1. make or become shorter.
Synonyms: reduce, lessen, shrink, decrease, diminish, cut, cut down, cut short
Today some people were surprised by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s announcement that the Australian Government’s human-rights violating refugee policy is now the Australian Labor Party’s human-rights violating refugee policy. They shouldn’t have been. The ALP’s commitment to “turning back the boats” was as inevitable as day being followed by night, or the release of a new Adam Sandler film being followed by a spike in murder-suicides. This is because of a little-known scientific truth I discovered a few years ago while taking a bath under an apple tree on the Leaning Tower of Pisa. That infallible maxim goes as follows:
“At precisely the moment you think that the Australian Labor Party can’t possibly disappoint you any further, they will.”
I like to call it Shorten’s Law.
Tilt your mind back to recent history and you’ll find endless proof for Shorten’s Law. You thought that Labor couldn’t get any more unscrupulous or ineffectual than it became under Rudd and Gillard? BAM! Here’s Billy. You thought they’d at least oppose the Government’s worst Orwellian excesses? BAM! Mandatory Data Retention passed with bipartisan support. You thought they’d finally jump on the same-sex marriage bandwagon now that even the US has? BAM! Still not binding policy. You thought they couldn’t… BAM! The Border Force Act. But… BAM! the Transpacific Trade Agreement. Surely… BAM! BAM! BAM!
I could go on. Shorten’s Law, like the simpering Clag homunculus after which it’s named, spews forth a bottomless supply of feeble zingers. Similarly bottomless is the list of abuses which have occurred under the “turn back the boats” policy over the last several years. This, along with the years of mandatory offshore detention proceeding it, probably represents Australia’s greatest breach of human rights since the Stolen Generation. Sending Hazaras back to the Taliban at gunpoint, shipping Tamils back to the genocidal regime they fled from, stripping lifeboats of safety equipment, the murder of Reza Barati, the bribing of people smugglers, the punitive burning of boat people by navy personnel, systematic medical neglect, systematic psychological torture, over three hundred cases of child self-harm, over one hundred allegations of child sex abuse and undisclosed dozens of suicides.
I remember one particularly painful instance of Shorten’s Law in 2013 when Bob Carr, then Kevin Rudd’s Minister for Foreigner Affairs, told the national press club that most boat people were “economic migrants.” He was lying through his teeth. Even under John Howard’s refugee-hostile regime, over 90% of asylum seekers were found to be legitimate. These, unfortunately, were the latest figures available, as the Labor Government had simply stopped processing applications. Since then, the ALP has shuffled ceaselessly to the right on asylum seekers, bypassing every other developed nation and many European anti-immigration parties on their punitive stance towards the most desperate people in the world. And now we’ve finally reached the point where the difference between the Coalition and Labor Party’s policy on locking up kids fleeing from persecution is that there fucking isn’t one.
But don’t take that for granted, or Labor will change their policy to feeding asylum seekers to jackals or firing them into the sun. That’s the beauty of Shorten’s Law – as soon as you think you can’t be disappointed, you will be. It’s actually a pretty damn clever way of making sure people still care about the Labor Party, and this is one of the things that has led me to conclude that William Richard Shorten is secretly a political genius.
How else could a thirty-something powerbroker who was airlifted into a Labor safe seat in 2007 survive the cannibalising of the Rudd-Gillard-Gillard-Swan-Rudd-Albanese Governments? How else could he nimbly leap from faction to faction while a whole generation of potential Labor leaders fell (and were pushed) on their swords? And, when the dust finally settled, how else could this milk-blooded kobold emerge at the top of the mangled heap?
What really tipped me off about the mastermind from Maribyrnong is the Opposition’s performance. To face down an administration as blundering, hated and cartoonishly evil as Tony Abbott’s and not be a sure bet to win the next election would require an incompetence so phenomenal, so pure, it could only be deliberate. As Tony’s popularity toboggans to oblivion Bill seems to be right behind him, riding his back. Whenever Labor gets more than a couple of percentage points ahead of the Government in the polls it immediately shunts back down, as if someone is trying to keep the gap narrow.
Some would have you believe that this is just due to Shorten’s Law, internecine ambition and the fact that the greatest force for equality and freedom in Australia’s history is now a terminally and irredeemably compromised husk with no values except nepotism and corruption. But as Ben Chifley once said – wake up, sheeple.
Bill Shorten’s infinite mediocrity doesn’t prove that he doesn’t have a strategy to win government. It is his strategy. Because the second it looks like Abbott is stuffed at the next election, the Coalition (most of whom already hate his guts) will lop off his grimacing mug and replace him with Malcolm Turnbull, and if the drawling Duke of Wentworth becomes PM he’ll eat Shorten alive like the unsalted cracker that he is. Or, to put it clearly, as soon it looks like Shorten will win he won’t, because it will look like Abbott won’t so Turnbull will so Shorten won’t. But if Shorten makes sure he might not he might because Abbott might so Turnbull can’t so Shorten maybe will.
This puts Bill’s legislative cowardice, policy backflips and cringeworthy speeches in a new light. Each is an ingenious ploy to tunnel his way to the Lodge by keeping his own approval rating down to keep Tone afloat. For as Machievalli once said, “It is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with, but it is even better to be universally despised.”