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Canberra Today 15°/18° | Wednesday, November 29, 2023 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Let’s not pop the champagne corks just yet

“A month and a bit from polling day, all the signs are pointing to Antony Green calling it for Labor by about 9.30 on election night,” writes “The Gadfly” columnist ROBERT MACKLIN.

I WAS wrong. For weeks, if not months, I’ve been bemoaning in print and around the dinner tables the sheer foolishness of Albo and his political advisers. 

Robert Macklin.

“He should be out there with plans for attacking climate change and every other failing of the Morrison government with clear, well-costed alternatives,” I’ve written and said. 

“No one knows what Albo stands for. Morrison is winning by default. The Labor geniuses behind the scenes are blowing the election.”

I’m not alone. Other commentators have been just as strident in their condemnation of the Labor silence, and worse, the Opposition’s refusal to take issue with the way Morrison and Dutton have been shadow boxing the Chinese in the hope they’ll react badly and give them a real excuse for a khaki election.

Wrong again. The Chinese ambassador offered a white flag to “meet halfway”; and the Chinese courting of the Solomos Islands government melted like a flash in the pan when PM Manasseh Sogavare rejected any idea of a Chinese base there.

Despite all the urging, Albo and his advisers kept their collective nerve. They knew – much better than us commentators and columnists – that by staying silent for as long as possible they were denying Scott Morrison his political meat and drink. 

Like all bullies, he’s a big mouth who shouts and threatens anyone who puts his (or especially her) own idea forward. He pours out the vituperation, makes up statistics, and generally buries the idea in such blather that all people remember is the response. Far, far better, they figured, to hold their fire until the campaign itself. Only then would they get a fair hearing. 

Meantime, Morrison would be left to his own devices. And maybe the people would realise – as they did – what kind of a bloke he was underneath all the marketing ploys. 

Anthony Albanese caricature by Paul Dorin.

But even they couldn’t have predicted what actually happened as one after another, people from all places and stations who had dealt with him came out with such crushing depictions of his character and proclivities. Deputy PM, Barnaby Joyce: “A hypocrite and a liar”; French President Macron: A liar? “I don’t think, I know”; Liberal Senator Connie Fierravanti-Wells: “Unfit for office, an autocrat, a bully with no moral compass”; Jacqui Lambie, Pauline Hanson in full agreement… and so the list goes on.

Yet still the Labor folk kept their nerve until, with exquisite timing, Albo used the Budget Address-in-Reply before the Parliament rose to make his opening pitch. And it was pretty good: “Child Care, Medicare, Aged Care because Labor cares”. After a thoroughly pedestrian Budget, it detailed a total regeneration of the aged care community, and Morrison’s only response was the old: “Where’s the money coming from?” 

All that did was give the issue another day in the headlines. And there they joined new revelations about his dear friend Brian Houston, head of the Pentecostal Hillsong Church forced to step down for inappropriate behaviour; while nine out of 16 affiliated churches in the US cut ties with Hillsong.

In the last election, Morrison’s “miracle” saw him scrape back with a small majority; but this time even the divine Pentecostal intervention seems to be against him. 

So, a month and a bit from polling day, all the signs are pointing to Antony Green calling it for Labor by about 9.30 on election night.

But let’s not pop the champagne corks just yet. 

I’ve been wrong before.

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Robert Macklin

Robert Macklin

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