There’s never been a more exciting time to be Captain Shorten

What strange times we live in! The Red Star Line’s passenger cruise freighter SS Labor, despite a seemingly lacklustre captain with a mutinous history, is sailing full steam ahead for port carrying an impressive cargo of solid policies and fiscal measures to fund them.

Meanwhile, the Blue Star Line’s SS Coalition, despite a patrician skipper imagined by many to be a master mariner, remains becalmed with an almost complete absence of policy cargo, holed beneath the waterline by a “friendly fire” GST torpedo and threatened by a potentially mutinous faction of his own crew led by the bloodthirsty brigand and erstwhile skipper Fletcher Abbott.

How did this happen?

Doesn’t Captain Shorten know that the Opposition is supposed to adopt a “small target” strategy, announcing as few policies as possible to give the maxim “governments lose elections, oppositions don’t win them” the space to operate in his favour?  This has been conventional wisdom ever since Blue Star’s Captain Hewson adopted a very large target “Fightback” strategy 25 years ago and was blown out of the water by a ruthless if wacky Captain Keating.

I have no idea whether Captain Shorten himself is responsible for jettisoning the conventional wisdom of small target political naval warfare strategy, but at the moment it’s looking like a masterstroke.  SS Labor is still at fairly long odds to reach port before SS Coalition, but the idea of a Shorten victory is no longer inconceivable.

In fact at the moment it’s not immediately obvious how Captain Turnbull will manage to patch the gaping hole in his vessel’s hull, load a plausible policy cargo, prevent a mutiny by Fletcher Abbott and his crazed cronies, and get moving in time to beat SS Labor to port.  Having already jettisoned GST, CGT and sledged Captain Shorten’s negative gearing policy (despite previously professing an intention to leave all possible policies on the deck), Captain Turnbull doesn’t have much room to manoeuvre.  Even if he could get his engines going, a modest but growing net public fuel debt and stubborn structural fuel deficit mean  he has precious little capacity to bribe the fickle voters freight forwarders and passengers into buying his meagre offerings.

Captain Turnbull’s task is made even harder by his ill-advised pledge not to unveil any bribes for the freight forwarders and passengers until the traditional Captain’s Pre-Election Port Budget Ball in May. Seasoned shipping watchers are awaiting a graceful semi-backflip from Captain Turnbull whereby he and First Mate ScoMo announce some early bribes at a hastily arranged Captain’s White Paper Supper.

Of course, Turnbull will also try to recycle the meagre dirt on Captain Shorten uncovered by former Lord of the Admiralty Heydon. But Captain Turnbull seems to lack the instinctive flair of natural MMA scupper scrappers like former Captains Keating and Abbott. He’s more at home delivering an elegant stiletto between the shoulder blades than a full-blooded kick to the cods of a decked opponent. Maybe it’s almost time to see if that mad cabin boy Grech can come up with a plausible smear against Captain Shorten that can’t be disproved until after the competing ships reach port.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 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 the early 1990s.
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Pappinbarra Fox
Pappinbarra Fox
5 years ago

Good one Ken.

ChrisB
5 years ago

Dammit, absolutely all that we asked of Turnbull in that our-long-national-nightmare-is-over moment was that he not do anything that reminded us of Abbot. And he couldn’t even manage that. If he can’t keep Cory Bernadi out of the policies, what the hell good is he?

Paul Montgomery
Paul Montgomery
5 years ago

It’s just astounding that someone from either side came up with the correct policy. Stopped clocks and all that. Shorten himself must be surprised.

Jim
Jim
5 years ago

I think Captain Shorten must have got a ‘policy spine’ in the lucky dip at the office Xmas party.

And Captain Turnbull got a pair of ‘magical agile innovation rose-coloured glasses’ that were made slightly out of focus (probably in China in some dodgy subsidised free trade zone).