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The blunder down under: TBS election pre-fight preview
Ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to the event of the year, the one we’ve all been waiting for. The heavyweight fight that separates men from boys, pretenders from the professionals. A white knuckle bout where the winner takes all: the Blunder Down Under!
Ringside are our judges for this fight, the unimpeachable Australian public. In the middle, in the black and white stripes we have the AEC presiding over this bout to ensure there are no kidney punches or fishhooks.
In the Red Corner: the plucky little contender from Maribyrnong who earned his stripes in bare knuckle fights on the Union docks. Former ACTU champion, former AWU champion, former Kevin Rudd champion, former Julia Gillard champion and current Labor Party champion; this patient little battler plays the long game, usually hiding in the shadows waiting for his opponent to tire before attacking with a few surgically precise jabs to get the job done. His rise to the big stage has been hard fought and scrappy, and now he finally has the chance to take out the title. Standing at 5 foot 10 in the old language, put your hands together for the Challenger, the hidden Sabre from Labor, the Occlusion from the Union…Bill “Too” Shorten!
In the Blue Corner, we have the current Champion of the Australian Political Wooooorrlld. The powerful Rhodes Scholar from Wentworth who earned his stripes in the ring at Oxford. Former OzEmail champion, former Axiom Forest champion, former Goldman Sachs champion, former marriage equality champion, former climate change champion, former and current Liberal Party champion and current Aussie champion, this commanding figure has been a long time journeyman, finally taking out the title last year. He’s been plagued by injury in the lead up to the big fight but some commentators believe he is deftly playing possum, trying to get his opponent to overcommit. Matching the challenger at 5 foot 10, put your hands together for the Champ, the Right Wing Apron String, the Rich Sales Pitch…Malcolm “Raging” Turnbull!!
For a more detailed pre-match analysis, we turn to The Big Smoke‘s on-the-scene reporter, Rob Idol, with a look at how the fight might go down.
Well, it may not be “official” yet, but Australia is going to the polls on the 2nd of July and it’s going to be a double dissolution. As predicted, the PM’s ultimatum to the Senate over the ABCC bill resulted in the bill being rejected again and providing Turnbull with the trigger he needs to clear out both houses and hand it over the Australian Public.
If you had asked anyone six months ago, all predictions would have been for a landslide win for Turnbull and his Libs. As is so often the case, and particularly in the modern Australian political landscape, the game has shifted significantly. The polls that were so heavily dominated by both Turnbull and his party following the removal of his…unpopular predecessor…had most (myself included) wondering how Shorten could possibly make up the ground as he suffered from his own popularity crisis. What has followed has been a slow closing of the gap which now sees the two parties literally neck-and-neck on a two-party preferred basis.
Of more concern to Turnbull is the Shorten renaissance, with Bill’s satisfaction rating continuing to climb while Mal’s continues to sink. The preferred PM poll has also seen Turnbull continuing to drop and Shorten continuing to pull himself out of the sinkhole he was in not too long ago.
As any politician will tell you, polls, particularly at this stage, are hardly definitive. However, the trend should be alarming for Turnbull, particularly as the man who just bullied his way into an early election, and particularly as we know from recent history, a result defined by a desire to remove a PM rather than elect a new one is very much the way we do things now.
Turnbull, however, may have an ace up his sleeve. An ace that the Australian public has been waiting with bated breath for him to throw on the table. The ace that was responsible for his meteoric popularity following Abbott’s removal. That ace, put simply, is the real Malcolm. The Malcolm that promised movement on marriage equality, the Malcolm that believed in climate change, the Malcolm that sold himself as the personification of innovation and change. The Malcolm that didn’t have his twig and berries being held in a vice-like grip by the far right faction of his own party.
With an election looming, he has the opportunity to turn that around. The Australian public will forgive him for backtracking on everything he’s ever stood for. We’re smart enough to know that he had to make a deal with the Devil to remove possibly the most toxic PM in Australia’s history from within his own ranks. We know that the deal required towing the same line. He has the opportunity to prove that he was Batman all along – the hero that we deserved, but not the one we needed until now.
There is a mandate sitting in front of him like a dangling carrot.
Shorten, on the other hand, is bringing the “slow and steady wins the race” fiction to life. He’s actually presenting a reformative policy to the public in the form of upper-level super reform. He’s pitched a negative gearing policy that, whilst divisive, is a national conversation that we are long overdue to have and his pitch is well developed. He’s fought hard against those working to dismantle the safe schools program and been lauded for doing so. He’s continued to push for marriage equality and renewable energy. He’s faced the public with a united party front that appears to have stability – exactly the opposite message coming out of the Liberal camp. Most importantly, he found his big boy voice and called Cory Bernardi a homophobe to his face during a press conference, much to the pleasure and amusement of almost the entire country.
Basically, he’s been doing exactly what Turnbull should have been doing…and he’s been doing it well. He has out-Malcolmed Malcolm.
The main weakness that Shorten still has is perception. Everyone knows that his fingerprints were all over the handles of the knives that took out two successive PM’s from within his own party and many will never forgive him for it, primarily because the knives were thrust in the shadows. There are many that will never see him as anything more than a union thug, and there are many that don’t believe he has the nous to effectively manage the economy. The Abbott propaganda machine was extremely damaging in this area particularly, and it’s a very tough stain to remove.
We will all have to wait a little longer. The rhetoric will ramp up significantly from now, but it will explode following the budget next month. The quality of that budget and the quality of the budget reply from Shorten will dictate who is on top in the early rounds.
One thing is for sure…it’s going to get very interesting. Both the Challenger and the Champ have to make sure that their political conditioning is top notch. If the Champ adopts his current style, he will be on the ropes, caught cold, forever lamenting his chance to be a “somebody.” The Challenger needs to show that his game is more than parries and sucker punches; he needs to channel the inner brawler that we’ve seen glimpses of in the build up.
Most of all, let’s just hope we’re given a worthy title fight, with solid knockout blows and not twelve rounds of dancing around the each other, playing for a points decision.
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get ready to ruuummmbbbllleeeee!
By Rob Idol