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Dear Mr Shorten, please step down

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Dear Mr Shorten, Leader of the federal Opposition, Australian Labor Party.


In September Malcolm Turnbull ousted Mr Abbott as Prime Minister of Australia. Since that time there has been a lot of rhetoric from the new Prime Minister, but very little substance - the Conservative LNP Government is very much the same beast with the same group of people running the country. A lot of commentators speculate that the new PM can't make the changes he might want initially because he can't afford to offend powerful interests within the Liberal Party. But you and I and everyone who's been paying attention to Mr Turnbull for the past five years know that such analysis (while having some basis in truth) misses the mark - Turnbull has a track record of public persuasion by appearing reasonable, appealing to logic and factual debate, while pursuing his specific agenda with single-minded determination. Talk of reasonable discussion is a highly effective deflection and distraction - it holds detractors off-balance as they try to bring logical argument to bear, which Turnbull knows the electorate have little real patience for. Very few people will take the time to analyse the detail - most people want their opinion served up on a plate by someone they trust. Malcolm has managed to convince everyone to trust him without doing anything to engender that trust (through actions that demonstrate he is willing to go the distance for the Australian people above and beyond his own fortunes and the benefit of rich, privileged individuals and businesses), and by controlling the trust by being charismatic he gets to keep dictating who and what people believe and trust. It is brilliant, if cynical.


The problem is, Mr Shorten, that you can't go toe-to-toe with Turnbull on charisma. You may be a brilliant negotiator, you may have the best interest of the Australian people at heart rather than big business and foreign governments, but unfortunately you're as charismatic as nails down a blackboard. You've adopted awkward puns as a badge of honour, thinking your ‘zingers’ engender public affection, but you can't be more mistaken - you and your ill-advised team of strategists are demonstrating a fundamental disconnect with the electorate through what you consider to be innocuous character building. Every time you trivialise an issue with some terrible pun you seem out of touch, you make LNP voters laugh at your apparent stupidity and potential ALP supporters groan with despair at the growing certainty that the Leader of the Opposition is, like his puns, a bad joke, who has no clue, is completely out of touch with the people, with zero chance of ousting an LNP government who is actively destroying the nation. You appear belligerently incompetent.


That doesn't mean you are incompetent - on the contrary, I have every confidence you are an intelligent, effective politician who cares deeply about the Australian people. What it does mean is you are difficult to like, difficult to trust and difficult to take seriously. Your message is completely lost between the poor humour on one hand and the depressingly monotone delivery on the other.


Should you need to be a great orator to be an effective politician, or indeed, PM? No, you shouldn't. Governments and ministers should rise and fall with their policies and track record. But the problem is most *voters* vote based on things like ideology, family tradition and personality, based on what the newspapers tell them to like and hate, based on soundbites they see on infotainment. You should be able to succeed on the back of your achievements, but history shows us that charisma holds a lot more voting credit than competence.


A lot of voters will keep voting for the existing government because they fundamentally dislike change, and they see no benefit in giving someone else a go who they feel is the same as the current lot, only less certain. That's where the ALP is right now, staring down the barrel of a looming election. Voters have just had a change, and they like what they see and hear - a PM that sounds fair and reasonable, who seems to know what he's talking about - a PM the media adore, where every article seems to praise his intellect and reasonableness. Why would they want to change again, after five years with as many PMs? After a PM like Abbott, who simply didn't care that he was out of touch? They're sick of the back and forth, and they believe Turnbull has all the answers.


But the reality falls very short of the rhetoric - the LNP are economically incompetent, environmentally reckless and morally bankrupt. They shamelessly advance the interests of large enterprise, multinational corporations and the 1% who own nearly everything while stripping bare essentials from the most vulnerable people in the country. Turnbull just launched his Innovation package, intended to stimulate innovative thinking, businesses and industries, but how will you encourage innovation when we lack the infrastructure foundation upon which to build disruptive and innovative businesses, how will you encourage those with innovative ideas, products and companies to remain in Australia when we don't have the infrastructure to support their business growth and operation, how the hell can you hope to attract innovators from other countries to move to an ‘Innovation Hub’ in Australia that lacks the basic foundations upon which to incubate and grow disruptive ideas, technologies and companies? Turnbull spent the last five years misleading the Australian people while working to dismantle, undermine and sabotage the critical communications infrastructure Australia will rely upon for future productivity and competitiveness over the coming decades - this is what the Labor party need to bring to public attention, because the media have already demonstrated their near universal inability to analyse the topic and Turnbull's performance as a result.


