Some people may remember the kerfuffle over the leadership changes during the last Labor Government — well, it was only six years ago. And yet, while the Coalition upstaged Labor’s record of three leaders in six years with three leaders in five (Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison), this seems to have gone practically unnoticed.
The Opposition under Bill Shorten tried but failed to get any traction and, certainly, under Anthony Albanese – whose complete lack of dissent could easily have him mistaken for a Liberal backbencher – seems to have forgotten how to play the game.
A few months ago, IA met with a senior ALP strategist. We discussed tax cuts — the Liberal Party’s sole policy on which they won the May Election. In the meeting, we asked why the ALP rolled over when it came to the crunch and assisted the Morrison Government, then newly elected and needing to prove it could deliver on its only strategy?
A complex answer followed, touching on long-term strategy and the importance of picking their fights wisely. That they would never live it down if they didn’t support tax cuts for lower-income workers, which were tied in with tax cuts for the upper echelons. And something about a commitment to fight at the next election, when it counts, apparently. We were told we saw things too simplistically. It’s all part of the bigger picture, they assured us.
Um, no. It clearly is not, we protested. They had lost the election anyway, so why couldn’t they fight on key policy areas? Why could they not muster enough backbone to at least protest convincingly? And, if we did see things simplistically, so did the rest of the electorate, evinced by the fact that the ALP had just lost the so-called unloseable election. How much worse could it get?
But it’s a funny thing, losing.
Yesterday, a long-time Labor supporter said:
“The party is broken.”
And therein lies the crux of the matter. The Labor Party is decimated. It is pulling the doona up over its head and licking its wounds. It’s just not showing up.
Every now and then, a lone voice emerges, notably Kristina Keneally criticising Peter Dutton — who needs to be criticised, of course. But where is the action? Where are the boots on the ground when they’re required?
Australia has never needed an active opposition more than right now. The two-party system is the key part of our fragile democracy and, just lately, it has been hard to find.
The tax cuts legislation was the first of a series of key Government moves through which the ALP has been sleeping. Although Australians have not granted it any leave to do so. The Labor Party under Albo is absent without leave — “Albsent”, if you like.
The Opposition is paid by taxpayers to show up and be in opposition and hold the Government to account. This is what the Opposition is for. It is not required, as it appears to be doing, to acquiesce with every tyrannical move, or just plain bad policy, the Government conjures.
Perhaps most tellingly, at a moment that could have facilitated a truly independent Federal commission against corruption and catapulted Albanese’s status to that of a statesman, Albo said:
“I have not seen any evidence of direct corruption … that has been proven in my time when I’ve been in Parliament.”
Wow. With Helloworld, Parakeelia, visas for au-pairs, Rolexes from Chinese businessmen, jobs for mistresses and Watergate, to name but a few fiascos, perhaps the Leader of the Opposition should have gone to Specsavers?
Independent Australia is not affiliated with any political party, but we are progressive. We want to see the Opposition stand for progressive Australians. Unfortunately, with its current game-plan of looking the other way or just plain rolling over, the Labor Party seems likely to remain in opposition for a long time yet.
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