Bill Shorten has learnt the lesson of Trump, and Australian politics is going in a brand new direction.
Australian politics just got a renovation rescue, and it’s all thanks to Trump…
… and Bill Shorten.
Take a listen to this statement from Shorten over the weekend and tell me what you think.
“Economic growth has to lift all boats, not just the yachts,” Mr Shorten told AFR Weekend. “We’re not going to lose our blue-collar voters like the Democrats did.”
Mr Shorten will spend next week touring regional Queensland where there are high levels of disaffected voters, similar to those who opted for Mr Trump.
“We will buy Australian, build Australian, make in Australia and employ Australians. We will not leave people behind.”
He cited 457 visas and employers who “abuse our visa system to import and exploit cheap labour” and trade deals “which don’t deliver the blue-collar jobs for those hurt by these agreements”.
“What’s happening is we’ve got people coming to work in Australia…and, in some cases, they’re getting ripped off and exploited, lowering wage outcomes and taking the jobs of nurses, motor mechanics, carpenters, auto-electricians,” he told a Victorian Labor conference.
“These are the jobs which can be done by Australians and we make no apology for saying Labor’s approach to the Australian economy is buy Australian, build Australian, employ Australians.”
Stirring stuff. To the barricades, comrades!
But that’s not the Bill Shorten I know. The Bill Shorten I know was all like,
“I do believe the immigration levels can go up… Immigration has been a plus for us and we should be certainly as a party being seen to be pro-immigration and pro increasing it, making sure people go to wherever it is sustainable for infrastructure and support, but we are an immigrant country and we shouldn’t ever hide from our destiny.”
But that was 2013. That was before Trump and before Brexit.
Times have changed and Shorten’s not silly (I know, news to me too).
The democrats haemorrhaged voters to Trump because they were blind to what was happening on the ground – communities getting torn apart by joblessness and substance abuse.
These communities had seen their jobs exported to Mexico and China, and all they got back in return was smug, inner-city condescension.
“Stop complaining bro. Why don’t you just open a craft-brewery or vegan-leather sandal shop?
Your resistance to bespoke vegan footwear really tells me that you’re actually just a racist. You should work on that bro.”
The US election was not a contest of ideas, and it definitely wasn’t a contest of solutions.
Trump was the only one who saw the problems for what they were. Somehow (and I still wonder how a man who builds casinos and hob nobs with celebrities at beauty pageants did it) Trump connected with a deep-seated anger in many parts of the American population.
… many parts that used to be democratic heartland.
But he got it. He empathised. And he offered his own brand of solutions.
At this point, Clinton could have said, “I get it too, and here’s an alternative set of solutions.”
But she didn’t. She just said, “I promise you it will be more of the same. (Hasn’t it been fantastic?) Only now, the President will have boobs. How awesome will that be?”
So for working people watching their communities falling apart, and watching Washington and Wall St making off with the money, there just wasn’t a choice.
If only one doctor recognises the problem, that’s the doctor you go to. If the other doctor tells you the symptoms are in your head, and in your head because you’re racist, how much repeat custom are they going to get?
And to his credit, Bill Shorten woke up on Wednesday and realised Pauline Hanson was the only doctor in his little town.
While the major parties were giving lip-service to globalism (see Shorten’s 2013 quote above, and Turnbull’s Innovation Agenda), Pauline was out there connecting with people who were pissed off.
And it’s true. If you take away Australia’s high immigration intake, and look at GDP on a per capita basis, we’ve been in recession for the past two years. There’s real economic pain out there.
The question is what we do about it. I’m hoping this is the beginning of a robust contest of ideas and solutions (though I don’t expect much more than a cow-paddock of spin and hollow rhetoric, but, you know, I’m hopeful.)
There are solutions that entrench divisions and open the way to longer-term pain. There are solutions that bring people together, and create exciting economic futures.
So come on, Malcolm, Bill, Pauline.
Give us some options.
That’s what democracy should be about.
What do you make of Bill’s conversion?