Shorten-ing the leadership odds?


Shorten – ghoulish famewhore?

Has anyone else wondered what AWU National Secretary Bill Shorten has been doing down at the Beaconsfield Mine in Tasmania continuously  for the last week or so?   As far as I know he has no expertise in mining or mine rescues, and no active role in the rescue effort.  

Yet he manages to hog just  about every media report on the rescue effort, especially on the ABC.   You’d swear he was running the whole thing and making all the decisions, instead of just positioning himself opportunistically to get his face on TV on any pretext.   Hasn’t he got any real work to do?

Not since Bob Hawke’s heyday have we seen a union leader with such a genius for self-promotion.   I don’t know about you, but  I can’t help but find  Shorten’s antics vaguely stomach-churning.  I wonder why the MSM aren’t asking this obvious question?    Could the ABC  be already running Shorten’s campaign to succeed Bomber Beazley as ALP federal leader?


About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic at Charles Darwin University, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law) and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 12 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in he early 1990s.
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22 Responses to Shorten-ing the leadership odds?

  1. Does Shorten have any expertise in anything useful, or is he just yet another union hack ready to be parachuted into a safe seat and confirm the stereotyping the conservatives do of the ALP?

  2. Amanda says:

    The mine manager Matthew Gill and others from the area presumably do have an active role in the rescue effort and are better freed up for that. Shorten’s been a central point for the journos to speak to and has been giving the media concise, clear, frank, sober info. I see no ‘antics.’ The MSM no doubt are grateful for this (and it isn’t just the ABC.)

    I thought an editorial in the Oz yesterday was pretty spot on, its no secret Bill has aspirations but as the union head he’s got a place there and is doing a good job. I’m happy to be cynical about the bloke but I just don’t see it here, sorry.

  3. Guy says:

    Sure, its opportunistic. But Labor are going to be stronger with him in parliament than without him, that’s the reality.

    I’d be surprised if Shorten succeeded Beazley following 2007. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see him handed a ministry/shadow ministry, as the case may be.

  4. Thomas the Tout says:

    Bill is meant to be elsewhere, doing his day job. The only thing that can keep him in northern Tas for days on end is his self-promotion PR campaign. Maybe the MSM are not talking to the mine managers (probably they are the class enemy). Bill does talk well, but I believe his presence there is opportunistic. It is a little stomach- churning.

  5. phil says:

    Well, a “self-promotion PR campaign” is his day job given what he’s after. It could be worse, the Rodent could have gone straight to Beaconsfield after burying Pvt Kovko.

  6. Patrick says:

    You see? I knew from the use of the word ‘dog-whistle’ that phil had nothing to add – I didn’t even need to wait for him to come out with ‘the rodent’ (odd name for someone likely taller than him!).

    If self-promotion PR campaign is Shorten’s day job given what he’s after, then one wonders what Howards might be, given what he’s after…
    ….ah, how could I forget? Labor good Howard bad, silly me!

    It could be worse, Beazley might have claimed that Kovko wouldn’t be dead if the army was better unionised.

  7. Tony Healy says:

    In the early days of the disaster, mine management wasn’t talking to the media. Shorten, being the workers’ representative, had access to the same information as mine management and was able to convey that information to the media and us.

    Since his union covers workers killed and trapped in the mine, it’s entirely appropriate that he be there. With laptops and mobiles, his geographic location is not that important to the execution of his other duties.

    As to technical background, I’ve found Shorten’s explanations to be illuminating. He has clearly picked up details of underground mining quite quickly, and explained well the details of hard-rock mining.

    This is not to say that his presence is not part of his future electoral campaign, but it’s not inapprpriate either.

  8. Paul Watson says:

    While I agree that Bill Shorten currently appears to be a media-hog at Beaconsfield, the convoluted ownership structure of the mine effectively neuters (/absolves) any senior manager from speaking (/responsibility). (“Mine manager” Matthew Gill appears to be little more than a foreman, i.e. much more “worker” than “management”).

    Ultimate beneficial ownership of the mine rests with Macquarie Bank . If you’re suggesting, Ken, that there should be less Shorten on TV, and more MacBank executives being cornered in their harbourfront-mansion driveways in lieu, I would enthusiastically agree with you. But this ain’t gonna happen, of course.

  9. Jezery says:

    In the early days of the disaster, mine management wasn’t talking to the media. Shorten, being the workers’ representative, had access to the same information as mine management and was able to convey that information to the media and us.

    Well I reckon you’re half right. It’s good that the union is there to help channel information.

    What annoys me is that up until Sunday night when miners were found alive, the LOCAL union rep was acting as spokesman.

    Then Monday morning, once it had become a major news story, up pops Shorten.

  10. Alan Green says:

    When I heard Shorten on Radio National earlier this week he was careful to point out that he was getting the information from briefings given to him by union members. Having herad him talk, I wouldn’t have said that he was running the show or making any decisions. Rather, it was clear that he had no special expertise, nor direct involvement, and was acting only as a conduit for information.

