The ALP has used its time in the wilderness of opposition to sort out its factional differences and produce an unusually detailed agreed program, even on issues like immigration that tormented the Rudd and Gillard governments.
At the top, Mr Shorten has cemented the loyal support of senior colleagues with ministerial experience such as Penny Wong, Tanya Plibersek, Anthony Albanese and Chris Bowen.
It is hard to say the same for the Coalition. Many of the Coalition’s most capable MPs including Mr Turnbull, Julie Bishop, Kelly O’Dwyer and Christopher Pyne have resigned from Parliament following the absurd coup that ousted Mr Turnbull last August. Since then, the party has not been able to agree on a legislative agenda, especially on the issue of climate change policy which is a crucial priority for many voters.
A truce has been declared in the blood feuds during the campaign but the war is all too likely to break out again if Prime Minister Scott Morrison is returned.
Mr Morrison deserves credit for running a lively one-man campaign but the party is facing an identity crisis split between progressives and conservatives that manifests itself in debates on women, LGBTQI rights and most notably on climate change and energy policy.
The camp of climate denier conservatives in the Coalition has spent six years bickering with a camp of progressive centrists over how to deal with energy policy to the point where even traditional business allies are begging them in frustration to find a solution. Even if Mr Morrison were to scrape back in, he has not given any hint of how he plans to end this paralysis.
Mr Shorten deserves credit for laying his cards on the table with clear policies including a climate policy based on the National Energy Guarantee that the Coalition ditched last year. Mr Shorten’s plans to boost the subsidy for childcare are a valuable micro-economic reform that will bring more women into the workforce.
But the Herald is not endorsing every aspect of his very ambitious program. With the economy facing headwinds, people want solid, sensible government – not a revolution.
Voters will be especially worried if Mr Shorten gives in to union pressure and moves too far to re-regulate the industrial relations system. His proposed tax changes to negative gearing, family trusts and unused franking credits will require careful scrutiny. If the Senate rejects these revenue-raising measures, Mr Shorten must ensure that he curbs his spending promises and honours his pledge to deliver a budget surplus.
These are the challenges. But, if Mr Shorten can deliver three years of normal government, he should be able to deal with them. It will be better than a continuation of instability under the Coalition.