'Operation Shield Shorten': How The Labor Leader Avoids The Tough Questions
ANALYSIS: You've seen it in the movies: the moment the secret service agents clamber to encircle their leader.
"Get him to the car," they yell exasperatedly under heavy fire.
"He'll be safe there. Move. Move. Move."
Except in this case, the safe space isn't a car, it's election night and the leader is William. R. Shorten. Former union boss, Labor kingpin and likely your next Prime Minister. Welcome to Operation Shield Shorten 2019. There's no real gunman of course, just a motley crew of journalists armed with sharp questions that depend largely on their level of sleep, coffee and deadline anxiety.
A well-placed Labor source recently exclaimed to me Bill Shorten had already won the federal election. So confident were they, they maintained the Opposition Leader could practically disappear for a 37-day Easter detox and he'd still win. It says a lot about how fed up voters are with the government's chaos, disunity and lack of an energy policy. In fact, it was explained to me that if anything went wrong from here, "Someone would take the fall."
We saw it last week when Melissa Parke's anti-Israeli comments blew up. It was revealed Labor's star candidate for the West Australian seat of Curtain had recently told a pro-Palestine activist meeting that "a pregnant refugee woman was ordered at a checkpoint in Gaza to drink a bottle of bleach."
If true, it is reprehensible. Those claims though don't play well in Melbourne, where Labor needs the support of Jewish voters. But instead of raising the level of debate, Parke swiftly fell on her sword. Shorten explained the former MP didn't want to be a distraction during the campaign. The Opposition Leader even trumpeted her resignation as proof Labor is united. Problem fixed.
We see Operation Shield Shorten at his daily press conferences.
If Shorten needs someone to defend the opposition's position on electric cars, Former NSW Premier turned Labor Senator Kristina Keneally turns defence into withering attack.
Need to wound Peter Dutton? Step forward, Shadow Health Minister Catherine King, the day's expert on identifying the despicable. "Catherine King was the Shadow Minister when that fellow was the Health Minister, so I would be keen to hear her insights," Shorten says.
"Peter Dutton is one of the most toxic people in Australian politics," King offers. BOOM! Relevance none. Effective yes!
What about explaining Shorten's blunder on superannuation? Wonderfully, Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen is on hand at the hospital.
This isn't a criticism of Labor's strategy. It's brilliantly effective. Most journalists are, at first glance, happy with it. They get two birds with one stone to fill column space and talent in their stories. Later, the penny drops. Operation Shield Shorten has struck again.
By contrast, Scott Morrison has no one he can tag-team in his fight. Right now, the Coalition has all the firepower of a scuttled battle cruiser. Morrison's Treasurer Josh Frydenberg speaks so slowly, you could be forgiven for thinking there's an earpiece in his ear, where a staffer tells him what to say.
Mathias Corman, the once trusty Finance Minister from West Australia, is so damaged from the leadership spill, he is now a liability.
Peter Dutton is poison. Everywhere he goes, he walks with the shadow of Judas. A plotter who couldn't count.
Barnaby Joyce -- famously the nation's 'best retail politician' -- seems swollen with anger and bitterness. Don't even ask what suburban mums think of him.
The nation's most senior woman, Foreign Minister Marise Payne, actively avoids the media; a person more diametrically opposed to Julie Bishop you could not find.
Which brings me back to Scott Morrison. He alone has to play both goal attack and wing defence. The nature of this means many of his best lines will end up on the cutting room floor as journalists look for other "talking heads" to spice up dull stories. His jingos will also become monotonous. There's only so many times you can hear, "You've got to have a go, to get a go" before you want to slap him with a barnacled beach thong.
Bill Shorten, on the other hand, will remain surrounded by his praetorian guard of Shadow Ministers; wheeled out, bussed around and flown in at every opportunity. Operation Shield Shorten is the perfect defence for anyone they perceive is trying to Kill Bill... and with it their chance at government.