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Aug 30, 2011

WikiLeaks: Shorten seeks US approval for prime ministership

A confidential cable leaked today by WikiLeaks from the US consulate in Melbourne contains an extraordinary portrait of federal Labor MP Bill Shorten as a power hungry sycophant.


A confidential cable leaked today by WikiLeaks from the US consulate in Melbourne contains an extraordinary portrait of federal Labor MP Bill Shorten as a power hungry sycophant and contains similar allegations from last year that the foreign power is being provided detailed inside information about government ministers and the ALP.

The cable, covering a meeting on the 11th June 2009, appears to be in part an audition piece, with Shorten presenting his Prime Ministerial credentials to the US Consul General. In the leaked document he talks about his ambition, criticises the union movement, plays up his friendship with Melbourne business elites, and is disappointed about being overlooked in a recent cabinet reshuffle.

Aware that the US Consul General in Melbourne is largely concerned with US business interests in the country, Shorten was at pains to show he was no mere union lackey. “Shorten was highly critical,” noted the US diplomat, “of current Australian union leadership”. He goes on to outline his business-friendly credentials, including his “MBA from Melbourne University”, talking about how close he was to “to the late packaging mogul Richard Pratt”, and throwing his union comrades under a tram by pledging that “in comparison to other union leaders, he is willing to listen to business concerns”.

As well as being critical of the union movement, Shorten was also keen to appeal to the political sensibilities of the Americans. Under the heading “Anti-Federalist Approach to Bushfire Reconstruction” Shorten told the diplomat that the federal government “already has plenty of duties” and that he “he did not want to see additional powers delegated to the federal level as a result of the Royal Commission into the February 2009 fires.”

The cable is not entirely favourable to Shorten and may even contain some subtle mocking. It notes he was “somewhat rumpled in appearance” and recounts a moment of sycophancy where Shorten announces he is “deeply influenced by Martin Luther King Jr.” and during the meeting quotes “from several of his speeches”.

Shorten, who is married to the Governor-General’s daughter and is also number 1 on The Power Index‘s list of political fixers for his role in bringing down Kevin Rudd, “makes no bones about his ambitions”, writes the Consul General:

“Despite his lukewarm relationship with Prime Minister Rudd … Shorten struck us as highly ambitious but willing to wait … at least for a while … for his moment in the sun.”


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27 thoughts on “WikiLeaks: Shorten seeks US approval for prime ministership

  1. George Rebus

    Slightly surprising that no mention is made of Bill Shorten’s first wife having been the daughter of a Liberal frontbencher (himself the son of a Menzies government minister) and businessman. However that has no significance whereas one has to suspect a touch of self-censoring PC if I am right in thinking the US Consul-General in Melbourne is African-American (tall and handsome as befits a representative of President Obama) because that detail makes the suggestion of Shorten’s sycophancy (in quoting Martin Luther King Jr) ring true.

  2. Bellistner

    a power hungry sycophant

    I’m speechless! :rolleyes:

  3. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    What a oleaginous performance by this would-be-PM. Creep, creep, crawl, crawl, slurp, slurp. (How does one make an emoticon for vomiting?) Rudd never did this sort of thing – bless his soul.

    Having said that, I wish the consul had asked Shorten’s opinion on Malcolm X. For the reaction, you understand.

  4. zut alors

    Why is it ‘extraordinary’ to paint Shorten as ‘ a power hungry sycophant’? It’s hardly a sensational or unreasonable observation.

  5. Fiz

    This article really doesn’t seem to gel with the original cable. Why would mentioning that Martin Luther King is an influence be sycophancy? Plenty of people around the world would claim King’s words as influential. Shorten also seems to have just been explaining the realities of federal politics where issues like equality of numbers between states is par for the course – regardless of the political party.

    If anything, this article highlights why it is so very important that people get access to the original cables, because if this is how they’re being interpreted, then the public are being treated as mugs.

    No wonder there isn’t a byline on this piece. It is pretty piss poor and something I would have thought more likely to read on a Murdoch site than on Crikey.

  6. Son of foro

    When will wikileaks expose the Pope’s religion?

  7. Whistleblower

    If Bill wants the top job he will need to persuade his mother-in-law to move out of the Governor General’s residence and she will have to manage without all the flunkies running around after her, and her overseas trips proselytising for a Security Council seat for her mate Kevin Rudd as part of the Queensland ALP “mafia”.

    I cannot see this happening in the immediate future as she seems rusted onto the job and would be unlikely to relinquish the position to give her son-in-law a crack at the Lodge. Accordingly I think will be waiting some time before we see PM Shorten dancing on Julia’s grave.

  8. Peter Ormonde

    The strange/curious thing for me is what sort of effect the imprimatur of the US Consul General might confer. Why would it be necessary or even appear useful to an aspiring baton carrier to seek such approval?
    Strange that he would feel OK about revealing his interests and ambitions to a foreign government while masking them from his own colleagues in caucus.
    Given the earlier revelations about Arbib carrying messages and currying US favour – sorry favor – makes one start to wonder who is running the show down here.
    Maybe Mao was right – we are looking at the comprador bourgeoisie. Almost makes Thommo look like a nice bloke actually.

  9. Luke Miller

    Hi Fiz,

    Even the US Consul General wrote that Shorten was “a nimble conversationalist who understands nuance. In addition to being cautious, considered and thoughtful, he is able to skillfully steer away from topics he prefers to avoid.”

