Senator Eric Abetz, Minister for Employment - Statement on the Royal Commission
Workers coated in asbestos; buggered up backs? No issue was off-limits for an AWU sham consultancy - Thiess was happy to hand over the cash.

Laurie Oakes - Bill Shorten a gutless waffler incapable of delivering........

The most amazing feature of the Shorten saga this week is that there are still people who support him as the alternative prime minister.

When Laurie Oakes writes that a Labor leader is terminal, that's it, it's all over.


Opposition Leader Bill Shorten must face the facts on his role


FORMER ALP national secretary Bob Hogg might not have been smart to say it. “Just go,” he advised Bill Shorten on Facebook after the Labor leader’s first embarrassing day in the trade union royal commission witness box.

Shorten’s supporters turned on Hogg with a vengeance, proving yet again that glasshouse dwellers are unwise to throw stones. But that does not mean the one-time Hawke staffer and Labor Party life member was wrong. There is a strong argument for Shorten to consider his position — one that is not based entirely, or even mainly, on the royal commission.

The Opposition Leader should think about making way for someone else because it is glaringly obvious that a change would greatly increase Labor’s prospects of winning the next election. There is plenty of evidence. Take, for example, the furore over Malcolm Turnbull’s speech to The Sydney Institute last Tuesday.

It caused some Right-wing Liberals to comment with suppressed fury that Turnbull is a far more effective Opposition leader than Shorten.

Plenty of people on the Labor side agree, comparing Turnbull’s impact with Shorten’s image as a gutless waffler incapable of delivering a cut-through message.


From revelations about an undeclared election donation to allegations of conflicts of interest in wage negotiations when he was a union boss to royal commissioner Dyson Heydon questioning his credibility, Shorten’s two days of grilling did him plenty of damage.

And the royal commission report is still to come.

But the most telling aspect of Shorten’s performance in the box is that it would have reinforced all the doubts about him that have been growing in voters’ minds since he assumed the leadership 18 months ago.

Two opinion polls at the start of the week illustrated how Shorten has now joined Abbott at the bottom of the popularity trough. Voters are not impressed by either leader.

For all the talk about Abbott fighting back since the attempt to spill him from the Liberal leadership early in the year, he is still on the nose.

And, despite going all out on national security and abandoning economic reform in favour of shameless populism, he has still not got the Coalition out of the electoral danger zone.

At 39 per cent or 40 per cent, depending on which poll you favour, the Coalition’s primary vote is still below the level required for victory. One Liberal MP said yesterday: “Voters have stopped yelling at us but they still don’t like us.”

And Abbott’s stubborn continuation of the war against the ABC’s Q&A program, complete with the silly instruction to ministers to boycott it, has again raised questions about his judgment. It ignores advice from Liberal pollster Mark Textor and party director Brian Loughnane to avoid distractions and ideology and concentrate on mainstream issues of direct concern to voters.

Abbott is convinced that, with Shorten as Opposition Leader, he could start an election campaign four points behind and win. That may well be true.

Quite a few Liberals, though, say privately that it would not be true if Abbott faced someone — anyone? — other than Shorten.

“Labor would win with just a good, stock player,” one of them said yesterday.

Shorten, however, is unlikely to admit, even to himself, that he is an impediment to Labor’s election hopes. Expect him to stumble on.