The times favour me

Bill Shorten says. Speaking to Laura Tingle in his first in-depth press interview in many months, the Opposition leader is both candid and confident. He speaks as a man who has survived every insult and accusation that opponents have thrown at him, and as someone who has been able to set that stuff aside and instead think about what may come next.

While Shorten may not be telegenic or loved, or even warmly regarded by the broader Australian public, he has been extremely effective as a Labor leader, and has built a solid platform from which, he hopes, to govern. He has presided over a party that was broken when he took the leadership yet is now more unified than it has been in decades, and has kept its focus on political outcomes rather than infighting.

As he tells Tingle, Shorten believes that he has a firm grasp of what the Australian public wants in a government, and that he is well placed to deliver it.

The positions he lays out are rarely radical; nevertheless they can appear this way – simply because they are so at odds with those of the current government and its boosters. Accusations that the two major parties are like peas in a pod seem crazy now. Shorten’s Labor has progressive social policies and redistributive tax plans. It will take a markedly different approach to climate change and energy, to industrial relations and wages policy, to anti-corruption measures and government regulation generally, as well as Indigenous recognition.

Shorten will also bring a different leadership style. As Tingle notes, “His colleagues will generally tell you that [Shorten] does consult, and that he certainly gives his frontbenchers the room to develop policy, and backs them.” Shorten’s sales pitch is about consensus and evidence-based policy, which couldn’t be further from the Coalition’s “Father knows best” approach and its endless fear-mongering about national security and illegal immigrants. The choice at the next election will be a stark one, between fear and ideas.

NICK FEIK

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