Anthony Albanese says: “What you see is what you get.” And what do you get? A gold-plated dill.
Forget all the spin, Albo is an authentic machine politician, a product of Sussex Street, the notorious address that has come to symbolise the bureaucratic dysfunctionality of the NSW branch of the ALP.
After five general secretaries in a decade – Eric Roozendaal, Mark Arbib, Karl Bitar, Matt Thistlethwaite and Sam Dastyari – the machine is in ruins: active party membership is down from thousands to hundreds; the treasury is bare; and at state and federal levels, the party has suffered its worst election defeats in a century.
As leader of the so-called “left”, Albanese is at the centre of this debacle. He has been at the scene of all the party’s political crimes of the past 25 years: deal-making with the right, shedding policy for short-term headlines, nepotism, croneyism, branch-stacking and delegate-rigging.
He was an assistant general secretary in Sussex Street before pushing Janette McHugh out of Grayndler and claiming the seat once held by Fred Daly and Tony Whitlam.
In federal parliament Albanese has been the arch betrayer: he backed Beazley and then voted against him and he did the same to Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. The most loyal supporter one day, knife man the next. Just ask Simon Crean or Mark Latham for their opinion of his callous treachery.
He rose in the shadow cabinet and ministerial ranks until he reached the astonishing position of Deputy Prime Minister. How did he do it? By promising his “left numbers” to every leadership hopeful.
Bill Shorten, from the right, is worse. He is a stylised, synchronised and superficial operative. He is incapable of connecting with the public.
Gene pool empty
It leaves the ALP and Caucus voters with a choice between Mutt and Jeff.
All the talented, trained and capable Labor politicians have either fled Canberra or been reamed by the left or the right. The talent gene pool is empty. The best on offer is Albo and Billy Boy.
Does anyone believe they have the leadership qualities, intellect, world view, courage, stamina or charisma to rescue and rebuild Labor? I don’t think so. This is a cyclical moment that cannot be corrected by inducting a few “star” candidates. (e.g. Cheryl Kernot or Peter Beattie). It is an objective and historical point in the party’s 120-year existence.
In April 1904 Chris Watson became the first Labor prime minister and the first PM of any national Labor Government anywhere in the world. Born in Chile, raised in New Zealand, Watson was a typographer and one of the founders of the ALP.
Andrew Fisher, PM three times, began his working life as a Scottish miner and promoted the legislation founding the Commonwealth Bank in 1911. (Bob Hawke and Paul Keating put an end to that “socialist” nonsense by privatising it in 1990).
The list of Labor PMs is a roll call of dramatic episodes in the nation’s life: Billy Hughes, Jim Scullin, John Curtin, Ben Chifley, Gough Whitlam (1972-75). Then began the sharp decline as Labor reformism gave way to trimming, duck-shoving and serving capitalism – not the people.
What is Labor reduced to in 2013? Two pygmies attempting to step into the shoes of giants.