Well, it’s official. The national leadership will be challenged by two parties known primarily by their nickname. Albo v ScoMo. Who ya got?
Might I just, for a moment, draw your attention to the evening of July 2, 2016. That was the big count on the last election. The election where then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was supposed to consolidate his grip on power, having undone the Abbott government the previous year. Things did not go as planned, and what was supposed to be a consolidating victory for the LNP turned into a near-defeat at the hands of a Labor party who had no earthly clue that they had it in them.
That night, the ABC crossed to Tanya Plibersek’s Sydney electorate, and Leigh Sales asked her if Bill Shorten’s job was safe. She didn’t quite answer it, saying she’d rather celebrate the night. Then the Nine network’s coverage did the same thing, Lisa Wilkinson asking the same question. “We’re just celebrating the results tonight,” Pilbersek offered in reply. Seven does the same thing, and Plibersek is responding, incredulously, “I can’t believe you’re asking me this!”
I for one couldn’t believe she didn’t just say “Yes”. And I was thinking long and hard about it the next day when it dawned on me—the speculation about the results for the weeks leading up to the poll were that if Shorten led the ALP to regain more than 10 seats, that would be a Pyrrhic victory of sorts, and he’d be secure in the leadership. Less than that, and he was for the bin, destined to have the same role in the history books as Alexander Downer, Andrew Peacock, Kim Beazley, John Hewson, Mark (spit, pah) Latham.
Back in 2016, and depending on who you ask, they may have been heading for no more than five seats. And who was next in line if Shorten failed? His deputy, Tanya Plibersek. And with nothing determined on election night, she was hedging her bets. She was seemingly all but disappointed that they didn’t lose bigger, because she doubtlessly had her eyes on Bill’s office. Who looks at an almost-narrow-victory, and sees it as a loss, solely for personal reasons? Your Australian Labor Party, that’s who.
So, the fact that Tanya was ready, by all accounts, to be Opposition Leader in 2016, but somehow has family concerns the prevent her from doing the job in 2019 is telling. Alan Jones made a salient point (which, I mean, for the love of…) on the first post-election QandA by saying that this could be the end of the Labor party for the next six years, not just three. You can’t argue that, because a) nobody can see into the future, and b) even when every single poll says it’s going one way, it still manages to go the other.
Now, here on the left in 2019, we are left in a precarious position: who wants the job that nobody would really want? Simon Crean was Opposition leader immediately after Mark Latham shat the bed in 2004, and if you can name three things Simon Crean has done in the public sphere since then, I owe you a Coke.
ScoMo, not to be outdone, will put a whole loaf of bread in his mouth, and somehow manage to say “How good are carbs?!?!” and the voters of Capricornia will just love it.
Apparently, Anthony Albanese wants it. Or, at least, he’s one of the few left there who doesn’t not want it as much, if you catch my drift. Having crawled back from electoral oblivion in 2016, and to have basically nothing change three years later, bar one or two seats changing hands, we’re in a state where good old Albo has volunteered to be the next person not to be Prime Minister. If my understanding of the whims of the electorate tells me anything, it’s that I have just as good a shot at moving into the Lodge as Albo does, and lord have mercy you know I most certainly don’t want to be Prime Minister.
But maybe that’s just it. Maybe I’m wrong, again, and the pundits are wrong, again, and maybe this was all just an anomaly. Maybe in 2022 the voters in Queensland will want a leader who can articulate their message, they might embrace the idea of tax reform, and maybe they’ll have come around to the fact that a retiree with more than a million dollars in shares really, truly, honestly and objectively does not need an extra $20,000 of my/our tax dollars in order to make ends meet.
Or, this whole ScoMo/Albo thing will pay off. Maybe Albo will wander through the streets of Noosa wearing a sombrero calling everything “Tiger”, and go to a local fete, sit on a dunking chair and cry out “Whoopsie!” when someone lands a direct hit, plunging him into the water tank (the water, secured by Barnaby Joyce $80 million; paid to a shifty company with a PO Box in Crete, which in fact is a wholly-owned subsidiary of a Cayman Islands bank account). Maybe the stunt will mean he’s more relatable to “real Australians”, and then ScoMo, not to be outdone, will put a whole loaf of bread in his mouth, and somehow manage to say “How good are carbs?!?!” and the voters of Capricornia will just love it.
Because that’s where we are right now. You can’t go to an election saying you’re going to be a reformist government, because reforms usually cost money, and we like keeping our money, and opening mines, and ignoring the climate and having our independent retirements subsidised by the government, and having the losses we incur on our property investments subsidised by the government. Because the age of entitlement is over, unless you have a share portfolio, or investment property/s, or you’re a multinational corporation.
I’m fairly impressed that we, as a nation, can be won over by a one-man circus as a party political machine doing little more than photo ops, being held to little-to-no account by the media—and who, when someone in the media does their job, can dismiss any of their questions as out of hand by labelling it a “‘Canberra bubble’ question”, or reject its premise altogether. Seems he’s learned a thing or two from the current President of the United States.
I look forward to the next election debate: ScoMo vs Albo: The Gloves are Off (but the stupid hats are on!!!)