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Wren's Week: Labor Party down but not out

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Anthony Albanese has announced himself as a candidate for leadership of the Australian Labor Party (Screenshot via YouTube)

Despite their loss at the recent election, the Labor party can regroup and become the beacon of hope Australia needs, writes John Wren.

Wren’s Week

23/5/19

I was wrong. We were wrong. The pollsters and the bookies were wrong. Everyone was wrong. The barbarians won. They were already through the gates, mind you. Their attendant Murdoch propagandists coupled with general apathy meant they’ve now taken over our homes as well. The election was a tragedy for Australia, the only real beneficiaries long-term will be coal miners like Adani and Clive Palmer.

The Coalition win will adversely affect every Australian who doesn’t benefit from cash refunds for franking credits. As our economy tanks and climate change accelerates, we will all be victims. Labor are short-term losers. They will analyse, reflect, refocus, choose a new leader and move on. Labor will learn from its mistakes, just as it learned from the leadership dysfunction of the Rudd/Gillard years.

The Liberals are short-term victors. They spent the last six months laying medium-term economic booby traps for the incoming Labor Government that they, too, expected to win. They even famously promised a surplus that they didn’t expect to have to deliver. Now they must both deliver it and suffer the consequences of their own malicious booby traps.

As a result, three days in we already see Morrison, dubbed ostentatiously by almost all on social media as the “The Liar from the Shire”, backtracking from his tax cuts and the re-appointment of the inept Melissa Price as Environment Minister (despite his promise to back her as late as the Friday before the election). Wholesale power prices spiked on news of the Liberal win — it’s not going to be pretty for the Libs. They’ll be found out, as if we didn’t know already. It’s important to remember that no non-Labor Government since Federation has ever lasted longer than three terms. The writing is on the wall.

So what of the result? The final writs are not in yet, but it looks as though the Libs will win 77 seats with a one seat majority in the lower house. In the Senate, the Libs will need to negotiate with the crossbench (mainly two Centre Alliance Senators and the very hostile returning Jacqui Lambie). When Turnbull won a single seat majority in 2016, Murdoch’s minions declared it a disaster for the Liberals and proceeded to tear him down. Now, when Morrison turns in the same result, they laud it as a triumph.

The Murdoch press were unashamedly biased throughout the election. It was, in fact, the worst I’d ever seen them. They can no longer be considered journalists or newspapers of record. They are simply the paid propaganda arm of the Liberal Party. The misinformation, disinformation, outright lies, innuendo and plain old-fashioned fake news swayed many voters. In the absence of policies, all the Liberals could do was promote fear and Murdoch happily stoked the fire and fanned the flames.

This, coupled with Clive Palmer gaming the system by spending $60 million plus on anti-Labor advertising slogans and conspiracy-theory based fear campaigns, also assisted disenfranchised Liberal voters back to the Liberal fold via his preferences. Make no mistake, democracy is under threat in Australia. When billionaire newspaper proprietors and coal barons conspire to use their money and influence to ensure they get the Government favourable to them, democracy is subverted. If any blue-collar or even middle-class voter thinks Murdoch and Palmer have their interests at heart, they are very sadly deluded.

But the loss was not solely Murdoch and Palmer’s fault. Labor went to the election with an extensive and well-thought out and comprehensively costed suite of policies. They made themselves a big target and sought a mandate for significant change from the electorate. It’s hard to miss a big target, so many of the Liberal Party’s scare campaigns hit home, particularly the franking credits cash refunds policy, a rort that costs the economy $6 billion per year and is increasing.

The Liberals know it’s not sustainable. A future Government is going to have to end it. It’s simply too costly. Liberal insiders told me this week they were hoping that it would be the Labor Party who wore the flak for ending the rort, now it may need to be them in the next couple of years. This is one of the booby traps mentioned above.

The election has eerie parallels to the 1993 Election. In 1993, The Keating Labor Government was into its third term. It was unpopular, yet the then Liberal Opposition Leader, John Hewson, authored his comprehensive suite of policies under the title of Fightback. He made himself a big target and Keating, the ruthless political animal that he was, tore him to pieces over it. He famously “did Hewson slowly”. Just like Shorten, Hewson lost the unlosable election.

Both Shorten and Hewson were upfront about their plans should they be elected. They said what they would do, outlined the costs and sold the benefits (neither were very good salespeople, I might add). They were honest and each lost their respective elections. In 2013, Abbott lied his way into power — who can forget his “no cuts” speech from the Sydney Football Stadium on the election eve. The liar from the Shire spent the last month lying through his Pentecostal teeth at every opportunity. The liars won.

This begs the question: When voters say they are fed up with lying politicians, why do they keep electing them and discarding the honest ones?

Now, I’m no fan of coal, but the vociferous Stop Adani mob were also instrumental in ensuring the Coalition won. Anybody who has spent time in Northern rural Queensland, in the coal and sugar Bible belt, will know that they don’t like “Southerners”. Southerners are anyone from South of Noosa and the further South you get, the worse they get. Inner city Melbourne lefties are, by definition, the worst and the only thing worse than a Southerner is a Southerner who is telling them what they should do.

Gough Whitlam famously said:

“The punters know that the horse named Morality rarely gets past the post, whereas the nag named Self-interest always runs a good race.”

When Bob Brown took his convoy of anti-Adani protesters into their heartland, the locals were indignant. Despite very few jobs coming from the largely automated coal mines, they had bought the Murdoch lies about the thousand of jobs at stake. They rebelled against the “Leftie Greenie Southerners” and voted against Labor (and the Greens) in their droves.

Labor now holds no Queensland seats north of Brisbane. Bob Brown and his anti-Adani cohort would have been better off staying at home. Their actions have now almost guaranteed that Adani (and Clive Palmer’s mega-mine) will proceed in some form. The Greens’ inability to read the room has wrought them the exact opposite result of what they set out to achieve.

I will leave readers with this. The late American civil-rights campaigner Ella Baker once stated, “the struggle is eternal”. Paul Keating famously stated that Labor “was on the side of the angels”. Chifley’s light on the hill may have flickered on Saturday but it didn’t go out. Labor will ultimately prevail.

And finally, thanks for your efforts and dedication, Bill. You took on a broken, demoralised party, riven by leadership dysfunction. You moulded a unified motivated and driven team. You, like Kim Beazley, will be one of the great Australian PMs we never had. Now it’s Albo’s turn. Lets back him in and get him over the line.

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