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Turnbull accuses Bill Shorten of having no authority — with a straight face

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Opposition Leader Bill Shorten (screenshot via @BillShortenmp).

Hypocrisy has never stopped the mainstream media laying into Shorten while wilfully turning a blind eye to the Coalition — "Backflip Bill" rhetoric is just the latest example, writes Noely Neate.

THERE IS NOTHING I despise more than having to defend someone I’m not a fan of — and I’m not a fan of Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten.

Unfortunately for me, I also cannot abide by the too-common bad behaviour being condoned if you don’t like the person.

The amount of anti-Labor and particularly "Kill Bill" commentary from all segments of the media in the last few months, in particular, has been ridiculous. I expect this from News Corp publications, who have never hidden their loathing for Shorten and Labor, but Fairfax and the ABC too?

Fairfax's David Crowe nearly had me choking on my Weeties as I read his 'Labor's attack on Malcolm Turnbull's millions is fundamentally flawed, low-rent politics' piece:

'Yes, the Coalition throws mud when it can. Turnbull calls Shorten a “sycophant” who has sold out workers. This is a race to the bottom in Australian politics but it is no reason to shrug off the latest example.'

I am pretty sure this bloke has never once written a piece on the despicable slurs flung across the chamber towards Shorten and likely the repulsive treatment of former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, too. This is just one example of many in a similar vein.

If 'Class Envy Bill' doesn’t take your fancy, we now have, ‘Backflip Bill’ backing down on his Captains Call’. The Australian even has a piece titled, 'Bill Shorten backs down on company tax "captain’s call"', poking its head out from behind the paywall. You know what that means, kiddies, it must be bad for ALP if they are happy to let you read it for free.

For those who don't know the story behind all this, in a nutshell, Turnbull passed a bill where companies with a turnover between $10 million and $50 million get their corporate tax rate cut to 27.5 per cent. In my opinion, Shorten was caught off guard in an interview a few days ago, said he would repeal the tax cut for the aforementioned medium-sized businesses and all hell broke loose.

For starters, the spidey senses of the press pack realised this was off-the-cuff and probably not a decision that had been made in Caucus, nor even by the Labor leadership team, which is a pretty big no-no in ALP world. Then, of course, the "Kill Bill" crowd – who suspiciously always seem to be in tune with the likes of the Coalition Government and the Business Council of Australia – started the pieces decrying Bill hiking taxes on “small family-owned businesses”. I kid you not.

Fun fact: only a nudge over 20,000 people would be affected and "true" small businesses represent over 90 per cent of businesses in Australia and are under the $2 million turnover mark, so it's not really going to shut down the nation’s economy. But let’s not have the truth get in the way of a good Bill bashing.

Hence where we are today — a heap of Backflip Bill stuff. And isn’t Prime Minister Turnbull delighted? (Warning: put down that coffee cup if you have it in hand, might spit it out laughing at this one from the Sydney Morning Herald):

'Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull described the back-down as "completely and utterly humiliating" and showed Mr Shorten had "no authority within his own party."'

"Authority"?! Guess we have all forgotten about Turnbull being rolled by his own party over climate change, same-sex marriage, carbon tax — hell, this little beauty from Ben Eltham back in April 2016 is fun if you want to have a little meander down Mr Turnbull’s "I have no authority" and "backflip on everything lane": 'Agile Government: Turnbull Has Notched 17 Backflips In Seven Months'.

Seriously, Turnbull is the last person to be calling out anyone in this nation about having no authority.

Shorten was silly to make that "captain's call" and, to be frank, having made that mistake, the Labor leadership group were short-sighted in not backing it up. He now looks like he has egg on his face as well as weak for not standing up to big business. And, more importantly, it has reminded punters of those dark days of "men in grey suits" running the ALP, just when they were looking really united and stable after the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd years.

No election has been called yet; Shorten had time to "rephrase" along the lines of our thinking is … we will consult further … let you know when Malcolm calls an election, and the mainstream media would have found another shiny to get distracted about. The "Super Saturday" by-elections are looming and – if previous form is anything to go by – it would only be a few days before someone in the Coalition scored an own goal, so Shorten would not have been in the news for long.

We have also had "Electricity Bill" and "Unafforda-Bill" and there are probably more. So there you go, I have defended Bill Shorten.

I would have preferred to be flaying him for playing dead on the National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2018 and all the other national security stuff the ALP have waved through the Parliament since Abbott got the crown, while scared to death of the #TerrorFret or soft on national security bogey-man.

Or how about the fact Shorten has been silent and seems to be in lockstep with the Government on the charging of Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery for "conspiring" (read, doing his job). In fact, this utterly corrupt behaviour by our Government in bugging a small nation like Timor-Leste just to rip them off on gas should have the likes of Alexander Downer being charged and fronting up in court. It should not be the bloke and his lawyer who actually followed the procedure to raise "alleged" illegal behaviour of ASIS at the behest of the Government at the time.

Or let's hit up Shorten as to why he hasn’t condemned the odious sexist and abusive behaviour of Senator Leyonhjelm towards Senator Hanson-Young (another politician I’m no fan of but forced to defend due to a pesky moral backbone) while she was talking about women’s safety, of all things?

Yes, yes, I know neither the Senate President nor Prime Minister Turnbull has said or taken any action either, but we already know they don’t give a rat's about women. Plus, hypocrisy has never stopped a vast majority of the Australian media laying into Shorten while wilfully turning a blind eye to the Coalition blokes. 

I also despise how we have all been groomed into this voting for "the leader" rubbish. A leader who we don’t even actually choose, political parties do. But here we are. We probably have an election looming, yet for those who are not rusted-on to either of the big two parties but care about a civil society in Australia, we are left with a choice of “worse” or “worserer” — yes, I know this is not a word, but sadly, this child-like term is apt in this situation.

By all means, scrutinise Bill Shorten, he could be our next prime minister, but could we at least call him out for actions and statements that matter, not fell whole forests over rubbish of little substance?

Read more from Noely Neate on her blog YaThink?, or follow her on Twitter @YaThinkN.

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