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Jingoistic, Xenophobic, Protectionist: Bill Shorten’s March To The Fringe In Speech To Submarine Workers

Disregarding the ALP’s role in developing a modern and open trading economy, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has taken the low road of jingoism and protection in a speech to submarine workers in Adelaide.


Shorten spoke to workers in Adelaide, following reports that the National Security Committee of Cabinet is set to replace the Collins class submarine fleet with a new “off-the-shelf” Japanese vessel. He accused the government of lying to workers.

Rather than simply support local submarine building, Shorten told a rally of Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) members at the gates of the Australian Submarine Corporation: “Under Labor, we will build ships and submarines in Australia because we love this country.”

The shrill speech appealed to the worst in the Australian psyche. Speaking of the Abbott government, Shorten said: “This is a government with a short memory… When it comes to the long-term decisions, they are a dangerous government… In the Second World War, 366 merchant ships were sunk off Australia and the government in the 1930s said ‘we don’t need Australian ships, we’ll privatise them’… This is a government that forgets everything and learns nothing… For goodness sake, Tony Abbott, buy a map of the world. We are an island, Tony Abbott, and our navy matters.”

Shorten said the Abbott government was “contracting out the defence of Australia, they are fighting for jobs in foreign countries, not our own… and they are playing with fire [with] our national security”. He said: “If you’re going to spend taxpayers’ money, spend it on Australian jobs.”


On the tape of Shorten’s speech, an interjector can be heard saying: “Last time we had Jap subs, they were in bloody Sydney Harbour.”

Shorten was introduced by Paul Bastian, National Secretary of the AWMU, who told the rally: “Today, when I left the airport in Sydney, this headline greeted me: ‘Japanese subs on the way.’ Do you feel betrayed?”

The speech is further evidence of Shorten’s political immaturity and his opportunistic approach to politics. An out-moded view of Japan that harks back to World War Two animosities runs counter to the open economy policies of Hawke and Keating. It is at odds with the multicultural stance adopted by most governments since the war. It is the very essence of old Labor.

In recent weeks Clive Palmer and Senator Jacqui Lambie have adopted a similarly juvenile and aggressive stance towards China. It is disturbing to see the Leader of the Opposition practising the same kind of fringe politics. Jingoism may have played well a century ago but it is has no place in contemporary Australia, especially in relation to our major trading partners.

  • Listen to Paul Bastian’s remarks (6m)
  • Listen to Bill Shorten’s speech (10m)
  • Listen to Shorten’s media conference (18m)
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Malcolm Farnsworth
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