Bill Shorten says he is the “last person” to listen to polls after a survey showed Labor in a similar position to his shock 2019 election loss. The Labor NDIS spokesman commented at the National Press Club, where he lashed the government’s sluggish COVID-19 vaccine rollout, particularly among people with disabilities.
A poll conducted by the Nine Newspapers last week put Labor’s primary vote at 33 percent, which is achieved under Mr. Shorten’s leadership.
But the former leader joked he had “spoken to his therapist” before attending the Press Club, claiming the chastening 2019 result had taught him to ignore predictions. “Listen, I am the last person in the world to say believe the polls,” he told the National Press Club.
“I think we are going fine. We are in a battle. It is not easy when you are in opposition in COVID.” Mr. Shorten January warned Labor against taking a “tiny” policy plan to the next election and lamented allowing environmental issues to “claim a near-monopoly of our time”.
The former leader, who conceded he “probably had too many ideas” in 2019, pressed whether his successor had found the right balance.
“It is not enough to be the opposition. You have got to be the alternative government in terms of policies,” he said. “That is exactly what has been happening.”
Mr. Shorten also lashed the government’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout after revelations that just 6.5 percent of Australians with disabilities had received their vaccine dose in April.
Health Department secretary Brendan Murphy said aged care residents had been prioritized, as they were at the most significant risk of death from COVID-19, assuring parliamentary inquiry vaccines among the disabled would ramp up.
But Mr. Shorten said US President Joe Biden had managed a more efficient vaccination program. “Unbelievable! They used to call him ‘Sleepy Joe’; how about ‘Sleepy Scotty’?” Mr. Shorten joked. “It is not fair on people with disabilities. There is a serious edge to this.”
The new US President has also led countries to adopt more ambitious climate goals. Mr. Shorten committed to a 45 percent emissions reduction by 2030 target at the 2016 and 2019 elections. Labor has yet to announce a similar mid-range target under Anthony Albanese but aims to reach net-zero by 2050. Mr. Shorten conceded “things have changed a bit” since 2019 but warned it was not a matter of simply adopting the same goals.
“I think the steepness of trying to achieve that in the remaining time that we have, between 2022 and 2030, is less than the runway we might have had in 2016 or indeed even in 2019,” he said. “I don’t think you can simply just say we should set the same target because, unfortunately, the nation hasn’t been in that direction.”