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Bill Shorten budget reply speech laced with Paul Keating zingers

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Mark Kenny and James Massola

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Bill Shorten's call to arms

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten slams the government's cuts to health, welfare and education in his budget reply speech and says Labor is ready for an election.

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Labor leader Bill Shorten was doing more than channelling Paul Keating in his hard-hitting budget reply speech on May 15 for which he received sustained applause from the public galleries.

He was relying directly on the former prime minister's expertise - and, in some cases even, his words.

Bill Shorten's speech cartoonBill's speech cartoon for 30 5 14 by Cathy WilcoxBill Shorten: "I've lost my mojo."Staff offering Essence of PJK: "Drink this."bill's mojo.JPG

Bill Shorten's speech cartoonBill's speech cartoon for 30 5 14 by Cathy WilcoxBill Shorten: "I've lost my mojo."Staff offering Essence of PJK: "Drink this."bill's mojo.JPG Photo: Cathy Wilcox

Fairfax Media has been told the speech, the most important single oration Mr Shorten has made as leader, was workshopped with a wide variety of senior labour movement figures including several of his frontbench colleagues, former ACTU secretary Bill Kelty and, most crucially, Mr Keating - who advised on the final version.

Mr Keating dominated politics from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, crashing his way to the prime ministership in 1991 before losing to John Howard in the 1996 landslide.

Insiders confirmed Mr Keating remains in regular contact with Mr Shorten, acknowledging the pair spoke before the seminal speech, which was then sent to Mr Keating for further input.

Sage advice: Bill Shorten and Paul Keating at a special caucus meeting.

Sage advice: Bill Shorten and Paul Keating at a special caucus meeting. Photo: Andrew Meares

Sources said the speech was not given a major reworking but that Mr Keating had offered his thoughts and provided a couple of ''vintage Keating lines''.

Quizzed about the role of Mr Keating in the current political contest, senior opposition figures attempted to play down the extent of his involvement, keen to avoid the suggestion that Mr Shorten's words could be seen to have been someone else's.

They were perhaps also aware that while Mr Keating is a favourite among Labor loyalists, his standing with conservative voters is less favourable.

Mr Shorten's budget reply speech was praised as a political document but criticised by the government for not containing substantive policy ideas or an alternative economic plan.

But what it lacked in detail, it more than made up for in rhetorical flourish, pleasing ALP supporters in the public galleries to such an extent that the speech was punctuated with frequent applause and received a standing ovation at the end.

The version of the speech originally circulated to media differed in some minor aspects from the one given in the House of Representatives, which took on a more rousing tone, finishing with the feisty challenge: ''If you want an election, try us; if you think that Labor is too weak, bring it on.''

So concerned was the government at its favourable reception that the Leader of the House, Christopher Pyne, gestured to the Speaker, Bronwyn Bishop, instructing her to rise to her feet, thus bringing the applause to an end.

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93 comments

  • What's the big deal if the words were someone else's? Isn't that what speech writers do? Do you really think any political speech is written by the person delivering it?

    Commenter
    Stephen
    Date and time
    May 30, 2014, 7:18AM
    • He had to use something as he obviously can't think for himself.

      Commenter
      Bernie Gee
      Date and time
      May 30, 2014, 8:35AM
    • Only trouble is that you cannot compare an incompetent come shortly to a master politician such as PJK.

      Commenter
      Well here we go again
      Date and time
      May 30, 2014, 8:47AM
    • At least Tony writes his own "arrs" and "umms" (...or did Peta write then too I wonder).

      Commenter
      Martin
      Date and time
      May 30, 2014, 9:18AM
    • Apart from being plagiarised it was one of the most negative speeches ever given in parliament. This opposition is far more negative spin than any government in living memory and makes Abbott-in-opposition look like a cheerleader in comparison. I say no to Electricity Bill and his bunch of anti-govenment but no alternative plan buddies.

      Commenter
      Dave
      Location
      Melb
      Date and time
      May 30, 2014, 9:37AM
    • "Simple Simon met a pieman
      Going to the fair;
      Says Simple Simon to the pieman
      Let me taste your ware
      Says the pieman to Simple Simon,
      Show me first your penny
      Says Simple Simon to the pieman
      Indeed I have not any."

      Bill will always be the mouther of others' words; the eater of pies, never the Baker.
      How anyone could characterise the plagiarised, falsetto, solution -impoverished Budget Reply Speech as "hard hitting" is beyond me.

      This is no P J Keating.

      Commenter
      Louis
      Date and time
      May 30, 2014, 9:42AM
    • Ahhh, I love the smell of conservative desperation in the morning. That the cons supporters feel the need to come out in force to counter this fist post tells me that they're rattled and that's a good thing.

      Commenter
      Scott H
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      May 30, 2014, 10:09AM
    • Abbott should sack the speech writer who puts in so many uhmms and errr ahhhs.

      Commenter
      GraemeF
      Date and time
      May 30, 2014, 11:06AM
    • I have no problem with a politician delivering a speech someone else has written but it was incoherent in parts, poorly structured and delivered by someone who is a poor public speaker. If only Paul Keating had re-written the speech and delivered it the outcome would have been different but Shorten is a poor imitation of Keating and Hawke and, dare I say it, Rudd and Gillard. Shorten should sack his speech writer and urgently get some training in public speaking. He is letting the side down.

      Commenter
      Pollie watcher
      Date and time
      May 30, 2014, 11:08AM
    • Dave surely you jest. Abbott is recognised widely as Dr No, opposed pretty much everything good and bad. Shorten is not in the same playing field. Abbott was relentless in his attacks at any expense regularly canning Australia in the process. He was a talentless disgrace then as he is now. Actually he appears to have some destructive talent.

      Commenter
      KIDDING
      Date and time
      May 30, 2014, 11:25AM

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