Bill Shorten has stood in front of an audience of 880 Labor faithful and told them that Joe Hockey is an “arrogant, cigar-chomping’’ federal treasurer hell-bent on destroying all Labor has fought for.
At the NSW Labor Party Conference, Bill Shorten launched an attack on the treasurer following the release of his biography by Fairfax Media columnist and former ABC broadcaster, Madonna King. Not Your Average Joe revealed that Joe Hockey wanted a tougher budget, with many of the proposed changes and cuts to education, health, pensions and Medicare to occur sooner and to be harsher, but Tony Abbott was responsible for a more cautious approach.
Branding Mr Hockey the “Foghorn Leghorn” of Australian politics and calling for a “fight right down to the line for the principle of universal healthcare”, Mr Shorten said that the government was, “unravelling from the centre and rotting from the top’’.
“This is a budget brought to you by a conservative prime minister who doesn’t see it as his duty to care for everyone,’’ he said.
“By a conservative treasurer whose personal comfort in life has robbed him of charity and, I might say, judgment.’’
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It’s easy to get carried away in the heat of the moment, especially when you have a crowd hanging off your every word, but it’s hardly dignified for a party leader to revert to nasty name-calling.
Bill Shorten has, by and large, been seen and not hear for most of his time as Labor leader, so perhaps this is why the personal attack on Joe Hockey jars so much. I’m no fan of the budget Mr Hockey put forward in May and shudder to think of it being any worse, but surely a more productive course of action would be for Mr Shorten to outline the policies and proposed budget fixes which he hopes will see these perceived wrongs righted? Simply lashing out with sound bites such as “cigar-chomping” and “Foghorn Leghorn” is little more than lowering your tone to that of your opponent.
Name-calling in politics is nothing new, nor is it confined to the Australian political landscape. However, can you think of a particularly nasty barb delivered by Barrack Obama to his opposition? I couldn’t recall any such occasion, yet constantly in Australian politics we’re bombarded with headlines of who called who what.
Joe Hockey’s budget may not be popular, and there will be continued questions as to whether it was needed or not, but that simply doesn’t warrant this attack by Bill Shorten, even if it was intended to inflame the passion of the party faithful.
Did Bill Shorten over-step the mark with his comments? Or should what is said at a party conference be ‘off-the-record’? Is personal abuse so embedded in Australian political posturing that we just have to accept it?