Look at it their way: they thought he would devote himself to reducing their cost of living pressures because that’s what he promised. Instead, after a year of rising mortgage pressures and price increases, he made them go out on October 14 to vote against something most people weren’t interested in. Albanese, who’s never far away from reminding them of his hardscrabble upbringing, seemed deaf to their first-order concerns, so they rebuffed him. Worse, once the referendum was done, he seemed to be hobnobbing overseas all the time.
So what does the government do now? A ministerial reshuffle either side of the summer break would be a conventional way of signalling a fresh approach. Does the government spend the first half of 2024 coming up with a bunch of goodies targeted at young mortgage holders and renters, bolstered by a vision of Australia’s future that pulls it together, and then bring the next election forward to the second half of the year before something else goes wrong? That’s how John Howard rolled when things went awry in his first full year as PM. He went large, vowing to remake the tax system. Twelve months later, his treasurer, Peter Costello, revealed a package that included a GST, big income tax cuts and the removal of many state taxes. Howard immediately called an election five months ahead of schedule, which he won.
Whether Albanese, after having everything his way as leader, will have the humility to admit that he’s in trouble and must change is an open question: how do you stop being flat-footed when you’ve built it into your act? And will voters who’ve turned off him be interested in listening to him again?
If Albanese just keeps doing what he’s been doing, he’s set to join the 21st century prime ministerial one-and-done club.
Shaun Carney is a regular columnist.
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