Watch this space: Bill’s am­bi­tion burns on


Bill Shorten got in first yes­ter­day — his am­bi­tion is undi­min­ished. In a state­ment filled with im­port, he de­fended his achieve­ments as La­bor leader and leaves no­body in doubt of his avail­abil­ity to re­sume the lead­er­ship down the track.

Many twice-de­feated op­po­si­tion lead­ers might de­cide their time has come and gone. Not Shorten. Af­ter list­ing his achieve­ments as La­bor leader, the 52year-old said he would re­main in pub­lic life for the next 20 years, a mes­sage to An­thony Al­banese, the ALP front­bench and his sup­port­ers.

Shorten’s soft apol­ogy is wrapped in hubris. In his state­ment on Thurs­day morn­ing, he con­ceded some mis­takes but they pale into in­signif­i­cance along­side the find­ings of the Emer­son/

Weather­ill re­view of La­bor’s elec­tion de­feat. This doc­u­ment is a lethal in­dict­ment of Shorten’s lead­er­ship and his of­fice.

While the re­port iden­ti­fies Shorten’s un­pop­u­lar­ity as one of the three “over­rid­ing rea­sons” for La­bor’s loss, the case against the leader is far wider and dev­as­tat­ing.

The re­port says La­bor be­haved like “a gov­ern­ment in ex­ile mak­ing it­self the is­sue”.

It found that “no body was em­pow­ered to dis­cuss and set­tle on a strat­egy” to win the elec­tion. How in­cred­i­ble is that?

It says the par­lia­men­tary lead­er­ship group re­ceived re­ports from the na­tional sec­re­tariat

“from time to time con­cern­ing re­search but did not it­self set­tle on a strat­egy”.

New spend­ing — ba­sic to the failed cam­paign — was agreed by the leader, his of­fice and se­nior col­leagues but “these de­ci­sions were not in­formed by an over­ar­ch­ing strat­egy”.

More­over, no for­mal cam­paign com­mit­tee was es­tab­lished, which meant there was no fo­rum for gen­er­at­ing an ef­fec­tive elec­tion strat­egy.

Shorten and his of­fice must as­sume prime re­spon­si­bil­ity for such fa­tal mis­takes. The re­view says it was there­fore “un­sur­pris­ing the La­bor cam­paign lacked fo­cus, wan­der­ing from topic to topic, with­out a clear pur­pose”.

The re­port says the No 1 rea­son for La­bor’s loss was “weak strat­egy”. While this in­volves a col­lec­tive fail­ure, it also in­volves a spe­cific lead­er­ship fail­ure.

Run­ning through the re­port is a sense of La­bor com­pla­cency, re­flected in Shorten’s cam­paign per­for­mance. It says: “High ex­pec­ta­tions of a La­bor vic­tory led to lit­tle con­sid­er­a­tion be­ing given to query­ing La­bor’s strat­egy and pol­icy agenda.”

Ex­pec­ta­tions and ar­ro­gance were ba­sic to La­bor’s cam­paign at­mo­spher­ics.

The re­port ac­knowl­edges that Shorten led a united party, saw off two Lib­eral PMs and claims he won all three cam­paign de­bates. Yet what is the point of see­ing off two PMs if, as the re­port says, La­bor failed to “adapt to the change in Lib­eral lead­er­ship” in Au­gust last year that brought Scott Mor­ri­son to of­fice?

“Were the uni­verse to grant re­runs, I would cam­paign with fewer mes­sages, more greatly em­pha­sise the job op­por­tu­ni­ties in re­new­able en­er­gies and take a dif­fer­ent po­si­tion on frank­ing cred­its,” Shorten said.

The for­mer leader said he was “proud” to have united the party and nearly snatch vic­tory at the 2016 elec­tion and that he ac­cepted re­spon­si­bil­ity for the loss in May.

Shorten said the de­feat was “a shock and sur­prise”.

His big mes­sage, how­ever, for those con­tem­plat­ing his fu­ture was his state­ment that he was “per­son­ally com­mit­ted” to con­tin­u­ing to con­trib­ute to pub­lic life, to serv­ing his con­stituents and, crit­i­cally, the “peo­ple of Aus­tralia”.

And for how long? “For the next 20 years,” Shorten said.

How cred­i­ble is this? Any­one re­motely fa­mil­iar with Shorten’s am­bi­tion would recog­nise the im­port of his state­ment. The re­cent lead­er­ship re­vivals of John Howard, Kim Bea­z­ley, Kevin Rudd and Mal­colm Turn­bull would only cause Shorten to pon­der: “Why not me?”

Per­haps the cam­paign re­view re­port pro­vides the an­swer.

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