My days running amok with Billy Shorten

Sunday, 16 June, 2002

The biggest barney in the history of the Victorian ALP right is in full swing and this time we’ve got a long-departed Laborite reflecting back on his times with Bill Shorten and the other Networkers.

I felt it was time to perhaps offer something a little bit different from Delia Delegate, Roderick Rorter, Reg the Representative, Harry Hack and whoever else has an opinion on Bill Shorten vs. the rest of Network in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. My words and opinions are as accurate as any ones.

Firstly, I notice all the boys (yes the boys) went on and became anchored in unionism – Bill Shorten, and the rest of Network – Pakula, Steve Moore, Antony Thow, etc. More on this later.

Back to the late 1980’s with Tears for Fears, INXS, acid wash jeans and Network. Yes Network – that Monash University driven young ALP think club. Some good times and some good memories I have to say. I reckon poor old Liberal Roger Pescott must have lost 37 signs in his electorate one night due to some people belonging to a young ALP group pinching them and cutting them down. Yes, I certainly learnt a lot about the streets of Bennettswood that night. Pity the ALP still did not claim the seat in the 1988 State election; but it was not through the lack of efforts of us.

Poor old Jim Claven also came close in neighbouring Syndal but hey, there was no way we wanted that left wing prick to get up did we? Another 100 votes and he would have got the seat! Lets concentrate instead in the ‘harder’ seats of Monbulk (Neil Pope) and Knox (Steve Crabb) that were retained easily that election. Sorry, what faction did Pope and Crabb belong to? Oh that’s right, Pope is the same bloke who gave Bill a job the following year as a ministerial advisor.

In the 1990 Federal election the ALP was decimated despite winning Government. Poor old John “Beautiful Brumby” lost his seat in Bendigo as well. But hey, it was not Network’s fault. We were there at Drummond St pretending to be calling from say the Age Saulwick poll asking people who they were going to vote for. No push polling ever occurred in Drummond St. I can be sure of that – Just ask Peter ‘Nunawading’ Batchelor. Just because I told a voter that the Coalition wanted to cut spending on Education – surely there is nothing wrong with this.

Oh, the one or two parties at Gareth Evans offices – courtesy of the great taxpayer I might add. And what about some of those parties. Sorry Martin P you were one of the pissed blokes that night at Malvern after the 1998 State election party.

Great sight – wish I’d had had a camera! Then I saw you score a few nights on Sale of the Century. What about beers at Neil Pope’s offices as well?

Antony Thow – another good bloke I have to add. Sat next to him in Drummond St in the opinion polling booths. Antony, sorry to re-open old cans if it’s the case but what happened to Kylie Hanson another Networker who became a journo with the Herald-Sun? Martin was there sometimes as well, so was Bill in the first year. Can you blokes tell me what happened to Peter Cowling and that top little bloke George Habib from Bulleen?

Now that from what I can tell most of you became unions boys what about the God damn condition in Drummond St – no heating, no air conditioning, no coffee, no anything! Where was our bloody union in those days for $12.00 an hour?

Anyway, enough gripes for the minute.

That ALP youth conference in 1988 was a ripper. To that person calling himself Rod Rorter – I never saw an Asian at one youth conference so I don’t know where that one comes from. There were also certainly no hired rooms in the Downtowner either that I have since read about.

It was just good fair and honest polling, I have to say. We ran 3 candidates and had 3 different how to vote cards. Now what on earth is wrong with that? Would have put Batchelor to shame in Nunawading I have to say. For memory the 3 important positions were won by Bill, Steve Moore and either Pakula or Cowling (again, what happened to him?). The following year same again and an even more complete sweep of the Victorian Young Labor movement. Absolutely brilliant. In 1990 with my enthusiasm wavering it was Antony Thow on the Friday night that called me at home to make sure I was there to vote. I had been secured a proxy from some Labor Unity union – I bet you 50 bucks that it was the NWU! How bloody ironic when I think about it today. But hey I was already a delegate from my Federal electorate (sorry boys, cannot say which one again). Not a problem I thought. I voted twice for Bill and the boys!

Following on from Tears for Fears, INXS, and acid wash jeans in the 1980’s we then moved more to Noiseworks, floral shirts, etc. This little legend then went overseas at the end of University (sorry boys, cannot tell you which one as that could give away my identity) in 1991 and from there it all somewhat ends for me I am afraid. In 1992 in I saw one bloke by the name of Yorik Piper – the left wing nemesis in young Labor at a bus station in Edinburgh. But he was one of those tomato lefties so I didn’t bother. After a couple of years in London with John Major and the extension of Thatcherism I then travelled through Africa in early 1993. Managed to get to Harare in time to lodge my vote for El President Paul. Also noticed that Martin Pakula was running in Goldstein. Sorry Martin, did not live anywhere near that electorate but you know I would have been there for you mate.

That is if this so called spat with Bill had not happened.

This is where that dumb Delia, I have to admit, gets one over me. I am all finished and my memory has dried up by this stage I am afraid. Who the bloody hell was this bloke David Feeney that Bill has climbed into bed with, become best mates with, and then tried to take over the world with? Wasn’t even important in my day. Tim Holding must have been an absolute nipper in our days too. Who the bloody hell was he? And then I see that Bill managed to marry the offspring of a not so great Liberal man Julian Beale (worst dressed MP in history in those golf pants at the airport that night on the news). Money bought him Deakin first then Bruce and then could not buy him Bruce again. What happened to fun days? Love someone to give me the low down. Everybody stopped calling me. My mother often says “do you still see that Bill Shorten? I saw him on TV again”. No-body even rang me to get my renewal of ALP membership. No one calls me to be part of a branch stack even though I am in a marginal seat. What happened boys? It really is a sad thing?

If I read Delia, she suggests Bill’s ego could have been the problem. Absolute bullshit, Bill always wanted to be Prime Minister. Now I read with interest Martin & Co are out to get Bill and his new best friend with some old union hack called Sword who has been around for bloody years. Come on Paky, leave ’em alone. Sword is 56 years old for God’s sake. What is the party becoming? I reckon you should all kiss and make up. Why don’t I organise a party in the next election and we can choose a night to go around town pulling down some Liberal candidate posters?

Who am I, I hear you all asking. That doesn’t matter. Let’s just say I was there boys. I have the memory of an elephant. And whoever that person is (Roderick) suggesting his next article is ‘The loves of Bill’s life” give it up you wanker. I don’t think past girlfriends is really relevant now that the bloke is married if that’s what you are aiming at.

As for me, I did not renew my membership from the early 1990’s. I am now an Account Manager with a fortune 500 company. I work for one of the richest men in the world. There is not a union to be sighted around where I work and everyone makes a lot of money. I am like one of the 80% of the population who does not belong to a union. A high income earner, a non union member, son of a Doctor, well educated. But guess what comrades? I am still a true believer.

Happy memories.

Peter Fray

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