Labor is amusing us all to death

New Labor factional infighting will give journalists plenty to talk about other than urgent policy issues like carbon trading, or economic collision with Asia.

And so once again the papers are all about Labor. Prime Minister Tony Abbott will be wondering what exactly he did in his past to deserve such beneficence from on high.

No sooner has Bill Shorten been elected opposition leader, than factional fighting erupts over Labor’s front bench nominations. Anna Burke, Warren Snowden and others have slammed a faction-picked front bench comprising 16 Right faction MPs, 13 Left, and 1 unaligned (Labor's unbreakable, factional heartOctober 15).

There should have been more women from the Right, says Burke. Well yes, but with 1000 per cent more women – literally – on Labor’s front bench than the Coalition’s (eleven vs one), there is at least something to celebrate. Left- and Right-faction women do, I believe, carry the same chromosomes.

Journalists should be able to milk all this political jockeying for days, and ignore pesky little things like the tension in Coalition ranks over foreign ownership of farmland, conservative governments in Queenland and WA planning to hang on to the royalty hikes they made within Labor’s MRRT framework, or an exodus of young homebuyers from the bubbling housing market.

Who needs all that. Newpapers are for the personal bile and political subterfuge of Labor. Always have been, always will be.

On the other hand, what would it be like to push all of that dirty laundry back into the basket and just focus on what Labor’s policies are, and how they stack up against the Coalition’s?

That is obviously what Shorten's leadership team will be doing, and they will be trying to make those policies interesting to journalists and voters. But how long until the next ‘Rudd’s back!’ headline, or the next Shorten pie-shop meltdown?

Kicking those stories along is a wonderful way of drawing heat away from, say, Clive Palmer. If the would-be member for Fairfax is ever elected – the recount continues – he looks set to cause havoc on the conservative side of the house.

In the Senate, reportedly, he will only support the repeal of Labor’s emissions trading scheme if compensation is paid to the oppressed penniless wretches who have paid the tax – such as Mr Palmer.

And for heaven’s sake keep Ricky Muir off the front page. Just what kind of inducement Palmer offered Muir to sign his secretive power-bloc agreement is anyone’s guess, though a few private-jet flights to Maroochydore for Muir family beach holidays could easily be on the list.

Palmer denied any such deals on Channel Ten at the weekend. And since we still know almost nothing about the thus-far reclusive Muir, it would be unfair to suggest he could be so easily swayed.

But given that Australian democracy is showing all the signs it’s about the run off the rails, perhaps stories about shunned former front-bencher Kate Lundy, or what Left-faction member Laurie Ferguson thinks about it all should be tweeted and forgotten.

Policy must return to the fore.

Clive Palmer wants minor party status, despite being one short of the five MPs required to get additional funding and resources to read “line by line” the raft of legislation the Abbott government is drafting. 

In effect, he’s arguing that whoever holds the balance of power needs to read every word, and thus deserves those resources – not practicable given that the ‘balance of power’ shifts on each piece of legislation.

But should so much responsibility be on Clive's shoulders? If the media pack can shake the habit of the past three years and start telling the community what the government plans to do, rather than which machiavellian Laborite is playing up this week, we might still save a country headed for a nasty economic collision with Asia – a continent full of people who can do virtually everything we do, only cheaper.

Never ask how sausages are made. Just enjoy the flavour. And in the Labor sausage factory, let’s taste the policies produced rather than watch the political bloodsport that provided the filling. 

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