Modia Minotaur

Trawling the airwaves to spare you the agony!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Grabbing the Leadership By The Shorten Curlies

It had to happen: yesterday's headline in the Daily Telegraph - BILL FOR PM - that is, Bill Shorten, the will-be Member for Maribyrnong, (indeed, even despite the well-publicised battle for said seat, several commentators and politicos who should have known better were heard to comment that Shorten `should be a shoo-in for ALP pre-selection'). All very well for a sensational Tele headline, but by the evening, even the ABC TV news was leading with the dubious story.

What makes it so extraordinary - and dodgy - is the notion that, according to the usual Anonymous Powerbrokers in the NSW Right, the time has come for Shorten to bypass all ordinary avenues and head straight to the leadership.

Well, saaay - what's wrong with that?

Erm ....

The quite astounding thing is that Julia Gillard's suggestion that the party leader select his own cabinet rather than leave it to the whims of the factions can be rejected as outrageously anti-democratic when such an outrageously anti-democratic method of selecting the leader him or (ha! her) self is suggested with barely a blush.

Certainly, it wouldn't be breaking any rules to hold a pre-selection to rush Shorten into parliament. But nor would it serve any practical purpose other than the ambitions of Shorten and those that would like to see him rocket to the top. By-elections are expensive, annoying to the public, and best avoided. Bob Sercombe has both a right and a moral obligation to serve the people who elected him unless he no longer believes he can do so to the best of his ability. And that is something best decided by Bob Sercombe, not factional bully-boys.

There can be no doubt that Beaconsfield has turned Shorten into a household name and done a great amount to demonstrate the concrete impact of the Federal Government's WorkChoices legislation - two things the Opposition would like to do more of. However, associating himself too closely with Beaconsfield could also prove an albatross around Shorten's neck should public sentiment towards the miners change following the rather unseemly grab for cash for their story (which comes, let's not forget, as their fellow miners face a likely loss of livelihood due to the closure of the mine, and following the death of another miner). Public adulation and concern can turn to repulsion or - almost worse - pure indifference, in an alarmingly short period of time. The kidnap of Douglas Wood is a case in point. It was less than two years ago that many Australians were threatening to wipe Indonesia off the map in retalliation for the jailing of Schapelle Corby. Yes, that's right - Schapelle who?

In some ways, Shorten's rise, particularly as it has been portrayed in the media, is not unlike the ALP's previous golden boy, Mark Latham. For example, it seems unfair, setting aside the undoubted fact that Shorten worked long, hard, and passionately on the issue of Beaconsfield, that Kim Beazley received nothing but criticism for allegedly politicising the incident, but that it is Bill Shorten who will reap the real political rewards. As with Latham, the media's ears will always prick up at the notion of someone new, young, and potentially incendiary. No one who was involved at the time, no matter what they think of Latham in retrospect, will forget the excitement that accompanied Latham's ascendancy. Yet we must also be wary of Labor's obsession with unearthing undiscovered messiahs. There is no Gough waiting in the wings, and Labor needs to get over it rather than treating politics like a neverending game of Australian Idol.


At 10:38 am, Anonymous Guy said...


At 12:27 pm, Blogger Mick said...

I'm not sold on Shorten. There's something too rehearsed about his delivery, spotlighted on his Lateline appearances. I know he's learning the trade but it all appears very forced to me.

Yes, he can execute a grab, but there doesn't seem to be much substance in much of what he does. For Labor's sake, I hope there is.

At 12:53 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're right mighty pen - you don't get that feeling of sincerity burning, the way you did with Hawke. He does have substance, but it's probably more right wing than many people want to hear. Sometimes the guy is indistinguishable from the tories.

Good post Minotaur. Sercombe is the wrong faction and too pissed off to ever be persuaded to make way. The hope for a saviour is more an analogy with Hawke than Whitlam, because Hawke was outside Parliament when he made his run and Whitlam spent years winning, but I agree, it's hopeless to hope for just one person to save us from electoral doom. And I think Shorten's got a long way to go before it's apparent what he can really do.

At 5:16 pm, Blogger Minotaur said...

I think the comparison to Hawke rather than Whitlam is very apt, given that both arrived to the Labor Party via their high profile leadership in the union movement. Perhaps it's a sign of the times that, for the first time since the Hawke years, being a union head will actually qualify you as a household name!

I agree that if Shorten's hiding his light behind a bushel, he's keeping it pretty well hidden. I'm willing to give the bloke the benefit of the doubt, but I'm still waiting for the substance behind the gloss and waffle.

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