Shorten cramped by fall­ing mar­ginal sup­port

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS -

EVER since he seized the job in a bloody coup, the Prime Min­is­ter’s im­mi­nent demise has been pre­dicted by a gag­gle of dis­grun­tleds.

Whether they are dis­ap­pointed left­ists or mis­guided Ab­bott loy­al­ists, the Turn­bull-haters have main­tained the rage be­yond what is healthy for the country, or their own spleens. Nat­u­rally, this has been ben­e­fi­cial to Op­po­si­tion leader Bill Shorten, who has sailed through the past three or so years with very lit­tle scru­tiny. But how the worm has turned. Labor’s cit­i­zen­ship cri­sis has crys­tallised the vague mis­giv­ings which al­ready ex­isted in the com­mu­nity about Bill Shorten’s char­ac­ter, or lack thereof.

And now, in­stead of the Prime Min­is­ter fac­ing bold dec­la­ra­tions that he’s “fin­ished” at ar­bi­trary mile­stones set by his en­e­mies with mo­not­o­nous reg­u­lar­ity, it’s Shorten fac­ing the mu­sic.

The Queens­land mar­ginal seat of Long­man will be a lit­mus test of Shorten’s vi­a­bil­ity as Labor leader, as will Brad­don in Tas­ma­nia.

The con­test is all up­side for Turn­bull and all down­side for Shorten. The Coali­tion would be de­fy­ing his­tory to win any of the five seats up for grabs in the up­com­ing Su­perSatur­day sweep since no govern­ment has ever won a by-elec­tion from an op­po­si­tion since 1920. But if the Turn­bull govern­ment fluked even one seat, win­ners’ mo­men­tum would power them into the fed­eral elec­tion.

Labor’s Susan Lamb won Long­man in 2016, thanks to One Na­tion pref­er­ences, with a wafer-thin mar­gin of 0.8 per cent and now has to re­con­test the seat be­cause the High Court found she is a Bri­tish dual na­tional, per­haps the only time in her life when cast­ing her­self as a wounded in­no­cent has not worked out for her.

Lamb had ousted the Lib­er­als’ cocky man-child Wy­att Roy, who was the sort of nov­elty can­di­date only ex­treme po­lit­i­cal hubris could pro­duce.

With a se­ri­ous con­tender, the Lib­er­als may have a shot at win­ning back the seat.

Even with­out a can­di­date in place, a ReachTel Poll last week put the Coali­tion ahead in Long­man 53 per cent to Labor on 47 per cent in two-party terms in a sur­vey of 1277 res­i­dents for the Aus­tralia In­sti­tute.

Then there is Brad­don in Tas­ma­nia, where the Lib­er­als polled strongly in the state elec­tion, and which one of Labor’s dual na­tion­als, Jus­tine Keay, won in 2016 with a 2.2 per cent mar­gin.

All the pres­sure now is with Shorten. He is on the nose in pre- ferred prime min­is­ter rank­ings, hav­ing been soundly beaten in every poll by Turn­bull, who’s not ex­actly the most pop­u­lar chap.

But af­ter sur­viv­ing count­less pre­ma­ture death no­tices last year, elim­i­nat­ing most of his in­her­ited bar­na­cles and de­liv­er­ing the best bud­get in more than a decade, Turn­bull is start­ing to look in­vin­ci­ble, just at the right time.

Slow and steady wins the race for the Coali­tion while Shorten be­gins the rapid roller­coaster ride down­hill.

Labor has to win every one of its by-elec­tions just to break even and, even then, there are cit­i­zen­ship clouds hang­ing over its MPs Anne Aly, Emma McBride and Emma Husar.

So much for su­pe­rior vet­ting. Shorten’s threats to the govern­ment over Aly last week just looked des­per­ate. His Shadow Trea­surer Chris Bowen’s Bud­get speech at the Na­tional Press Club just re­in­forced Labor’s lurch into class envy, and the Venezuela-style tax and spend eco­nom­ics that poses such a threat to our na­tional well­be­ing.

Mean­while, Shorten’s mate CFMEU hard­man John Setka may be free of black­mail charges, but his pub­lic de­mands of a fu­ture Labor govern­ment keep ratch­et­ing up.

The draft pol­icy plat­form to be unveiled at the ALP Na­tional Con­fer­ence in July won’t help Shorten’s

elec­toral ap­peal, ei­ther, with its watering down of bor­der pro­tec­tion and an in­ex­pli­ca­ble ob­ses­sion with iden­tity pol­i­tics which is an­ti­thet­i­cal to the needs and as­pi­ra­tions of work­ing peo­ple.

Now the lead­er­ship spot­light has switched to Shorten, An­thony Al­banese is breath­ing down his neck.

The like­able heir ap­par­ent last week even raised the so-called “killing sea­son” in re­la­tion to the tim­ing of the Su­per Satur­day by-elec­tions, as if Turn­bull is un­der threat when every­one knows that it’s Shorten’s job that’s on the line.

Char­ac­ter is des­tiny, and the Op­po­si­tion Leader’s shame­less du­plic­ity has taken him as far as he de­serves.

Pic­ture: Lyn­don Mechielsen

Bill Shorten could be brought down by Susan Lamb if she fails to win Long­man.

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