Is Shifty shafted?

Caption: The Daily Telegraph brutally summed up Shorten’s predicament

As I wrote months ago, Labor were playing a dangerous game with the dual citizenship constitutional crisis. Lighting political fires under your opponents’ feet is all well and good, but fires have a way of getting out of control.

While a raft of Coalition and Greens MPs were forced to resign or re-contest their seats, Labor steadfastly denied that any of their crew were under a cloud, despite one openly admitting that she was still a dual citizen. Bill Shorten repeatedly refused to refer any Labor members to the High Court, on little more than his personal assurance that they had no case to answer.

Well, now the High Court has disagreed and Shorten’s credibility (such as it was) is blown to pieces. Quote

Bill Shorten?s leadership will be put on trial in a ?Super Saturday? of five simultaneous by-elections, four of them triggered by…the parliament?s ongoing dual citizenship crisis… End of quote.

Even now that he’s been caught out, Shifty is still trying to put one over voters. Quote:

The besieged Labor leader yesterday declared the string of by-elections…would double as an early referendum on the Turnbull government?s budget. End of quote.

This has nothing to do with Turnbull’s budget. This has all come about because not only did a bunch of Labor politicians not play by the rules but Shorten brazenly lied about it for seven months. Quote:

The political crisis engulfed Mr Shorten, whose leadership could hinge on the outcomes of the ?by-elections…[which] would set up an electoral showdown…where Mr Shorten will come under pressure on border protection, industrial relations and energy. End of quote.

But as I say: political bonfires have a way of getting out of control. The outcome could be just as deadly for Turnbull as Shorten. Quote:

Senior party officials on both sides of politics conceded that the by-elections…could decide the fate of either leader. End of quote.

The past week has been a rare good one for Turnbull. A largely positive budget and Turnbull has been in rare good form against the media. The High Court decision has handed Turnbull another win and left Shorten trying to worm out of the hole he?s dug for himself. Quote:

Mr Shorten tried to defend his refusal over the past six months to refer Labor MPs to the High Court, claiming yesterday?s judgment delivered a ?new precedent? End of quote.

Rubbish. If the constitution wasn?t clear before, once the High Court ruled against Matt Canavan, it was plain that Labor didn?t have a leg to stand on. Quote:

?The High Court did not make a new ruling today, or a new interpretation,? the Prime Minister said. ?They make it very clear that all they are doing is applying the principles set out in the Canavan case last year.? End of quote.

Shorten?s attempt to brazen the affair out only makes him look even weaker and shiftier. Quote:

The government is hopeful in Mayo, where Howard government minister ?Alexander Downer?s daughter Georgina will run for the Liberal Party in the seat once held by her father.

Labor also faces a tough contest in Longman, which Ms Lamb won from the LNP in 2016 on the back of One Nation preferences. End of quote.

It?s exceedingly rare for a government to win a seat back from the opposition in a by-election. But these are not typical by-elections. Voters might not be so forgiving of Labor MPs who blatantly stonewalled for six months. There is also One Nation to reckon with in at least one seat.

Whichever way it goes, the leader of the losing party will be in trouble. Turnbull has consistently trailed Labor for nearly his whole time in the top job. Quote:

If Mr Shorten were to lose one or two of the Labor-held seats, his leadership would come under intense pressure. But a senior Liberal MP warned: ?Equally, if the ?Coalition vote went backwards in any of those contests, it would spark a major panic in the partyroom.? End of quote.

Shorten has a Clinton-like ability to slither out of scandals that would wreck other careers. He is also protected by party rule changes brought in by Kevin Rudd to insulate himself from a second leadership challenge.

Even though Shorten is taking a belting this week, and will be savaged even further if Labor loses any or all of the byelections, don?t underestimate his uncanny knack of survival. But popular Labor deputy Anthony Albanese will surely be doing his sums. An Albo-led Labor will be no small threat to Turnbull, who has a remarkable talent for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.