It’s time, again

By July 30, 2017Australian Politics

I just happened to watch part of federal opposition leader Bill Shorten’s speech to the New South Wales Labor Party Conference, held at the Sydney Town Hall this weekend1. This was unusual for me because, in recent months, when a politician appears on television and opens their mouth, I tend to hit the mute button on the remote. This is what I did when Senator Eric Abetz appeared this morning. His malevolent drone has always annoyed me almost as much as his antediluvian views on almost everything2 about which his church allows him to have an opinion.

Anyway, as I said, I watched most of Shorten’s speech and the one feeling I had was ‘About bloody time!’ Not only have the Labor Party taken guidance from the results obtained by Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, in realising that trickle-down economics a failure, but they also realise that the populace knows it is a failure. The floundering about of Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison telling everyone that inequality is not increasing and that everything is just peachy, tends to make you think that Morrison either does not know what is happening or is trying to pretend inequality is not rising. Morrison’s assertions were directly contradicted by the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Philip Lowe, who simply stated: “Well, it’s risen”, in reply to a question from the ABC asking if inequality was rising or getting better in Australia. Lowe did distinguish between wealth inequality, which has risen rapidly in the last five or six years because of rises in asset prices, and income inequality, which “has drifted up a little bit”3. Who would you believe, Morrison or Lowe?

The ‘About bloody time!’ feeling had the same ring to it, at least in my head, as the ‘It’s Time’ slogan from the 1972 Federal election. The result of that election changed Australia from a nation stuck in the middle of the 20th century, to one where we became a part of the late 20th century. We recognised China, established what became Medicare, instituted the supporting mother’s benefit, ‘granted’ equal pay for equal work to women (as much as a government can do), abolished the death penalty, established the Law Reform Commission, instituted the Family Court and non-punitive divorce laws, established needs-based funding for schools, made university education free, cut tariffs by 25%, established what became the Productivity Commission, established the Trade Practices Act, established what would become the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, established the National Sewerage Plan to connect suburban homes to sewerage, reduced the voting age to 18, provided the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory with senate representation, replaced the British Honours system, passed the Racial Discrimination Act, drafted the first Commonwealth Land Rights legislation (passed by the subsequent Fraser government), established the National Gallery, established the Council for the Arts, established the Heritage Commission, set up the Australian Film and Television School and granted independence to Papua New Guinea. All that in three years.

Australia is in a similar predicament as it was in 1971; it is now stuck in the late 20th century and policy paralysis indicates things are not going to change soon. We need to do something quickly before we become permanently entrenched in such a timewarped backwater. We need to do something about addressing climate change. If we do not, we will eventually be looked on as a pariah by most of the rest of the world and it would only be a matter of time before sanctions followed, whether they be governmental or popular boycotts. It is only the idiotic purchased politicians who think they can disagree with the science5. We need to allow same sex marriage. This is being obstructed by the religious nutters in the parliament, who will lie through their teeth to prevent it happening. Most people know that the idea of a plebiscite6, and the even more ludicrous postal plebiscite7 are simply delaying or obstructionist tactics to at least slow down the process, at best to prevent it somehow. Both are non-binding and parliamentarians are not obliged to follow the result, so will have a free vote in parliament anyway, something which they could, and should do, now, but they are prevented from doing so by their religious nutter colleagues. Shorten has promised to have a referendum on the establishment of an Australian Republic, asking a simple question on which he seemingly cannot be outmanoeuvered as then head of the Republic Movement, Turnbull, was outmanoeuvered by then Prime Minister Howard in the 1999 Republic Referendum.

I have never seen Shorten so animated as he was delivering this speech. This made it clear to me that: it’s time to get serious about dealing with climate change; it’s time to legalise same-sex marriage; it’s time to have a proper vote on a republic; it’s time to get Australia into the 21st century; it’s time to stop deluding ourselves that people will be satisfied with crumbs from the tables of the rich. It’s time, again.

Sources

  1. http://www.nswlabor.org.au/conference2017
  2. http://www.blotreport.com/australian-politics/eric-abetz-minister-for-the-19th-century/
  3. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-26/rba-says-inequality-getting-worse/8746594
  4. http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/gough-whitlam-left-a-long-list-of-achievements-20141021-119cpu.html
  5. http://www.blotreport.com/australian-politics/parliamentary-climate-scientists-emboldened/
  6. http://www.blotreport.com/australian-politics/plebiscite-for-the-gutless/
  7. http://www.blotreport.com/australian-politics/going-postal/

 

11 Comments

  • Jon says:

    I’m not convinced, although I haven’t heard the speech. Frankly I find Shorten fake – give me a down to earth bloke like Albo who talks from the heart any day. It’s difficult to know what Shorten actually stands for let alone what his vision is for the nation. Perhaps he simply has communication problems (BIG communication problems at that), and very likely he pays far too much attention to spin doctors and image makers, but whatever it is he doesn’t come across as a leader with conviction or passion. I also doubt his competence. God knows he’s been given numerous opportunities to expose Turnbull and his government’s incompetence and hypocrisy but he’s done sfa to make them accountable in the public arena. The current favourable opinion polls certainly aren’t a reflection of the Opposition’s efforts in my opinion. The republic issue is nothing but a distraction and rushing a plebiscite through in your first term will likely set it back another decade.

