With Australia Day vanishing in the rear-view mirror and most of the nation learning to live with Covid, the stage is being cleared for the return of politics proper as the nation readies itself for the federal election, mostly likely to be held in May.
As usual, the pundits have Labor ahead and, like a stopped clock, they may eventually be right. Yet this is an election that is still anyone’s to win. Or lose.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese is doing his best to make himself the most miniscule of targets. Naturally, he couldn’t resist trolling the Prime Minister by posting a happy snap of himself beside a beaming Grace Tame, outgoing Australian of the Year, in contrast to the uncomfortable photos of her with Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Oh, for the days when people of the stature of Sir Macfarlane Burnet, a Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine, or dramatic coloratura Joan Sutherland were Australian of the Year. At the very least the honour should go to someone with the maturity to recognise that it is unbecoming, one could say graceless, to be partisan on Australia Day.
Unfortunately, Mr Morrison has allowed young women such as Ms Tame and Ms Brittany Higgins and their media enablers such as Ms Louise Milligan at the ABC to shape the debate about ‘women’s issues’ when the reality is that for many more women the issues that matter are not what happened to Ms Higgins after drinking too much with a work colleague but the quality of our schools, their politically correct curricula, and the availability of flexible work and affordable childcare.
Too often, Mr Morrison seems bent on appeasing the woke agenda that haunts the well-heeled advisers in his office rather than focusing on the bread-and-butter issues that matter in the suburbs where elections are won or lost.
As David Flint writes, Mr Morrison and Mr Albanese are doing their best to look as alike as Tweedledum and Tweedledee. It’s enough to make Judith Sloan lament the departure of Bill Shorten from the Labor leadership, if only because he was so honest about his big taxing plans. Mr Albanese is too clever to make that mistake. But Speccie readers are too clever to be deceived by such an obvious ruse.
When it comes to getting elected former Labor minister and lead singer for Midnight Oil Peter Garrett best articulated Labor’s strategy when he said to a journalist, ‘Once we get in, we’ll just change it all’. That is Labor’s modus operandi even when it wins enough seats to govern alone and applies a fortiori when it is forced to rely on its chums, the Greens.
If we are to avoid this catastrophic prospect, Mr Morrison must drop his conciliatory approach and unleash his inner mongrel. He has spent too much of the last two year pandering to the egos of Labor premiers when he should have been attacking them for their disastrous, heavy-handed, and ineffective management of the pandemic. They have responded by blaming the federal government for anything that has gone wrong, all the while drawing on Commonwealth taxpayers to foot the bill for their ruinous policies. It is high time Mr Morrison made it clear that those policies have had disastrous consequences.
If voters want a preview of how Labor will govern federally, they need look no further than Victoria. Premier Daniel Andrews and Mr Albanese are ideologically aligned, convinced that the answer to every policy challenge is further intervention by the state. As Maurice Newman writes, research published last year shows that Labor’s socialist agenda had already left Victoria poorer than all other states and territories except for South Australia. In the past, Victoria’s fall in productivity was papered over by the nominal growth created by immigrants coming from other states and overseas. But with nearly 43,000 Victorians last year rushing to exit the state and precious few moving to Victoria, the parlous condition of the economy has been exposed. This is the sad prospect that Australia faces if Mr Albanese wins government. The economic rationalism of the Hawke era is a shameful memory to a Labor party that has moved firmly to the Left in both economic and social policy.
One of the areas of sharpest difference between the two parties is without doubt the relationship with China. That Mr Albanese could offer such gushing praise for China in his address to the National Press Club this week is sickening. Sadly, it is par for the course, simply echoing the sentiments of former Labor prime minister Paul Keating who repeatedly praises China and criticises anyone who doesn’t.
In removing Mr Morrison’s WeChat account, China is making no secret of the fact that it would prefer a Labor government. No doubt China hopes that if Labor wins, it will not only be able to restore a Belt and Road Initiative agreement with Mr Andrews but that Mr Albanese, like Ms Ardern in New Zealand, will sign an agreement as well. Yet Australian voters, even those who have suffered economically because of China’s vindictive bans on Australian exports, do not want the Australian government to kowtow to China.
Mr Morrison won’t win the next election by positioning himself as Labor-lite. He must go for broke highlighting the very real dangers that a woke-leaning Labor government would pose to the nation.
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