Why Shorten can be Labor's next PM

A year ago, Labor politicians were open that Julia Gillard would stand down if polling stayed poor. With Bill Shorten as her likely replacement, the election may be closer than expected.

Be prepared for William Richard Shorten to become the 28th prime minister of Australia before the 2013 election.

Tony Abbott has a detailed plan to massacre Julia Gillard and to annihilate Kevin Rudd but I do not believe Abbott has such a plan for Shorten. The election could be much closer than currently seems likely.

I must emphasise that I have not spoken to Shorten or his people and I have no current inside running of what is ahead. But a year ago ALP people were open that they believed that if the opinion polls did not improve significantly for the government, Julia Gillard would stand down in the months leading up to the 2013 election (Be prepared for Shorten, March 14, 2012).

If anything, after a revival, the opinion polls have become worse than a year ago and the Labor Party is facing a catastrophic defeat. With only a handful of politicians in the parliament it will mean that if Shorten becomes Opposition leader after the election then it will be at least six years, and possibly nine, before he can be prime minister. It might never happen. Neither the Labor Party nor Shorten can afford such a catastrophic defeat. And Julia Gillard, as a professional politician, will know this.

While Kevin Rudd might be the popular alternative to Shorten everyone in the ALP knows that, while Rudd has many talents, he is hopeless at running a cabinet – that’s why he was thrown out. The Liberals have tapes of commentary from Labor ministers on how hopeless he would be. The Rudd honeymoon might last a few weeks but the ALP chaos it would create would see the opinion polls back to where they are now, or worse.

He might be the popular choice but he is a very dangerous option because he has shown he can’t do the job of being prime minister.

So what would Bill Shorten as prime minister do? First my guess is that he will want to get to the polls once the Senate is synchronised with the House.

My second guess is that he will be too smart to attack genuine retirement superannuation with a machine gun as Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan are contemplating. He will realise that the Gonski plan for education is becoming an attack on independent schools, although it was not meant that way. That’s a really stupid thing to do prior to an election where you are already behind... better to put it on the back burner.

Fight the election so the issue is Abbott and his policies, not an Labor attack on Australian savings and independent schools.

And by the way Bill Shorten (like Julia Gillard) will be able to run the cabinet.