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What makes Albo tick? If Shorten’s not careful, we may soon find out

Political Columnist

The Coalition is delighted at how the initial clashes over tax policy have been played out. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer are confidence players and their game has lifted over the last few weeks as they see Labor struggling to keep up with them.
What this means is that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer are leading at half time but the game is not over yet. There are still five weeks to go before the Big Five by-elections on Saturday, July 28. As the teams go into the sheds for oranges, there is still an opportunity for Labor despite its poor start.
Opposing tax cuts is like embracing a suicide bomber intent on finding his way to all those virgins as soon as possible. The Coalition were handed the income tax victory in the Senate by a combination of the soothing voice of the man with the most dulcet of tones, Government Leader in the Senate Mathias Cormann, and the bewildering series of U-turns by Pauline Hanson. She usually finds a way to vote with the government on any important issue. She is an openly anti-Labor conservative without the wit to make a consistent public stand. Labor should never count on Hanson’s vote. She will sell out her base at the drop of a hat. We are yet to discover just what supporting more of the GST cake being given to Western Australia rather than Queensland will do to or for her in the Longman by-election.
Labor insiders believe they have no hope of holding on to the Tasmanian seat of Braddon and are worried that Longman is running at 50/50 while the momentum has swung against them. If Labor were to lose both Braddon and Longman there would be a race between the Labor caucus trying to vote to change its rules and quickly install Anthony Albanese as Leader on the one hand while the PM tries to break through his world-class dithering and hop into the limo and go to Yarralumla to tell the Governor-General that an election will be held in September.
For Shorten to give himself a real hope of staying in his job he needs to get the tax debate back to his own ground. Labor needs to move the debate to the corporate tax cuts. Shorten should be sick of saying if you vote for the Liberals you vote for a $17 billion corporate tax gift to the Big Four banks. This is Labor’s fertile ground. A huge number of Australians are opposed to the business tax cuts, yet Labor allowed itself to spend two vital sitting weeks of Parliament playing political ping pong with the government over who got how much of an income-tax cut. In Longman and Braddon, there are votes to win with this line.
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Meanwhile, Anthony Albanese set out his own alternate vision for a Labor Party led by him. He took us back to the good old days of Bob Hawke bringing Australia together. The contrast with the Shorten class war approach could not have been more stark nor more provocative as it came at such a critical moment in time. With Albo, what you see is what you get. He is not devious and his word is his bond. He is also a Leftie, and therein lies his problem. He is actually aware of all that he has said on record over the years and is prepared to defend himself. It will not be a bed or roses for him or for the Labor Party.
He does have a great Australian story to tell. Raised by a single mum in a tiny Housing Commission flat in the inner city of Sydney when it was poor and not trendy, he is an inspiration because he shows the system somehow works.
Ironically, he will be in Braddon and Longman, knocking on doors and speaking at functions, all the while campaigning for Bill Shorten. If Shorten, who seems to see everything through the prism of a leadership challenge from Albanese, does not heed my earlier advice then we might all find out just what makes Albo tick.

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