Twenty-six million Australians don’t know the unemployment rate, and Anthony Albanese is one of them.
The problem, of course, is that Anthony Albanese wants to run the country. And if you aspire to run the country, it’s important to know the unemployment rate.
For the record, it’s 4 per cent.
It’s the sort of information a political leader should know reflexively; a bit like your child’s primary school teacher knowing that A,B,C is immediately followed by D,E and F.
Or like the Secretary of the Health Department knowing what a woman is. But I digress.
Yet when the Labor leader was asked yesterday about the national unemployment rate he stuttered and then supposed before staggering, speculating, and finally surrendering.
‘The national unemployment rate at the moment is ah, I think it’s, 5 point, ah, 4 …’
Mr Albanese then made an incomprehensible sound as if to express despair that he had not prepared for the election campaign beyond purchasing spiffy specs and a new pair of chinos before finally admitting, ‘Sorry I’m not sure what it is.’
Albanese’s supporters complained that he shouldn’t have to suffer silly ‘gotcha questions’. They probably think he shouldn’t have to suffer an election campaign either.
But it wasn’t a trick question. It was economics 101.
The unemployment rate is probably the most discussed number in Canberra. And the man asking to run the economy didn’t know it.
Mr Albanese didn’t know the cash reserve rate either.
Then again, last week he didn’t know where the Governor-General lived.
Knowing the unemployment rate is important when it comes to making wages policy, immigration policy, and any number of other economic plans.
It’s also pretty important when you’ve spent the past week telling anyone who will listen that you are going to be a better economic manager than your opponent.
Albanese’s praetorian guard, by which I mean ABC journalists, were quick to find an 82-year-old man wandering around Perth who didn’t know the unemployment rate either, as if this was proof that Albanese’s ignorance didn’t matter.
But John Howard has been out of politics for 15 years and he isn’t running for Prime Minister…
Mr Albanese wasn’t asking for forgiveness yesterday.
Quicker than you can say ‘political spin’ the Labor leader had turned his economic incompetence into a wonderful example of his humanity.
‘Earlier today I made a mistake, I’m human,’ he said. ‘But when I make a mistake, I’ll fess up to it and set about correcting that mistake. I won’t blame someone else. I’ll accept responsibility. That’s what leaders do.’
Leaders also prepare thoroughly and know the basics about the job they are seeking to do. That’s what leaders do. Even human leaders.
With 40 days to go until the election it probably wasn’t an election-losing gaffe in the way that not knowing the GST on a birthday cake killed off John Hewson’s hopes of becoming Prime Minister back in 1993. But it did alert the electorate to the possibility that perhaps Mr Albanese is hoping to slink into the Lodge on no greater pretext than that he has had a makeover.
Just three days ago The Adelaide Advertiser ran an article asking: Anthony Albanese has dropped 18kg, picked up a sleek new wardrobe and is on a mission to show Aussies the real him. But will it be enough?
Yesterday Mr Albanese – and the public – were reminded that he might need to display some competence along with his new clothes.
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