21 June 2016
by John Lord

6 Goals down with a quarter to play, ‘Shorten stars’.

The polls may show the sides 50/50 going into the last quarter but the bookies are still betting on a Coalition win.

If you follow Aussie rules you would know the importance of the three-quarter time speech. The sort that inspires an effort of intestinal fortitude, or raw courage of the Ron Barassi sort. Or the famous John Kennedy “don’t think, don’t hope, do” that got the Hawk’s over the line in 1975.

It was by accident that I turned on the television last Sunday. I’d intended doing something else to break the monotony of writing a daily political post. Then I thought “no, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t”.

As I watched Bill Shorten deliver his party’s campaign launch speech I became somewhat aroused. Perhaps I should have used the word inspired in case you take that the wrong way. I began to think just how far Bill Shorten has modernised the Labor Party.

Since being elected as leader he has quietly gone about restoring some of Labor’s traditional ideology with a more modern touch. Far less importance on Unions and a concentration on fairness and traditional left values like inequality.

I also reflected on the fact that there were countless people, including many who support this blog, even some writers who expressed the view that Shorten wasn’t up to it.

I was one who questioned his charismatic suitability while at the same time suggesting he was a policy wanker. And its fair to say that he has vastly improved his media presentation and he, unlike Abbott, has made the most of his term as Opposition Leader with well thought through policy that even has an element of risk attached. He knew the value of a preseason.

His campaign launch was excellent. As I have said before, he will never have the flare of a Whitlam, Keating or Hawke but he did show that he has some fire in the belly.

“We can win this election if we give it every ounce of our energy.
Mr Turnbull says he’s got this in the bag. He claims he’s already won it,
I say to him: ‘Never underestimate Labor. You ain’t seen anything yet!”

For those with a long memory it was reminiscent of that old firebrand from the Kangaroos, Alan Killigrew who could get his players to walk on hot coals for the cause.

The hall was alive with true believers. Not just those for who it was obligatory but believers who saw that the party was in with a chance and that they had found a leader who could make it possible.

The atmosphere in the room was one of taking it up to the other side. Of playing the final quarter on Labor’s terms. Kicking the ball long with attacking play. Bill was on a roll. Keating sat with an impassioned look shaking Bob’s hand. All had been forgiven for the cause.

Gillard’s face lit up with the mention of Gonski and Bob could hardly contain his emotions when Shorten spoke with compassion about Medicare.

“Men and women of Australia” we're alive with the possibility of a victory that will require guts and determination.

I recalled the old boxing phrase “champions get up when the others can’t”.

Shorten’s voice rose and fell to the dictates of victory. He was not only appealing to the team but was urging on, not just the party faithful , but the hangers on who’s support would be needed for a victory. Those interested in jobs, infrastructure and health.

Throughout the finals campaign Turnbull has played with a negative small target game plan and Bill wanted to take the game up to him with the future of Medicare, schools and Labor’s new plan to boost jobs through a small business tax cut.

The final stanza would be contested between two vastly different teams. One interested in serving those that have whereas Bill said his team would play their hearts out for those who have not. He said the leadership team had identified matters that would give them the edge over their opponents. Things like giving youth suicide and mental health the national priority they deserve.

Even those who doubted his ability to get the team over the line must now concede that he has conducted a remarkable campaign with the whole team behind him. He has held his nerve throughout. As the Vice-Captain said:

“I have watched Bill get clobbered from every angle: the media, the opposition.
They have all done their worst, but he endured, he held his nerve.”

All in all his three-quarter speech was inspirational. “So new Labor”. Based on form the favourites don’t deserve to win but who knows in a two-horse race.