Our pal Glenn Milne does Bill
Shorten in his column in The Australian this morning.
“The apparent Great White Hope of the Labor party will arrive in Canberra
as damaged goods,” he writes. “While Labor’s paroxysms are primarily about
settling past debts, the real danger for the party is that it will irreparably
damage some of their brightest hopes for the future.”

Pick up any Australian politics text
book and it will tell you how, given it was Menzies’ creation, the Liberal
Party has always invested so much power in its leader. Look at the accounts of
its wilderness years between 1983 and the 1996 win and there will be plenty of
talk about the conservative search for a messiah and the unlikely figures who
revealed themselves to the faithful in these testing times – John Elliott and
Joh being extreme examples.

Yet Labor has a messiah complex of
its own, a less easily unravelled theology, much of which finds its expression in
the stories of their great martyr, Gough.

Whitlam was the chosen one, tested
by national executive, who finally obtained the keys to the kingdom – only to
be booted out by the juiced-up Judas from Yarralumla (overwhelmingly hostile
votes from the Australian people in 1975 and 1977 and, indeed, the lukewarm
wins of 1972 and 1974 get overlooked in the canon).

This chosen one, of course, had his
message – the almighty “mandate” – and its creed was “crash through or crash”.

When Labor was cast into the
wilderness, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth until another messiah
finally appeared – Hawkie.

Labor is on the lookout for yet
another. There’s still a strong cult of Keating worship, but this is regarded
by most observers as something akin to the Johannite sects that still persist, or Gnostic Da Vinci Code territory.

So it’s worrying for Labor that a
possible new messiah might arrive in Canberra
a damaged god. It’s also worrying that they should
have got so excited when AWU official Shorten’s star rose in the east.

They should double check just how few
still belong to unions. It’s no good pitching a messiah at agnostics.