselves. This is one budget item that has always and will continue to see increased expenditure contrary to what you state as a philosophy of neoliberalism.

      The other primary negative you attribute to neoliberalism is simply not true – no regulation of private enterprise. This is just laughable. You are just using the term as a pejorative label. No different to those opposing some left leaning policies as socialists or commies.

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