    As far as I can tell, the reason that the media are talking to him is that no-one else is talking to the media. The big question isn’t so much why we’re seeing Shorten twice a day, as why we aren’t seeing the mine’s management twice a day.

  11. Tony Healy says:

    Tonight’s 60 Minutes provided further reason for Shorten’s presence at the disaster.

    Mine management had sent workers down the mine after previously giving Shorten an undertaking they would ensure the mine was safe. The mine has a recent history of danger and seismic disturbances.

    I think the Macquarie Millionaires have some answering to do.

  12. Homer Paxton says:

    I would concur with both Alan & Tony.
    Bill went down there when he was expecting three dead miners not one.

    I would also pint out few people like giving pres briefing indeed are terrified of it.
    I wouldn’t mind betting Mr Gill likes bill doing it as he isn’t asked any Carleton questions but the public still get to know what is going on.

    Shorten is quite impressive.

  13. Patrick says:

    few people like giving pres briefing‘ – and 90% of would be and current parliamentarians. Bet your bottom dollar Shorten is not terrified of press briefings.

  14. Yes, what Tony said. Shorten and the AWU also raised 40k for the family of the dead miner.

    No doubt he does have his political future in mind. People who are into politics normally do. But that doesn’t mean their actions are entirely cynical.

  15. Tony Healy says:

    Also, Shorten’s frequent media appearances were probably part of a deal with the media where, if they left the families alone, he would provide commentary on demand. Which he did.

    Far from it being grandstanding, it was more like sacrifice. It is not very exciting saying the same thing in 20 different TV interviews and each time pretending it’s the first time you’ve said it.

  16. Geoff Honnor says:

    Gill is the Mine Manager and he actually gave a daily media briefing throughout. Electronic media coverage tended to focus on Bill Shorten but I doubt that either of them were too worried about that.

    I’m with Mark. It’s possible to maximise the political moment while also having empathetic
    and emotional connection with the issues therein. I’ve no doubt about Shorten’s capacity for both.

  17. I met him once, a long time ago (1988) – he seemed like a genuinely nice bloke. Believe me, that’s not totally common when you’re in the ALP (as I was then).

  18. Geoff R says:

    ‘expertise in anything useful’? Helping workers to get better pay and conditions is useful. Seriously the AWU has a mixed record at best in representing metal miners, as the CFMEU would agree, and I wasn’t impressed by Shorten’s conduct in the Pilbara, but I have no problem with his actions in Tasmania.

  19. Guido says:

    If we are talking about ‘geniuses for self promotion’ we can’t go past Howard who has always managed to send ‘our troops’ off or welcome them back. Our ‘man of steel’ has been able to arrange a meeting with George Bush at the appropriate time. That is ‘stomach-churning’ for sure.

    Doing his job? of course. But so did Shorten who cut his holiday in Canada short to go to Beaconsfield in what he though was going to be three funerals. I seem to hear that the families of the trapped miners and the family of the miner who got killed were grateful that the heas of the Union that represented their Husband/Father etc. was there to help.

    Also, as others have said, the media was camped there desperate for news. If Shorten is there and is asked…why should he say no?

    Oh I see..when the Prime Minister goes to farewell or welcome back ‘our troops’ is genius for self-promotion. I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but find Shorten’s antics vaguely .

  20. Tony Healy says:

    Geoff, early on, the daily media briefings by mine management were just bare statements, totally useless to journalists. That’s why the media welcomed Shorten’s readiness to explain what was actually happening.

    The reason for mine management’s initial caution was their fear of castigation for causing the deaths.

    Shorten refrained from exploiting the situation for that while the rescue was in progress, and seems to have enlisted the media in the same restraint, which is quite remarkable.

    Once mine management (and here I’m referring to Macquarie Bank and their underlings) realised they wouldn’t get crucified in media briefings, they then moved to capture media attention away from the union.

    The local operations manager (Gill) started giving lengthy interviews, and he also started to appear in underground mining gear rather than the office wear he had initially appeared in. This was all part of a media strategy.

  21. Peter says:

    Isnt it strange that when a National Secretary is out doing his job(representing his members)there is an ulterior motive.When the Union(National Secretary) is non-existent then the line is what is the Union doing! For anyone who cared to look beyond, the Union was assisting the families,speaking to the media (thereby taking the strain off the families given as we all now how the media can be at times like these),liasing with government officials,and all those other things members expect their Union to do especially when things like this happen.
    Is’nt it a pity that when tragic events like this happen certain people have to look for an ulterior motive.
    Perhaps these are the same people that will never be satisfied whatever others in the community do.
    As far as knowing the industry and giving commentary a sensible person who listens to what people or indeed to what your members tell you will give you the ability to understand and communicate same unless your mind is as polluted as some on this blog.
    In closing as far as the blokes political aspirations are concerned they were there before this and they will be there after this and the only one’s raising it during this are those with an axe to grind.

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