Albo is in a winning position
With a lot of help from Scott Morrison, Anthony Albanese has put himself into a position where he can win the next election. To achieve this, he has dropped Labor’s ideological baggage from the 2010, 2013, 2016 and 2019 elections.
At those elections, Labor’s overriding message was that Australia’s fundamental problem was inequality and that this had to be corrected by taxing the rich and spending massive amounts of money on the socially disadvantaged. Rigid adherence to this Wayne Swan generated mantra saw Labor’s primary vote fall to 33 per cent. It became a rump party representing only the ideological latte left.
The Labor leader has got rid of his party’s opposition to legislated tax cuts for incomes between $40,000 and $200,000, and dropped the tax policies on franking credits, negative gearing and capital gains. This has moved the party away from being a progressive, high taxation party, to one that is focused on the issues of the centre – jobs and growth.
Albanese plans to draw on a powerful Labor tradition for the next election – national reconstruction, jobs, industry support and government-created investment funds. The parts are being put in place – childcare, renewable industry jobs, social housing and modernising the energy grid.
At the same time, he is maintaining his criticism of the government for its failure with the pandemic. Albanese’s line has been that Scott Morrison has had only two jobs to do this year, the vaccine roll-out and border quarantine and that his failure to do these jobs competently has caused the spread of infections and the lengthy lockdowns in Melbourne and Sydney.
At the moment there is a vaccination blitz going on in Sydney and it is possible that 2 million jabs will be administered this week. If this pace is maintained then vaccinations will be completed well before an election is held.
There will also be a doubling of quarantine capacity with the facility in Melbourne due to be opened early in the new year.
On Wednesday, Scott Morrison announced an increase in the financial support for individuals and businesses. This returns the income support back to the level of Jobkeeper at its highest and provides significant cash flow support to businesses to help them through the lockdown.
Nevertheless, a poll conducted for the Financial Review on Monday showed that voters in Sydney blamed the prime minister for the lockdown and its economic consequences, while 56 per cent of them thought that Gladys Berejiklian was doing a very good job. It is likely that the NSW premier will get the credit for the extra funding. Morrison will be accused of being too slow and biased against Victorians and South Australians because he didn’t announce the payments until after they came out of lockdown.
The other thing that may turn the political environment in Albanese’s favour is the possibility of a recession in the second half of this year. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has already admitted that the September quarter will deliver negative growth. With the NSW lockdown continuing until the end of August and perhaps beyond, there is every possibility that the economy will not recover before the end of the year. If the last quarter of 2021 sees the country moving into recession and unemployment rising, then the government’s claim to be the better economic manager will be in tatters.
Anthony Albanese has put Labor into a winning position. If the cards fall the right way, then he could be prime minister by May.