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All opposed: Shorten needs to start stinging like a Beazley


Approx Reading Time-11With yet another poll highlighting the slipping favour of Bill Shorten, we feel he should seek the tutelage of a former opposition leader…


According to a recent RealTech poll, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has returned from the Summer break as the cool kid, leaving Opposition leader Bill Shorten with a paltry 19.2 percent of votes as people’s preferred choice of PM. The two-party preferred result is far more even, at a 55/45 percent split. Perhaps the problem lies within the cut of the suit.

Maybe Bill Shorten is too nice to be Opposition leader.

Much like a debt collector, the role of Opposition leader is a job few are suited for, and at which even fewer are lauded as great. For a great debt collector is still seen as an antagonistic leech upon society (even if it’s you who hasn’t paid the bill). The Leader of the Opposition is a political alcove that demands a ruthless will, petty mindset and a booming assured voice used mainly to refute. It’s not a position that rewards the muffled, the empathetic or the well-meaning. Which might explain Bill Shorten’s quandary. He might be the wrong kind of critic for Australian politics.

He seems to be more Margaret than David.

From day one of the Turnbull Government, it hasn’t gone well for Shorten. Picture the scene. The first Question Time after the spill. Abbott was gone, Turnbull was in. The Liberal house was still in rank disarray, with the spectre of the Abbott Government jangling chains on the backbench. Despite the action of the night before, it should have been Labor’s morning. But it wasn’t. With the breast of the Liberal Party exposed, Shorten was unable to sink the knife into the labouring beast. That first Question Time was always going to be a waffle, but what was needed was the strongest of strong voices. To form the largesse of ruffled feeling into edged sentences to flay those who sat opposite.

Instead, he hurled poorly aimed barbs over the political barricade, (only to see the Speaker of the House return them with a “please explain,”). Meanwhile,  Turnbull watched the clock. As it struck 3pm, Mal was unable to be lead into the truck marked “Glue Factory,” instead, he bolted clean out of the stables.

Not that it’s all Shorten’s fault. He has been faced with a tough national mindset, as a large number of us believes that it was Turnbull who taxidermied the maligned Abbott, not Shorten. Shorten had him in the approval ratings prior to the spill, but crucially, didn’t swing the axe. Abbott’s own performed the coup de grâce. Turnbull’s perceived opposition to all things Abbott is probably one of the reasons why we’re in month four of our stay in the honeymoon suite. But it’s not to say that Shorten hasn’t had his opportunity to interject. The potential increase of the GST to 15 percent is a particularly good example; despite its purported legitimacy (or not), it’s a chance to put an educated hand up. Shorten has since been accused of ditching his mantra of “the year of the idea” in favour of a nationwide scare campaign, inclusive of dad jokes that highlighted his passioned opposition of the tax hike.

Looking back through some source material, the prefix “low” seems to be unfortunately attached to the word “Shorten.” December 8: “Fresh low,” November 24: “New low.” It seems to be a tune that has been played to death since September 15. A familiar dirge, bringing on the most familiar of cold shudders. New poll, same result. Here we go again, with the political macarena.

According to a recent poll, hey, Turnbull’s winning,
On the two-party system, and the Labor party’s trailing,
Preferred PM, and hey, Turnbull’s winning,
Heeeeey Turnbull’s winning, AAAhH

Enough already. One sided political discourse is not going to make us better. But to say Shorten’s goose is cooked would be off the mark – his goose is still defrosting in the sink. It never really made the oven. That’s not to say that it won’t, but I feel a rash change of direction may be needed, lest the needle will again mark the same grooves on the broken record in the AusPol Jukebox.

Maybe Shorten needs to glean inspiration from a past colossus in his own party, the epitome of an indefatigable Opposition leader: Kim Beazley. Beazley was a man who knew how to interject, no matter how hopeless his chances were, and he certainly didn’t allow an uber-popular coalition leader to dampen his spirit, such as in 2006, when the AWB was accused of passing on bribes to the Saddam regime to the tune of $290 million. With the Howard Government denying any knowledge, cue a Beazley chorus from stage left:

“The Prime Minister, the foreign minister and the trade minister were the three wise monkeys: they saw no evil, they spoke no evil, they heard no evil, but they knew all about it.”

Out of context, it is nothing more than a soundbite, but it’s something sorely lacking the current political climate.

He still can float like a Shorten, but he might need to start stinging like a Beazley if our current Opposition leader wants to survive the summer.


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