    Still, almost anything would be better than the smug, inept conservative rabble currently in power.

    • admin says:

      Jon,

      Yeah, Shorten is not a natural orator like Hawke, Keating, Whitlam or Menzies, but this speech was a surprise to me. Like I said, I usually hit the mute button when a pollie appears onscreen and opens their gob, but the fact that it was much more animated than I have ever seen Shorten (which isn’t saying much) made me keep it on. Like you, I am suspicious of all politicians, because I think politics as it is today attracts the sort of people who shouldn’t be allowed to take public office. However, the fact that Shorten was so animated gave me hope that perhaps there is a spark of humanity and passion somewhere in there.

    • Arthur Baker says:

      I have to agree, Jon, Bill Shorten has always been a one-man public communications disaster area, and still is. Admin, “animated” simply doesn’t do it for Shorten, because the animation goes into the wrong areas and comes across with all the inspiration of yesterday’s egg-and-lettuce sandwich.

      The man’s cadence is all wrong; his posture is usually hunched or wavering; he waggles his head back and forth from one shoulder to the other; he often looks like he’s about to burst into tears, eyebrows raised and lips curled downwards; when he tries a pre-prepared line in an attempt to cut through, it’s inevitably a damp squib because he gets the intonation and word-stresses all wrong (brilliantly satirised as ZINGERS by Shaun Micallef for years now, but Shorten either hasn’t noticed or is incapable of improvement); when he drops his tone into a low accusatory growl towards his political enemies, it sounds contrived and false; there’s little humour and virtually no spontaneous wit.

      I can hardly watch the guy, and the more animated he gets, the worse I think it looks and sounds. Wrong man for the job. As Jon says, give me Albo any day. We’re probably stuck with Shorten now, but I feel he costs the ALP 3 or 4 percentage points every time he gets on camera. The nerdish Rudd had at least a moderate ability to amuse and entertain, and even the plodding repetitive rhetoric of Gillard sometimes displayed a spark of wit (“Don’t write crap – can’t be that hard”), but when I compare Shorten to Keating, Hawke and the immortal Gough, I just despair. Hopeless.

      • Jim says:

        Like Jon and Arthur I have serious doubts about Bill Shorten and have had them for some years. If you will recall the amazing rescue of the two miners at Beaconsfield a few years ago, Bill Shorten kept on appearing on TV as a union rep, despite the fact he had flown in from Melbourne. He was not required and was basically in the way. The mine rescue guys knew precisely what they were doing and did not need outsiders telling them what to do.
        Nevertheless, the ALP should win the next election. One good thing about the current opposition is that they are actually producing policies, unlike previous oppositions such as those led by Kim Beazley who either produced a disastrous “small target” approach or he had that crazy education policy put together by Barry Jones–remember the amazing spaghetti diagram–bloody silly. However, in my view the climate change and same sex marriage debates are to some extent irrelevant. The main problem is the economy, power prices etc. The republic debate is little more than a distraction at this stage of the game. However, at least the question to be put by the ALP is sensible and to the point, rather than the sneaky question put forwards by John Howard.
        If the ALP win the next election, which they should, I hope they do better than the Rudd and Gillard governments. Rudd did nothing apart from erect useless school halls and hand out money that I suspect was largely wasted. Every time I drive out to the campus I go past two of these school halls that are at schools that are not only closed, but known to be closing at the time of the building of the halls. It is absurd.
        As noted above,the Whitlam government was a breath of fresh air, although his big mistake was selecting John Kerr as Governor-General.
        PS. If you are ever near Launceston, it is worth going to the Beaconsfield Museum. There is a lot on the mine rescue, but there is a lot more than that there.

        • admin says:

          Jim,

          How you could consider that climate change and same sex marriage are irrelevant is beyond me. While some of the right wing nutjobs don’t believe the science, or at least keep telling us that we cannot do anything because we are only a small part of the world, they do not seem to realise that the world is made up of nearly 200 small parts and we all have to pull together. If Australia does not, I suspect it will only be a matter of time before there are sanctions of one sort or another. Same sex marriage is not irrelevant either. It doesn’t directly concern you and I because we are not in that situation. I know people to whom it means a great deal. And another thing; the Rudd tactic of giving everyone $1,000 and building school halls, was done on the advice of Ken Henry and it worked brilliantly, something which staggered me at the time. However, now I understand why it worked; it was a Keynesian solution to a Friedman problem. That is why the Liberals hate the fact that it worked and have tried to badmouth it ever since.

