Com­pla­cency could be Shorten’s Achilles

The Sunday Times - - OPINION - Pe­ter van Onse­len is The Sun­day Times’ po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and a pro­fes­sor at UWA

BILL Shorten’s press con­fer­ence on Fri­day morn­ing at Par­lia­ment House saw him con­fi­dently de­tail what his team has done as it pre­pares for next year’s elec­tion.

He also took aim at Scott Mor­ri­son and the Gov­ern­ment’s fail­ures.

To be sure, the fi­nal sit­ting week was a messy one for the coali­tion.

The Op­po­si­tion leader, how­ever, started by say­ing La­bor was “emerg­ing” as an al­ter­na­tive gov­ern­ment.

Re­ally? Emerg­ing?

Talk about a late ar­rival. Af­ter five years as Op­po­si­tion Leader and an elec­tion due in just five months, Shorten thinks he and his team are only just emerg­ing as a vi­able al­ter­na­tive gov­ern­ment?

He’s ei­ther too hum­ble or un­pre­pared. I sus­pect it’s sim­ply part of ex­pec­ta­tion man­age­ment.

It’s pretty ob­vi­ous that un­less Mor­ri­son or­ches­trates the big­gest come­back in Aus­tralian po­lit­i­cal his­tory, Shorten is our PM in wait­ing.

I’m hear­ing Mor­ri­son is start­ing to lose his cool with staff and col­leagues as the pres­sure mounts.

There will be more polling this com­ing week that might be an early, un­wanted Christ­mas present for the PM.

La­bor now refers to Mor­ri­son as the “cur­rent PM” to high­light the lead­er­ship churn be­fore now, and the lack of au­thor­ity Mor­ri­son re­ally has.

The only chal­lenge for Shorten is mak­ing sure he doesn’t over­take John Hew­son’s un­wanted in­famy in 1993, as hav­ing lost an “un­loseable elec­tion”.

Which brings us back to ex­pec­ta­tion man­age­ment. Shorten needs to avoid com­pla­cency among his team be­cause win­ning well will be a key to gov­ern­ing well.

Win with the thump­ing ma­jor­ity Bob Hawke did in 1983, and Shorten can take risks and gov­ern with sub­stance. Win the way Kevin Rudd did in 2007, with just an eight-seat ma­jor­ity, and the risk is that a new La­bor gov­ern­ment is too timid, too eas­ily bul­lied by the Greens and the Op­po­si­tion, and there­fore misses its op­por­tu­nity to gov­ern ef­fec­tively.

With the par­lia­men­tary year over, ex­pect to see more of our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers over the sum­mer than you or­di­nar­ily might.

An early bud­get in April fol­lowed by a May elec­tion means Mor­ri­son will want to use the sum­mer to try and gen­er­ate mo­men­tum, while Shorten won’t want to take the pres­sure off a Gov­ern­ment that is down and out.

Of course, vot­ers would pre­fer just to en­joy the nice weather free of such lob­by­ing.

Pe­tervan Onse­len

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