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From the Desk of the Executive Director

Ken Phillips is co-founder and Executive Director of Independent Contractors of Australia. He is a published authority on independent contractor issues and directs research on related commercial and trade practices issues. Through his numerous articles in newspapers and think-tank and academic journals, Ken is known for approaching issues from outside normal perspectives and is frequently sought out for media comment.

Shorten may be ready to lead

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten is manoeuvring to take over the leadership of the federal Labor Party from Julia Gillard. He's possibly even doing this with Gillard's knowledge.

The leadership change to Shorten will happen because he is the only person who can limit Labor's losses at this election. Although it's a big task, Shorten could win.

Labor cannot go to the election with Gillard. She's a political dead person walking. Labor cannot afford an electoral wipeout similar to those in Queensland and NSW.

Kevin Rudd is not an option. He'd split the party. His current polling popularity would not overcome sabotage of him from within Labor and a devastating campaign against him by the Coalition. A Rudd election outcome could be similar to a Gillard outcome.

Shorten is the only option. He's the cleanskin. The broken promises on the carbon tax, gambling reform, Sydney's western suburbs transport upgrade, budget surplus and more belong to Gillard, not Shorten. Likewise, the Slipper affair, the Thomson-HSU scandal and AWU trust fund rorts belong to Gillard not Shorten. Under Shorten these would be swept aside as history not relevant to a future under a Shorten-led Labor.

Shorten would present as a breath of fresh air. He portrays himself as a person above the nastiness of gutter politics and a practical person without ideological baggage. He conceived of and promoted the National Disability Insurance Scheme, winning cross party political support. He is seen as a person of political unity rather than division.

Big business would have a love affair with Shorten. During his years as head of the Australian Workers Union he was courted, mentored and promoted by big business establishment figures. Shorten was the "sensible" union leader. His big business connections are deep and close. Big businesses want a deal-maker in Canberra. Shorten is that person.

Shorten's weakness is the hatred of him by the hard Left unions. As AWU leader he was in constant, bitter turf wars with the radical construction unions and others. The Left hated his deal-making with big business. Without its support Shorten cannot become Labor leader.

His recent endorsement of the Maritime Union is about repositioning for favour with Labor's hard Left. He's delivered changes to the Fair Work Act that advantage radical union activity. He's given construction unions tangible support in their battle against Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu's construction tendering requirements.

For Shorten these moves are about internal Labor politics. Shorten must prove to the hard Left unions that he will protect their positions. He's doing Labor deals and it's working.

Gillard is of the Left of Labor. At some stage, perhaps soon, her factional, ideological partners will tell her to resign for Shorten. She'll do this with grace. When this happens Rudd will be neutered. Labor will unite. Labor's polling popularity will soar. Welcome to prime minister Bill Shorten!

Glen commented on 07-Mar-2013 05:32 PM
Hi Ken, I just read your Shorten article in the Australian.

Quite a good article which I enjoyed reading - thanks!

I appreciate you're optimism regarding Shorten, but an area you didn't touch on was the risk that the Conservatives might exploit was having Shorten's Mother-In-Law as GG and him as PM. Do you consider this could impact the independence of Govt? At least the public perception that dear Mum is not going to invoke her constitutional powers and sack her Son-in-Law?

Ken do you not consider this to represent a potential conflict of interest? Or are you only looking at a Shorten opportunity for big business?

Kind regards
Glen Schroeder

Anonymous commented on 08-Mar-2013 04:17 PM
Oh Crap ! The country doesn't need another leader that bends over for his left or right buddies. We need a bloody leader who can lead and stand for what's right for the country and not themselves or their party. In the end, the government gets in and we, the sheeple, blindly walk towards the cliff with the Government and media telling us how to think and act. Wake up Australia ! The government works for us not the other way around.
Anonymous commented on 08-Mar-2013 04:55 PM
Wasn't it Shorten who tried to scuttle independent contractor arrangements?
rodney allsworth commented on 08-Mar-2013 05:15 PM
sorry, still got me money on RUDD, Gillard to bow out with some-discretionary personal reason-, and Rudd-urged-to take the PM position, shorten is not a Bob Hawke makeover by any stretch of the imagination.

rod qld
Anonymous commented on 08-Mar-2013 06:01 PM
When Shorten went to the mine disaster in Tasmanie someone in my group made the comment - "he's grooming himself for the big job". I, personally, agree with most of what you say.
Anonymous commented on 12-Mar-2013 11:21 AM
Yes there's a great deal of interesting aspects to the Shorten rise.

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