          We might be down in Tas in the first half of next year; if I am required as a drinks waiter.

        • Arthur Baker says:

          Ah yes, the spaghetti diagram, Knowledge Nation. I’m sure Barry Jones knew what it all meant, but it was way beyond the grasp of your average Joe, and a bad tactical error. The best possible outcome would have been for it to simply fade into obscurity without anyone noticing it. No such luck. It had probably taken even the formidable intellect of Jones several weeks to cobble together, but it took around four seconds for the detestable smirking innumerate Costello to re-label it Noodle Nation, and from that point it became a liability, a source of scorn and derision.

          The ALP has a longish track record of giving the LNP easy free kicks. Let’s hope Shanghai Sam Dastyari’s recent efforts in the same mould don’t scupper Labor’s drive for government next time around.

  • Jim says:

    Like Jon and Arthur I have serious doubts about Bill Shorten and have had them for some years. If you will recall the amazing rescue of the two miners at Beaconsfield a few years ago, Bill Shorten kept on appearing on TV as a union rep, despite the fact he had flown in from Melbourne. He was not required and was basically in the way. The mine rescue guys knew precisely what they were doing and did not need outsiders telling them what to do.
    Nevertheless, the ALP should win the next election. One good thing about the current opposition is that they are actually producing policies, unlike previous oppositions such as those led by Kim Beazley who either produced a disastrous “small target” approach or he had that crazy education policy put together by Barry Jones–remember the amazing spaghetti diagram–bloody silly. However, in my view the climate change and same sex marriage debates are to some extent irrelevant. The main problem is the economy, power prices etc. The republic debate is little more than a distraction at this stage of the game. However, at least the question to be put by the ALP is sensible and to the point, rather than the sneaky question put forwards by John Howard.
    If the ALP win the next election, which they should, I hope they do better than the Rudd and Gillard governments. Rudd did nothing apart from erect useless school halls and hand out money that I suspect was largely wasted. Every time I drive out to the campus I go past two of these school halls that are at schools that are not only closed, but known to be closing at the time of the building of the halls. It is absurd.
    As noted above,the Whitlam government was a breath of fresh air, although his big mistake was selecting John Kerr as Governor-General.
    PS. If you are ever near Launceston, it is worth going to the Beaconsfield Museum. There is a lot on the mine rescue, but there is a lot more than that there.

  • Arthur Baker says:

    Article by Anne Summers in the SMH sums up Bill Shorten’s problem: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/bill-shortens-biggest-challenge-is-to-make-himself-more-likeable-20170908-gydbcl.html.

    Here’s a quote: “People can’t necessarily put their finger on precisely what it is. Some will say it’s his voice, or his delivery, his lame zingers, or the way he shouts when he’s giving a speech. Others say that he’s not trustworthy, or that he is unauthentic. This unease, this dislike, is widespread.”

    • admin says:

      Arthur,
      I agree that Shorten is not the sort of person I would, I suspect, immediately take to, if I knew him. However, it is not personalities we need to fix the shemozzle that is modern Australia, it is policies. Turnbull certainly doesn’t have them. If he once had them then they have been jettisoned so he could become prime minister. Turnbull is perhaps more urbane than Shorten, but that doesn’t alter the fact that he has ratted on any principles he had to knock over Abbott. I would much prefer to have someone with less charisma, but more substance. Substance is what is lacking in politicians these days.

      • Arthur Baker says:

        You’re right, of course. Policies are top priority. And the ALP does seem to be heading in the right direction (on everything other than how to deal with refugees, an area in which it merely meekly cowers under the tattoo of blows and kicks regularly delivered by the LNP). But imagine the kind of lead the ALP would have in the polls right now, if the current stark policy comparison were backed up by just the merest touch of charisma in the Labor leader.

        • admin says:

          Arthur,
          That goes almost without saying. Charisma is something to be desired so that you can attract the voters whose knuckles normally drag on the ground. This is mostly because they wouldn’t know a decent policy if it bit them on the arse. The only people who had the sort of charisma required over recent decades were Whitlam, Hawke and Keating, and that is because they were handy with a microphone, witty and erudite, and actually had some policy nous. It is no surprise that the biggest changes to Australia occurred during their interludes. Whitlam brought Australia out of the 1950s, and Hawke and Keating brought us out of the 1970s into the modern trading world. Howard and Abbott have been trying to drag us back to the 1950s ever since.

Leave a Reply