11 May 2016
“Real leadership is recommending to your own a course of action that they might not automatically accept. It means empowering people rather than doing things to and for them.”
Excellent overview of Shorten’s approach to politics, with some brief background on his life and the Australian Labor Party of which he is the current leader.
As an aside, I will note that, although labour is spelled with a U in Oz, apparently American-born Aussie politician, King O’Malley, convinced the party to modernise its name. Supposedly, it might also separate it from “the labour movement”. Right. Like that was ever going to happen.
But I digress. There are a lot of motherhood statements, like “Education is the key to adapting to the big changes underway in our world.” But I was more interested in what influenced his current views.
The book is divided into handy sections which cover his upbringing and then the usual Health, Education, Welfare, Nationbuilding—all the political categories which I won’t attempt to address. I will quote heavily from the advance review copy—apologies if anything has changed. It’s well worth reading yourself if you want to know what he thinks and why.
To me, the important take-home message is that while Shorten is often criticised because people don’t know whose side he’s on, I think that’s his point. You can have principles (which he certainly shares here), but you have to give everyone a fair go at sharing their opinions and then try to reach an agreement.
“I genuinely believe it is still possible to sell necessary, practical change in contemporary Australia. I did it in the hundreds of enterprise agreements I negotiated during my time at the AWU—convincing workers to embrace flexibility; convincing companies to pay their employees more money than they wanted to; trying to identify the value in the business and how people contribute; and then making sure all got their fair share.”. . .
“Relationships are crucial: get people to come together, define their position and work from there. Don’t begin with a pure ideological solution. Take account of all viewpoints. When everything is done on a more equitable basis you creating better outcomes. I learned a lot on the way to entering Parliament, meeting so many thousands of workers.”
Of Bob Hawke, to whom he has been likened, he says:
“Most of all, I was impressed by the consensual way in which Hawke led, his way of bringing people together; of uniting the nation rather than playing groups off against each other; repudiating extreme solutions; and the coming together of employers and workers.”
He maintains friendships across a political gulf that is nearly impossible to bridge now in Australia and the U.S. While at Monash University:
“One of my oldest friends, John Roskam, was a fellow student there. John is a devoted Liberal Party member and for some years now has been executive director of the free-market think-tank, the Institute of Public Affairs.”
(The IPA is one of Australia’s most prominent conservative organisations, hardly the home of admirers of Bill Shorten.]
His mother was his greatest influence. His dad was a drinking, smoking ship’s engineer and later dock worker who had an early heart attack. But this mother held it all together.
“As we were growing up she completed a PhD and then embarked on a law degree. She completed that degree part time while she was working [teaching] full time and raising a young family. . .
“I’m convinced that the experiences of my parents— the opportunities they were unfairly denied or in Dad’s case didn’t fully grasp—have pushed me to ensure that people get the chance to achieve their full potential. . .
But as a worker’s compensation lawyer, he felt he needed to do more for workers.
“I could get them some money and try to redress the wrong that had been done to them. It was remedial, however, not preventative. As a unionist, I found I could actually help prevent unfairness and injustice.”
PARLIAMENT AND THE NDIS
When he was elected in 2007, his first appointment was as Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services. His wife Chloe had worked in the disability sector, so he may have had more interest than most. But it was a shock.
“After fourteen years as a union representative, I thought I had seen unfair treatment in the workplace. I thought I had witnessed disadvantage and powerlessness, and I had. But nothing could prepare me for the invisible world of disability.”
He got stuck into his portfolio, an area that interests me, and whenever I heard or read his interviews, no matter what he was asked, he would always manage to fit our disastrous disability situation into the conversation. He was instrumental in helping establish Australia’s National Disability Insurance scheme (NDIS), arguing “people are willing to back bold new ideas if the case is made properly.”
EQUALITY, a major plank in his platform
“Equality is not a dividend of economic growth, it is a pre-condition.”. . .
“Once again, people are telling us we have to prioritise either the economy or the society. It’s a false dichotomy.”. . .
“On 3 May 2014 Britain’s conservative The Economist, which had opposed a minimum wage for Britain, issued something of an apology, concluding: ‘No-one who has studied the effects of Britain’s minimum wage now thinks it has raised unemployment.”. . .
“For Labor, the minimum wage is more than an essential strand of the social safety net—it is a driver of growth. It is vital not only to individuals and working families, but benefits the entire economy, underpinning consumption and further stimulating demand for goods and services, and creating more jobs.”
CLIMATE CHANGE AND RENEWABLES
Much discussion - some excerpts:
“When I met with Al Gore last year he described clean technology and renewable energy as ‘the biggest business opportunity in the history of business’. . .
". . . the University of New South Wales, nominated by Al Gore as the best institution in the world in terms of solar energy research". . .
“1976 the cost of solar cells was $79.40 a watt. In 2014, it was 69 cents.”
There’s discussion about early childhood, universities, choice of fields and courses rather than choice of price, and educating women. One specific worth noting:
“Three in every four of the world’s fastest-growing occupations require science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills and knowledge.”
"Labor, if it wins government, will write off the HECS-HELP university debts of 100,000 STEM students—including 50,000 places for women—upon graduation to encourage more Australians, particularly women, to study, work and teach in these fields."
DEFENCE, INFRASTRUCTURE, REPUBLIC, HIGH-SPEED RAIL. . .etc"
It’s all here and more, including Labor’s 2013 Rudd-Gillard-Rudd debacle, of which he said “There’s no doubt that Kevin’s restored leadership helped to save the furniture.”
We have to wait to see if he and Labor will be given full run of the house and the furniture.