What On Earth Is The Point Of The Australian Labor Party?

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They both start with the letter ‘L’ and they both end with ‘party’. But they’re the only ones celebrating, writes Liam McLoughlin.

Scott Morrison’s vision is a boot stamping on a human face forever, Pauline Hanson wants to bleach the Senate carpets and wear cricket whites to Question Time, Richard Di Natale thinks Mad Max is not a policy prescription, but what in God’s name does Bill Shorten stand for?

For too long there hasn’t been much of a choice for Labor voters. They could vote for the party whose leader promised to stop the boats, advocated boat turnbacks, killed the momentum of #LetThemStay, hobnobbed at exclusive, expensive fundraisers for business leaders, accepted political donations from fossil fuel companies, supported new coal mines and backed rafts of legislation transforming Australia into a police state, or they could vote for the Liberals.

In the last fortnight alone the great party of Australian workers not only backflipped on their opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) but also voted down a motion for stronger lobbying laws. Signing up to the TPP will drive down already stagnant wages and increase the power of multinationals, while opposing the lobbying laws will make sure people like Cameron Milner (former chief-of-staff for Bill Shorten and main lobbyist for Adani) and Martin Ferguson, Labor’s former resources and energy minister and lobbyist for the resources and energy sector, can continue sabotaging Labor, workers, and the planet.

We’re more than five years into this obnoxiously wretched government and Labor still hasn’t gone more than five straight minutes without betraying its base.

If we were actually governed by meritocracy rather than a boys club with a tiny penis emblazoned on the membership card, the Coalition Government would be about as likely to win the next election as they would be to relate to young people. Judged worst Australian government ever, proven by science, in 2015, and showing the supernatural ability to become even worse since then, they don’t deserve to poll any more than a dozen percentage points, let alone a baker’s dozen. As it stands, Labor only leads 53% to 47%.

11 weeks before the 2001 election, the Coalition was losing 44%-56%. In 2004, political commentator George Megalogenis believed the Howard Government was “facing a landslide defeat” and they again trailed 44-56 within five months of the election. As we know, Labor swept into power in both 2001 and 2004. Not.

Maybe Labor’s foundation of bedding down with business, bipartisan cruelty to refugees, copycat violations of civil liberties, and excruciating contortions on Adani, might not be the inspiring social vision Australians crave. Maybe voters wonder why they should vote for the cheap knock offs when they can have the branded refugee torturers. Maybe there’s a reason 68% of Australians think Labor will do anything to win votes, beyond their leader’s embarrassing attempts at dabbing.

It takes a special kind of cringeworthy mediocrity to be less popular than a man who has campaigned to give the banks a $17 billion tax cut, cut $17 billion from schools, cut $700 million from local hospitals, cut penalty rates and the pension, advocated raising the pension age to 70, and voted against the Banking Royal Commission 26 times.

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It takes a uniquely limp brand of leadership to be less desirable than a Pentecostal PM who fingered coal in Parliament, opposed gay marriage, demeaned those on welfare as the “taxed nots”, called for Australia’s withdrawal from the refugee convention, incited a riot on Manus island which resulted in the death of Reza Barati, falsely claimed Save the Children staff coached asylum seekers to self-harm on Nauru, papered over bullying allegations inside his own party, and stirred up transphobia with comments about gender whisperers.

You know you’re in trouble as a purported progressive party when your most prominent lefty champion wants to stop those god damn boats and invokes Gough Whitlam to call for more bipartisanship and a closer relationship with business.

If the point of the Labor Party is to offer an insincere version of the Liberal Party, they’re nailing it. Next week Bill Shorten will start wearing a Cronulla Sharks cap and Tanya Plibersek will lose her job.

But if the point of the Labor Party is to represent the Australian people, they should probably start doing that.

Liam McLoughlin

Liam McLoughlin teaches English, politics, and media, and writes a bit. You can find his stuff at Situation Theatre or on Facebook and Twitter. He still can’t decide which quote is more profound: Karl Marx’s “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness” or Stewart Lee’s “David Cameron and Ed Milliband are about as different as two rats fighting over a courgette that has fallen into a urinal. The main difference being that the David Cameron rat is wearing chinos, in an attempt to win over the youth voter”.

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