Australian Labor Party’s Bill Shorten Owns May Election Defeat, Says Lost Votes on Green-Left Policies

October 6, 2019 Updated: October 6, 2019

Australia’s former opposition leader Bill Shorten says he’s given up his dream of becoming prime minister but wants to stay in public life and represent people for decades.

Bill Shorten has taken responsibility for Labor’s shock election loss, admitting the party’s broad agenda including sweeping tax reforms led to defeat.

The former leader also ruled out a return to his party’s helm, but will recontest his inner-Melbourne seat of Maribyrnong at the next election.

“I was captain of the team. We played in a grand final. Millions of Australians did give us their first or second vote but it wasn’t quite enough,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday.

“As captain of the team I’ve got to accept the collective responsibility for us falling short.”

Shorten said he accepted the party had misread the mood by pledging to scrap franking credit refunds for some shareholders.

“In hindsight, and of course hindsight is never wrong, there were a lot of older people who felt vulnerable and it also laid the seed bed for the fake campaign on the death tax,” he said.

He said if he had his time again, Labor’s tax agenda would have been more focused on income tax cuts instead of other measures like changes to negative gearing and capital gains tax.

The ex-union boss said it hurt to realise some voters thought Labor didn’t have jobs as its most important priority.

“It pains me to realise after the election that I’d misread some of the mood in Queensland and Western Australia,” Shorten said.

“There they saw some of our policies as being green-left, not for the worker, not for working people.

“That pains me because I’ve spent my adult life standing up for working class people, standing up for workers, standing up for a better deal for them … it pains me to realise at the last election our presentation meant that some people felt we weren’t putting jobs first and foremost in everything we did.”

Shorten ruled out returning to the leadership, preferring to focus on his shadow frontbench role in disabilities and government services.

“I’ve hung up my leadership running shoes,” he said.

“I do intend to be in public life for as long as I possibly can and make a contribution to the rebuilding of Labor, but not as leader.”

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers, who would have been finance minister in a Shorten government, backed his former leader’s analysis.

“He made a series of points including that it’s possible that we took too many issues to the election. We may have spread ourselves too thin,” he told Sky News on Sunday.

Chalmers said Mr Shorten’s views about policy carried a lot of weight.

He said if there were better ways to address problems in the economy than Labor’s election platform, the party would change its policies from the next election.

“We’re not in a rush to do that, we’ve got the time to do that and we will do it properly,” Chalmers said.

By Matt Coughlan