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Shorten wants a sophisticated relationship with Asia


Sophisticated like this, from September 2014?

WHEN Bill Shorten stood on a flatbed truck to address a union rally at the gates of the Australian Submarine Corp in Adelaide on Tuesday, he seized on the worst instincts of old Australia and made a pitch to workers that stank with racist and protectionist rhetoric.

It was an inexcusable performance from the Labor leader who should, and does, know better. In opposing the mooted purchase of Japanese submarines, Shorten roused his flag-waving union audience with references to race, fear and protectionism.

“Under Labor, we will build ships and submarines in Australia because we love this country!” Shorten said, reflecting the overtly nationalist sentiment in his audience who responded with wild cheers. Then he seized on the fear of invasion, deeply ingrained in the psyche of old Australia.

“For goodness sake, Tony Abbott, buy a map of the world,” he said. “We are an island, Tony Abbott, and our navy matters.”

Then came the thinly veiled racism. Australian Manufacturing Workers Union national secretary Paul Bastian said, “Japanese subs on the way. Do you feel betrayed?”

The union workers responded: “Yes!”

As Shorten stood before the crowd, one man in the audience went where he shouldn’t have. “Last time we had Jap subs, they were in bloody Sydney Harbour,” he said.

This was Shorten’s big chance. When he spoke, he should have rejected this view and made it clear Labor opposed importing submarines because it undermined the local shipbuilding industry and risked jobs, however retrograde this view is.

Instead, Shorten went for the cheap applause and amplified the racist rhetoric of his interjector. “This is a government with a short memory,” Shorten said. “In the Second World War, 366 merchant ships were sunk off Australia.”

The figure was wrong but the message was clear.

This was a classy look:

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