Flat White

Mum’s the word

9 May 2022

11:00 AM

9 May 2022

11:00 AM

Anthony Albanese can’t tell you much about his policies, but would you like to hear about his mother?

The Labor leader was at it again last week, this time regaling the ABC’s Q&A audience with the well-worn story of his single mother raising him in public housing.

You know how it goes. By now, you’ve heard it a thousand times.

Single mum. Rheumatoid arthritis. Pensioner. Public housing. Elect me.

Mr Albanese clearly believes it’s a powerful pitch because he falls back on it continuously.

‘One of the things that I often say is that I know the difference that government can make to people’s lives because I’ve lived it, that’s my story,’ he told Q&A on Thursday night.

Thousands of Australians who lost jobs because they wouldn’t get the government jab can also testify that they know the difference government can make to people’s lives. I wish one of them was in line to become Prime Minister. We might end up with a more circumspect government. But I digress…

No one begrudges that Mr Albanese has made it from ‘public housing, not far from here, on Pyrmont Bridge Road’ to within a correctly answered gotcha question of the Lodge.

And it’s reassuring that he knows what it’s like to struggle. Struggle to make ends meet, I mean, as opposed to struggling to know what the unemployment rate is.

But it’s starting to feel like Mr Albanese is hoping to ascend to the highest office as a reward for coming from humble beginnings.

Perhaps it’s Mr Albanese trying to be relatable. Perhaps it’s the inevitable result of a culture obsessed with identity politics and victimhood.

‘I lived it. That’s my story,’ Mr Albanese told political journalist David Speers. He may as well have told Oprah, ‘That’s my lived experience. That’s my truth.’

Will the electorate vote for a story? Or do they expect a policy?

Labor strategists seem to believe it’s the former. We know more about Mr Albanese’s mother than we do about his NDIS policy. 

Then again, Mr Albanese doesn’t seem to know about this NDIS policy either. 

He was unable to remember his own six-point policy when asked about it at a media conference on Thursday, eventually reading it word for word from a folder hastily passed to him by minders.

Mr Albanese appeared, not for the first time in this uninspiring campaign, unprepared and unnerved.

When he was challenged on Q&A about what had happened, Mr Albanese explained:

‘What I did today, David, was to say that the essential point, all of those points come down to one key fact, which is putting people back at the centre of the NDIS. That’s the key element here.’

And then, as predictable as death and taxes, Mr Albanese rolled out his mother.

‘I understand. I mean, I know the difference as my mum struggling to try and get things like, you know, poles and things to help her get into the bath, to get around,’ Mr Albanese began.

And there was more…

‘My mum couldn’t use a knife and fork. She had crippled up, her hands, her feet, all of that. There wasn’t an NDIS. The idea of trying to get that assistance…’

Mercifully, the host cut him off, interjecting: ‘I don’t doubt that you understand. But I’m just wanting to clarify here, when today – and you know, it’s been all over the news tonight – you were asked what the six points are, you didn’t know, someone gives you a folder, you read it out. Are you saying you didn’t know … you did know off the top of your head…?’

Without his mother to clean up the mess, Mr Albanese accused the media of playing gotcha games.

‘One of the things I reckon that really alienates people from the political system completely is this idea that politics is about a sort of series of gotchas and a game playing.’

Someone needs to explain to Mr Albanese that being asked to articulate his policy two weeks out from a federal election is not a sneaky trick played by malevolent forces seeking to undermine the political system. 

The public should expect that the man asking to lead the country knows at least – if not the cash reserve rate or the unemployment rate – his own policy details.

One could be forgiven for thinking Labor believe that if the public don’t know their polices, and if they themselves don’t know their policies, then no one can be upset about their policies.

To slide into office the Labor leader needs only to talk in generalisations, platitudes, and sound bites. 

As for actual policy details, they are a secret. Even to the Labor leader. Mum’s the word, quite literally.

You can follow James on Twitter. You can order his new book Notes from Woketopia here.

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