    I believe it is fair to say that Shorten was attempting to ingratiate himself with the US by bringing up his admiration (which I don’t doubt) for Martin Luther King.

    Of course I definitely agree people should read primary documents and make up their own minds.


  10. Dirk van Kampen

    I’m not exactly a big fan of Shorten, but if you read the cable, it becomes apparent this article is beating it up a little. The cable doesn’t report Shorten to have done anything particularly wrong or embarrassing. Yes he is ambitious. That has been reported before…

  11. shepherdmarilyn

    Wow, who wrote the article, it’s the biggest load of bollocks.

  12. SHV

    [Mark Arbib Not A Spy]

    Why? Because he was never at the meetings?

  13. Rasta

    [Why would it be necessary or even appear useful to an aspiring baton carrier to seek such approval?
    Given the earlier revelations about Arbib carrying messages and currying US favour – sorry favor – makes one start to wonder who is running the show down here. ]

    So, all our suspicions are confirmed then. Australia is really just the 51 st state of the HAMerica.

  14. michael crook

    I cant believe that anyone is surprised at this. haven’t you guys worked out yet who is running the place?

  15. klewso

    How could anyone vote for a party led by Abbott, Joyce or Shorten – “Three Stooges”?

  16. LisaCrago

    “power hungry sycophant ” is a bit strong but should be no suprise as I don’t believe Shorten has ever hidden his leadership ambitions. He will make a fine opposition leader.

  17. A Real Rasta

    wait a secund mun, hhhffffffffffttttt====phooooffffffffffffffttt!!!!! ah, dat much betta mun. now, yes. We knooow who runnin da show but i do recall even da Keating rubbin shoulders with da yunks envoy in Canberra and sayin dat he next PM. So it bein goin long time now mun. HAMericans only come to da Trnidad when they wont s-x. hhhhfffffffttttt====phooooffffffttt!!!!..erg ahut ahutahutcoffff cof!. Sorry, excuse me mun.

  18. Ceteris Paribus

    It’s been a few years now since we have had a PM who wasn’t self absorbed, sycophantic and school prefect material.

  19. Frank Campbell

    Shorten a “power-hungry sycophant”? The Hero of Beaconsfield? Winner of the Jane Austen Medal for Advantageous Marriages?

    No one had heard of Shorten before Beaconsfield: he singlehandedly coralled a ravenous media pack. Fed them for a fortnight.

    Beaconsfield? An incident at a Tasmanian mine, you may recall…

    Boasting of his friendship with Richard Pratt? As The Age reported:

    “Former cardboard tycoon Richard Pratt’s fortune was at least partly secured through bribery and corruption, systematic tax evasion and buying political influence, former executives and business figures have claimed.

    A Sunday Age investigation has also uncovered allegations that the cardboard box cartel for which one of Australia’s richest men was ultimately held accountable actually started a decade earlier than previously believed, ripping a potential $2 billion out of the Australian economy.”

    Cardboard tycoon, cardboard politician…

  20. Socratease

    The more I read of these US Consular reports on meetings with Australian politicians, the more the expression “conga line of suckholes” comes to mind.

  21. CML

    Luke – None of this surprises me at all! But the day that Shorten leads the Labor Party is the day I totally disown them. I would never vote for that ar++++le!!!

  22. Oscar Jones

    This piece is a tawdry interpretation of the cable and crikey should be ashamed of publishing it.

    No-where in the cable is the impression of ““power hungry sycophant ” implied. That is the author’s twisting of what sounds like a fairly innocuous meeting.

    Just shows that it pays to actually read every cable thoroughly rather than Fairfax. News Corp and now crikey’s views of them. Thank God for wikileaks-it serves us far better than the mass media.

  23. AR

    Oscar – sounds like a fairly innocuous meeting., mayhaps but I don’t want such appalling, ambitious apparatchiks (‘scuz triple tautology) briefing foreign consuls on anything to do with our governance, let alone secretly, esp as they already have Arbid as their quisling (yo, GedSk!) in Sydney.
    One goes back too Latham’s Dairies index, Krudd et all as ‘the amerikans” – nuff sed.

  24. AR

    Oops – sorry for the unterminated bold, it was intended only for “secretly”. Rushing to get out into the garden for some glorious spring preparation.

  25. Policeman MacCruiskeen

    Now, now. Bill shorten is an upstandin’ young fella in the Great Labor Tradition started by Ol’ Hawkie when he took that scholarship to Harvard Business school and continued by Missus Governor-General Kerr. Dat’s tha tradition o’ very close relations with our soul brothers, the Yanks. If there aren’t the sort of stains and marks on Shorten’s trousers after his meeting with the US consul that have so incriminated Thommo or Ms Lewinsky the I reckon he’s a good bloke. As for you, Rasta Man, moi truncheon is fairly twitchin’ boyo. Send me some or pay the consequences.

  26. Oscar Jones

    AR : my problem is with crikey’s interpretation of the cable. Any Australian politician is wise to seek dialogue with the USA but the wording implies there is something wrong in Shorten’s ambitions.

    I see nothing in these cables that indicate Shorten, Arbib or any other politician has ‘secretly’ briefed anyone and if the USA doesn’t have their own intelligence services monitoring this country then they have a problem.

    Considering how John Howard cuddled up to George Bush Jnr and committed this country to wars against countries that have never harmed us, these cables are the most innocuous tittle tattle imaginable.

  27. warwick fry

    Given the boat people debacle I suspect Martin Luther King would be turning in his grave.


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