But the media and the people are distracted - they're distracted by polls that show the Australian people neither like or trust you. They're distracted by reports of your criminally negligent behaviour while in control of a vehicle, they're distracted by claims of corruption and you scrambling to repay questionable ‘donations’ years after the fact. You've said no one is above the law and tried to appear contrite, but while you're correct that no one is above the law, you've demonstrated that you consider yourself to not have to abide by the law unless you get caught out. We don't need a Prime Minister who considers the law an inconvenience to be overlooked when no one's looking, we need someone of strong character who stands behind the law because that's the only fair and just way to ensure that all Australians can have confidence in the system you purport to represent.


Malcolm Turnbull is not such a person - he is morally bankrupt, utterly hypocritical, putting his own self interest and that of his friends and benefactors a long way before the Australian public. He has knowingly undermined the viability of Australia's largest ever infrastructure project, destabilising the fundamental underpinning assumptions to the point where the Return On Investment will be unlikely to ever exceed the cost of construction and operational expenditure, creating a huge drain on the budget, giving him an excuse to offload it to Telstra for a fraction of its construction cost and thus giving Telstra exactly what they've been asking the government for, for decades: a heavily subsidised network entirely owned by a private company free to exert its monopoly power for many decades to come (and possibly indefinitely, because fibre doesn't rot - some of the copper network is 100 years old, so the fibre could last hundreds).


Australia cannot afford to have a corrupt, self interested, silver tongued thief running the country for another three years, a man barely retaining control of a party full of capitalist rent seekers, economic incompetents, and racist, sexist bigots. We cannot afford to turn the NBN into a public funding vehicle gifting Telstra tens of billions. We cannot afford the TPP, a trade agreement that sells the rights of Australians down the river while lining the pockets of multinationals, that reports have shown benefits every one of the other eleven countries ahead of the interests of Australians. We can't afford to have medicare comprehensively dismantled, we can't afford the economic mismanagement that is putting record numbers of Australians into poverty, we can't afford to have a government that pays no more than lip service to domestic violence that's seeing records numbers of women and children murdered everywhere, not to mention the tens of thousands living with violence every day. Another term of Coalition Government will close the coffin on the ideal of a national fibre communications network available to all at affordable prices, it will cement the TPP and enshrine Australians as second class citizens with fewer rights than our trade partners forever, it will make basic and necessary medical procedures too expensive for many Australians, and will leave a swathe of dead and broken women and children in its wake.


But right now, the largest impediment to a potential alternative, to Australia's best hope of turning this terrifying reality around, is you. You don't mean to be - I have no doubt you have the country's best interests at heart and you not only believe, but know categorically that you would be a better, fairer, more egalitarian Prime Minister running a government that actually has the interests of the people foremost in their minds. But that is meaningless if you're unelectable. The best intentions in the world won't change the damage the LNP are inflicting. You've had two years to find your feet and engage the electorate, two years where most of it was spent under possibly the worst PM in Australia's history, yet in that time you have comprehensively failed to gain traction, you have failed to connect with the Australian people and get them to passionately back the ALP as a strong, trustworthy alternative, that isn't just the other side of the same coin.


So it is in that context that I implore you, Mr Shorten, to do what is right for Australia, and step down as leader of the Opposition. To allow the people to choose someone they believe in, who they find engaging and passionate and even inspiring. Because that's what it's going to take to turn this around and stop Malcolm’s destructive reign from tipping the country over the precipice into economic and social freefall. No more backroom politics - let ALP members choose the leader, not faceless power players. Do what is right for the ALP and what is right for the nation and please, please, step down.



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