No, it won’t be easy, but Albanese can prevail

Federal election 2022

Anthony Albanese is not a slick politician and will make his fair share of verbal slips and mistakes over the next three years. With Albanese, what you see is what you get. I prefer an authentic, conviction-driven politician any day over a slick Willy hiding behind rehearsed lines.

The boy from Camperdown who grew up to become our 31st prime minster is more interested in leaving a legacy than enjoying the perks of office. To come from public housing to the Lodge, having been raised by a single mother, is a tough and inspirational journey.

Albanese will only get a short honeymoon before the unbalanced attacks resume from that section of the media which is clearly partisan. Nevertheless, fair-minded Australians want him to succeed. He is only the fourth ALP leader since World War II to win from opposition. I predict Albanese will not waste his opportunity.

His government hit the ground running. Albanese and Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong attended the Quad meeting in Japan, then Wong visited Pacific nations, staring down China’s eight-country Pacific tour by her counterpart Wang Yi. Treasurer Jim Chalmers is tackling Australia’s enormous debt by meeting the Reserve Bank and Treasury to work out a way forward.

If Labor improves the national conversation and delivers an anti-corruption commission, climate policy, cheaper childcare, aged-care reform and constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians, and advances manufacturing, it will be a long way down the road to a second term.

But there is a significant shift going on in middle Australia – a shift that saw about one in three voters desert both the Labor Party and the Coalition. The teal independents are at the centre of that change. They represent more than Australians focused on climate policy and integrity in government. Their supporters are tired of the phoneys who play politics like a game, where “whatever it takes” is the driving philosophy. For too many politicians it is all about them and not the community they are elected to represent.

Like Albanese, teal supporters want a more mature national conversation. This is what the teal independents can bring to the parliament. Hopefully, it means a change in parliamentary culture.

“Conservative” Queensland now has two lower house federal Green MPs, the highest number in Australia. Labor’s loss of Kevin Rudd’s old seat of Griffith to the Greens and Labor’s low primary vote are a wake-up call. Both major parties have a lot of soul-searching to do.

Labor needs to lift the role of women in the party and the parliament, broaden the base and structures of the party, and increase participation of party members in decision-making. It needs to break down the ALP’s factional structure and select candidates on merit.

If all sections of the Labor Party give Albanese and his team the support they deserve, they can restore the ALP’s primary vote. This will not be easy.

The Coalition’s new leadership team will need to win back the middle ground with new policies and candidates. Its greatest challenge will be determining what it stands for. The Labor Party and teal independents would be delighted to see Barnaby Joyce remain as National Party leader and the Liberals move further to the right. That is not where they will find the one in three voters who deserted both major parties last Saturday.

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