Leading article Australia

Where’s the buzz?

9 April 2022

9:00 AM

9 April 2022

9:00 AM

Only three Labor leaders since the second world war have won government from opposition; Gough Whitlam, Bob Hawke and Kevin Rudd. In each instance, there was a palpable and unmistakeable ‘buzz’ in the air surrounding those candidates. Most famously, Gough Whitlam’s appeal was captured in the slogan ‘It’s time’, a sentiment the electorate agreed with. Bob Hawke came to lead the country after only the briefest stint as opposition leader, but with his charismatic appeal firmly entrenched after a long period leading the union movement and swigging beer and, more importantly, his apparent (and genuine) rejection at the time of some of the more profligate aspects of Whitlam’s legacy. Kevin Rudd, who stands unquestionably as the single most absurd figure to ever take up residence in Kirribilli (Malcolm Turnbull, it must be remembered, doesn’t qualify because he preferred his own alternative harbourside mansion to reside in), conned the electorate into believing he was a younger, fresher version of John Howard and re-packaged Gough’s ‘It’s time’ sentiment with the appropriately vacuous ‘Kevin ‘07’ marketing campaign. Like a tacky toy or some cheap Chinese kitchen product, the glitz of Kevin ‘07 rapidly wore off and the device itself proved completely useless.

In each of those three instances, however, during their respective election campaigns there was definitely ‘something in the air’, to quote Thunderclap Newman. People were excited about the individuals themselves and their perceived charisma as well as the policy positions they espoused (dishonestly, of course, in Mr Rudd’s case – ‘fiscal conservative’, anyone?).

That of the three, only Bob Hawke turned out to be any good is neither here nor there. The point being that, typically, the Labor party only ever succeeds in displacing a Liberal government with a popular and appealing personality as its chief salesman.

If some mythical Central Casting agent had been given the brief of finding the least appealing personality to lead an Australian political party, the very antithesis of a Gough, Bob or Kevin ‘07, they’d be rubbing their hands with glee the moment Anthony Albanese walked into the room.

At least Gough, Bob and Kev all knew how to smile. Mr Albanese appears to be cursed with a permanently sour expression on his face, with knitted eyebrows and a downturned mouth, as if he’s just accidentally chewed on a lemon pip. His speech patterns are uninspiring and his ‘Aushtrayia’ sends shivers up the spine. But unfortunately, it’s not the personality that is most unappealing about Mr Albanese, rather it is his politics.

The modern Labor party under Mr Albanese is an empty shell, an echoing vessel of nonsensical and damaging ideologies built around fraudulent premises and conceits. His Budget reply speech bordered on the asinine. Yes, of course we need better aged care. But his sneering descriptions about how poor current care is seemed to reflect far more on the quality of our nurses and aged care workers themselves rather than on the amount of money provided by the government. Hardly a great strategy to galvanise support for your cause – by attacking the professional standards of the very people whose job it is to deliver those services. And of course the perennial question with all such promises – where’s the money coming from?

Already caught on live TV like a rabbit in the headlights unable to answer whether or not Labor will raise taxes (of course they will), Mr Albanese has not provided a single positive ‘talking point’ or ‘barbeque stopper’ that the average punter can either understand or get behind. His mangled nonsense about the Solomons cosying up to China because Australia is not doing enough about climate change insults the intelligence of every Australian voter, not to mention every Solomon Islander. Installing a re-warmed ex-Rudd-era staffer-turned-hedge-fund multi-millionaire from Bellevue Hill as the candidate for – wait for it! – Parramatta is worthy of a Monty Python or Peter Sellers satire.

The fact that there seems no real appetite for Albo – no buzz – yet he is on target to be our next prime minister is a sad reflection on just how careless Scott Morrison and the Liberals have been at listening to and looking after those everyday, quiet Australians who put them in power.

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