Not such a bad election to lose…

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FOR the first couple of days after the election, my Labor mates wandered around in a daze. After years of anticipation bolstered by those now discredited opinion polls, they were utterly distrait. And Scott Morrison’s triumphant cries of “Miracle!” didn’t help one bit.

Robert Macklin
Robert Macklin.

However, there’s nothing like a leadership contest to get their red corpuscles racing. And if they were honest, nary a one of them would say they weren’t a little relieved that Bill Shorten was denied The Lodge after his role in cutting down both former Labor occupants on his way to the top.

That was a sentiment I shared, together with the perfidious thought that with the economy in trouble, this was not such a bad election to lose… but that’s a classic case of being wise after the event!

Not surprisingly, Albo was in no doubt that this time he would take what he always believed was rightfully his after 60 per cent of the rank and file had backed him six years ago. His immediate declaration as a contender made him look a little too eager to claim the ultimate prize from his party when he’d been an enthusiastic campaigner on the policies that were so clearly rejected by the electorate at large.

Tanya Plibersek was more gracious, saying she’d speak to her colleagues before declaring, then deciding to give this one a miss. Her “family” reasons rang a little hollow. Truth is, she and Albo are from the left and would only have split that factional vote. That same problem will keep her from the deputy leadership.

However, after Queenslander Jim Chalmers withdrew his threatened candidature, the only real excitement (if you could call it that) devolved on the choice of deputy leader, a gift of the party room but heavily influenced by the putative leader.

Both Chalmers and another possible contender, Joel Fitzgibbon, former Defence and later Agriculture Minister in the Rudd governments, had long conversations with Albo before declining to run for the leadership. As member for Hunter, covering a big coal mining region as well as some Newcastle suburbs, Fitzgibbon knew how to win back regional Australia. He, like Chalmers, decided against running only when Albanese gave assurances that regional Australia will be well represented in the leadership group.

But the real issue for Labor is not really city versus the regions, nor even getting Queensland back on side. It’s “the economy, stupid” as Bill Clinton was told all those years ago in another place.

Truth is, there’s not much to choose between the major parties in economic management. It was Labor’s Hawke-Keating reforms that set us up for 28 years of growth and Rudd-Gillard who kept us out of recession when the rest of the world tanked. And that’s why, with all the signs pointing to big problems ahead, my perfidious thought about it not being a bad election to lose might just have hit the mark.

But that’s no consolation to the Labor faithful.


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