How Bill Shorten Has Lost The Plot

Posted by on May 02, 2017

I have a theory about Labor Governments.

From the high-water mark of the Hawke years, they are getting progressively worse.

In the 1980s, Bob Hawke set the gold standard for Labor, combining economic openness and fiscal restraint with an effective social safety net.


It’s been downhill since then.

The Keating Government lost touch with the electorate by focusing on low-priority symbolic issues, such as the Republic, affirmative action and arts funding.

This was a nascent experiment with identity politics, which ended badly for Labor at the 1996 election.

The Rudd Government (2007-10) did some good things in its first 12 months but then fell into chaos with unsustainable deficit budgeting and policy gridlock on climate change.

Julia Gillard’s administration was even worse, a rolling pantomime of scandals, broken promises and a leader clearly out of her depth.

With opinion polls pointing to the likelihood of a Labor victory at the next election, we have to ask: what about a Shorten government?

After the failings of the Rudd/Gillard era, Bill Shorten needed to take his party in a different direction: to rediscover the benefits of economic productivity, balanced budgets and a unified Australian society.

There’s much work to be done in bringing Australians together: in making us one people, not a series of warring racial, gender and sexuality tribes.

The new Opposition Leader needed to give fresh life to the Hawke agenda, to return Labor’s core values to the time of its most successful period in government.

This was what I told Shorten when we met over lunch in Liverpool in 2014.

I told him to stand up to the Left faction and assert his leadership around what was right for the party and the nation.

Either he’s a poor listener or I was a lousy advocate, because he followed none of my advice.

He took the line of least resistance, caving into the Left on economic issues and the primitivism of identity politics.

Little Billy is a lost cause.

By every indicator, he will lead a Labor government worse than Rudd and Gillard – as impossibly dreadful as that might seem.

On economic policy, Shorten has given up on growing private sector incomes through productivity reform.

He has drunk the Kool-Aid of “Inclusive Prosperity” – an economic theory brought to Australia by Wayne Swan.

When I first heard of Inclusive Prosperity, I thought it must have been a strategy for growing the economy and then using social policy to give people greater opportunities in life.

It actually works the other way.

Shorten and Swan believe that increasing social spending can make Australia more prosperous – tabbing up extra debt and deficit as a viable financial strategy.

At the launch of Labor’s economic policy in Brisbane last year, Shorten said, “Fairness is not a dividend of prosperity, it is a foundation for sustainable growth”.

What planet is this bloke from?

The only sustainable pathway to economic growth is through people working smarter and harder, making Australia more efficient and internationally competitive.

We need lower taxes, greater financial incentive and higher productivity – not another madcap era of Swan-inspired spending, notched up on the national credit card.

Labor has redefined bulk-billing rates as an arm of economic policy.

So next time you take your kids to the doctor, according to Shortenomics, it’s not about curing a virus or rash, it’s a new form of wealth creation.

This is a zany and dangerous doctrine, from a party unfit for government.

Four years ago, Labor’s Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen wrote a book, Hearts and Minds, in which he declared his support for open economic markets.

But he no longer talks that way.

His sole focus is on the political trickery of housing affordability.

The best way of lowering housing costs is by lowering housing demand – cutting Australia’s massive immigration program.

But Bowen can’t do that as large Middle Eastern ethnic groups have taken control of Labor politics in his Western Sydney electorate.

Bowen’s policy is to abolish negative gearing concessions for existing housing stock.

This will produce a flood of negative gearing money into newly constructed rental housing, adding to urban sprawl and congestion.

As a captive of migrant interests, Bowen is set to deliver the worst of both worlds: a continuation of Big Australia immigration numbers driving up housing prices; plus more unsustainable growth on Sydney’s sprawling urban fringe.

At every turn, Labor’s economic policy is a disaster.

It’s not even based on the right premise.

Shorten, Bowen and the other economic shadow ministers, Jim Chalmers and Andrew Leigh, are always banging on about rising inequality.

Yet the Hawke/Keating policy legacy has delivered a fairer society.

Australia’s most reliable labour market survey, HILDA at the Melbourne Institute, has concluded that, for the period 2001-14, every measure of inequality actually improved, edging the nation closer to income equality.

Labor is in la-la land.

Shorten and his frontbench have allowed Left-wing nonsense to wreck the credentials of what was once Australia’s most credible party of economic reform.

In the culture wars, their thinking is no less damaging.

Shorten plans to import the Victorian Daniel Andrews Leftist model to Canberra.

Instead of treating people on merit, the ALP now judges social issues by skin colour, gender, sexuality and religion.

It has embraced the Human Rights Commission, safe spaces, Safe Schools and Left-wing Islamists like Yassmin Abdel-Magied.

Its policies are based on separatism, on using the power of the state to shield Aborigines, Muslims, women and gays from “privileged white men”.

This is destroying the original intent of multiculturalism and Indigenous reconciliation.

Instead of uniting Australians around common values and common cause, identity politics is pushing people apart.

It’s breeding fragility, victimology and a feeling that we’re only safe in the same room together if we look alike.

Rest in peace, my old party.

Labor is no longer a viable force for economic growth and social justice in Australia.

Follow Mark Latham at @realmarklatham and

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