What is it with Labour parties and promises?

Bill Shorten, odds-on favourite to become Australia's next Prime Minister in May, announced his electric car policy involved sales increasing over the next 10 years from 2500 per year to 600,000.

He would also build a charging network (which is no mean feat given the size of his country) and having pulled those rabbits out of hats, then went on radio to announce the good thing about electric cars is they can be charged in eight minutes.


He is still recovering from that, as well as coming up with an answer to what most of us would have assumed is a fairly obvious question: what is he going to do about power production in a country that is already fragile in terms of delivery, given the surge in demand that will occur with all his cars, not to mention the fact that 90 per cent of Australia's power is fuelled by coal?

So despite all that, the average Aussie punter still thinks he's got the wherewithal to run the place.

Mind you look at us.

Labour here promised 100,000 houses over 10 years.

A thousand in year 1, and yet we find out this week that of the 70 odd they've allegedly produced, 41 in fact were underway before they ever got to office, so in essence they've produced barely over 30, which if you equate it out is not even two per month.

Do you think if they could have their time again, both Labour parties might work through a few of the details before firing out the press releases.

Promises made, need to be promises kept, otherwise your credibility is shot.

Which is about where our Labour Government is at.

Australia's Labor leader Bill Shorten has tied himself in knots over promises regarding electric cars. Photo / Chris Loufte
Australia's Labor leader Bill Shorten has tied himself in knots over promises regarding electric cars. Photo / Chris Loufte

Not just the 100,000 houses, that will never happen. But last week the halving of child poverty, once again a very specific and bold promise, but one like the houses that will not be met.

Half way through their term, it's not only not halved, it's gone up.

Social housing was to be addressed, it's gone up as well, it is at 10,000 in the queue, a new record, in fact the rise in the past year, is a record in itself.

This week the $6 billion light rail network in Auckland, the budget is blown, a line is likely to be dropped because, reports suggest, Labour didn't understand the complexity of the work required.

Dare I wander down the Jobseeker path? 11,000 more on that benefit than before Labour arrived.

Now they have answers for all this.

The answers are, it's hard, these things don't get fixed in a day, we are doing our best, they won't apologise for being aspirational.

These are all things one Cabinet minister or another has said to me by way of excuse on the radio.

But in offering up those excuses what they fail to grasp is that it was always hard, the sort of things they're seeking to achieve … even if you thought they were sensible policies, which in itself is one of the glaring errors, but even if you thought they were sensible polices, to make a specific number-related promise around them was always politically fatal.

It opens you up to direct comparison and accountability. It opens you up to the charge of being naive or dishonest. It opens you up to an ongoing dialogue that involves all future policy being second guessed given your reputation got trashed so early on, on the stuff that never fired.

It is all driven sadly by naivety, that wide eyed "why can't we do it " sort of approach that comes out of a mix of desperation from not having been in government for close to a decade, and a desperation to look like you might know what you're talking about.

Add now, add to the mix, the cold, hard reality of a slowing economy, if they couldn't do it all bright eyed and bushy tailed and new to office, throw in the current business sentiment and stalling growth and watch how distant and difficult those headline grabbing promises become.