By Mike Welsh
Opposition leaders are almost always in an election mode of some form or another and none more so than leader of the Australian Labor party Bill Shorten.
While the flag has not officially dropped to start the 2016 election campaign, Deputy Opposition leader Tanya Plibersek said last week that Labor was ready and had been for some time.
Plibersek revealed nothing new. Party leader Bill Shorten has been tramping around the country flogging policies and taking potshots at the mostly Abbott government ever since he was elevated in 2013 . But now it gets serious. Not only is it time to drop the cheap shots but Bill has to be accountable.
Tony Abbott was a brilliantly effective Opposition leader but when the “Rubber hit the Prime Ministerial Road” he quickly lost traction and had a major blow out. Bill Shorten had a slight chance of ousting the accident prone and seemingly arrogant and out of touch Abbott but he’ll need to be much more precise and politically pragmatic now that a confident and competent Malcolm Turnbull stands between him and the ultimate political prize. All of his political ducks will have to be lined up and he’ll need to be slap bang in the centre of them too.
It’s no longer enough to just simply mouth the vacuous and traditional left campaign slogans such as the latest PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST. This time there are no “boats to be stopped” , “carbon taxes to be repealed” or “free trade agreements to be locked in”. For example he’ll have to demonstrate to the electorate that the traditional “non negotiable” Labor policies are in fact back on the table. The ABCC reform and Same Sex marriage to name just two . Bill needs to keep the unions in the tent while holding the flap open for a substancial chunk of others to take a peek inside.
The camping analogy featured heavily very early in the Opposition’s election campaigning when Bill Shorten displayed his ambition to be all things to all people. As guest speaker at the Australian Christian Lobby’s annual conference at the Hyatt Hotel in Canberra in October of 2014 the “voice” of the Beaconsfield Gold mine rescue blatantly mined another rich vein of gold – the precious political treasure which flows from the conservative Christian vote.
On the same sex issue Bill invited the ACL delegates, quoting the crude LBJ solution to the J. Edgar Hoover problem, to come into the True Believer’s tent and “piss out” rather than be on the outside “pissing in”.
In the July 2012 essay by John Van Tiggelen in the Monthly a pic of the 2006 Bill Shorten featured under the banner…. WATCH THIS MAN’S FACE
On the politically fraught issue of marriage equality Bill Shorten challenged the ACL faithful, with its Tea Party tendencies and matching unfashionable baggage on gay issues, to swallow his preposterous pitch…good Book, party Line and hymn Singer. Showing the bluff which may see him slip into the Lodge, Bill brazenly marched onward, to the beat of a completely different drum from the conservative Christian soldiers before him in the Canberra Hyatt.
He told them that he too was a “real” believer rather than just another “Catholic” by chance of a school chosen for him his folks. No slouches in the manipulation of the message, the ACL did invite Bill to speak, fully aware of his party’s stance on same sex marriage.
Bill’s testimony of a “blended” brand of Christianity delivered at the ACL gathering in October 2014 would have had as much impact as a convert preaching to the converted. If Shorten is to go from Factional Warlord to Lord of the Lodge he has to comprehensively convince the electorate that he can make the conversion which Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd comprehensively failed to make.