Anthony Albanese returns to the spotlight, launching Labor’s election bid to win government



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Labor can find a path to government without damaging the scoreboard in Queensland.

But if the sunshine state is optional, Western Australia is mandatory. 

It’s why Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese planned a week in the west, only for that to be savaged by his COVID-19 diagnosis last week.

Cleared of the virus, he flew west, hoping his campaign launch in Perth would tap into a parochial vein West Australians are known for. 

Walking into GANGgajang’s Songs of Then (better known as This is Australia), Albanese bounded up the steps to the stage, coughed twice and then launched into his 45-minute pitch for why he should be Australia’s next prime minister.

I understand your pain, Albanese told the audience, laying blame on the government for the increasing living costs Australians were struggling with.

He promised cheaper medicines, progress on gender pay equity and more Australian manufacturing.

There was a billion-dollar pledge towards processing resources like lithium, a crucial element for batteries in electric vehicles, and more charging stations to keep them going. 

Albanese also unveiled a new signature policy to help 10,000 Australians on low and modest incomes purchase a home with the government support.

The Coalition warns that deal means you’ll get a house with Anthony Albanese at the kitchen table owning half the place with you. 

Though clearly hyperbolic, it shows how aware both sides are not just to the cost of living, but the struggles both renters and buyers are feeling in an ever more expensive property market.

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Albanese needs to net seven seats for a bare majority; netting four will put it ahead of the Coalition and needing the crossbench to take government. 

Albanese might have started the election the frontrunner but, as history shows, there’s nothing easy in forming government.

Labor’s done it just three times from opposition since the Second World War. 

Albanese’s bid to be PM doesn’t carry the burden his predecessor Bill Shorten faced three years ago.

The wounds from Labor’s tumultuous time in power, where it changed leaders twice, were still raw. Shorten needed a public sign of reconciliation to help heal the heart of a divided Labor movement.

Shorten got it with former prime ministers Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd ceremonially breaking bread, sitting alongside each other with former PM Paul Keating.

Gillard was missing this year but Rudd and Keating were front and centre, as were the popular state Labor premiers Peter Malinauskas and Mark McGowan, the hometown hero who introduced Albanese. 

The Opposition Leader paid tribute to the Labor prime ministers who have come before him, vowing to follow in their footsteps with a reforming agenda.

Anthony Albanese had two predecessors on hand, Kevin Rudd and Paul Keating, for his campaign launch.(Instagram)

But it was a prime minister from the other side of politics who he spent the bulk of his speech focusing on. 

“People know Scott Morrison’s response to the bushfire crisis was a dismissive ‘I don’t hold a hose, mate’,” he said.

“People know he said, “it isn’t a race” to bring vaccines to Australia. People know he said that if you can’t afford your rent, just buy a house.

“I reckon people know all about Scott Morrison.They’ve worked him out.

“Australians understand we can’t bet our future on three more years of a Prime Minister who looks at every challenge facing our country and says: ‘That’s not my job’.”

Penny Wong speaks at Labor's campaign launch
Penny Wong ralling Labor’s supporters at the party’s campaign launch in Perth.(ABC News: Hugh Sando)

Elements of Labor have quietly wondered if Albanese’s COVID diagnosis might have helped the opposition’s campaign.

It offered a reset after a bumpy first week, while bringing to the front effective campaigners like Penny Wong, Jim Chalmers and Katy Gallagher. 

“I know I can count on Penny and Richard (Marles), Katy and Jim and so many others to make the arguments for Labor,” Albanese said seeking a contrast with Morrison’s frontbench.

“But who’s he got? Alan Tudge and Peter Dutton. The unspeakable and the unthinkable. And Barnaby Joyce, the inexplicable.”

Noticeably absent was Tanya Plibersek — one of the most recognisable figures in the Labor movement. 

Her absence was made even more noticeable by Albanese announcing a new policy for working women, a policy area Plibersek in part oversees.

Standing at a podium smiling, Tanya Plibersek looks back over her should. Labor branding hangs above her.
Tanya Plibersek was noticeably missing from Labor’s campaign launch, having played a prominient role as the deputy leader in 2019.(ABC News: Andy Kennedy)

Some in Labor will say that while Plibersek has been out barnstorming marginal seats, the campaign’s bosses aren’t elevating her to the national level, in part because the Albanese camp is threatened by her personal popularity.

At the other extreme, the elevation of frontbencher Jason Clare, a charismatic 15-year veteran of the parliament, has thrown him into the national spotlight.

The campaign spokesman took to the stage in Perth after Penny Wong, savaging Morrison and celebrating Labor with ease. 

Known to those who follow politics closely, he’s now found himself a new fan-base in the broader community, leaving many to wonder if he’s now an heir apparent. 

It’s always dangerous bringing other people to the spotlight, raising the prospect people might be willing to wait for them to be the leader.

There’s a simple way Albanese can keep them all behind him — winning the election and becoming prime minister. To do that, he’ll need all the support his team can muster.

After a week on the bench, Albanese’s taken the first step in the second half of his campaign.

Anthony Albanese and Penny Wong hold hands aloft on stage at the Labor campaign launch
Penny Wong and Anthony Albanese celebrate the party’s election launch. (ABC News: Hugh Santo)

Two weeks ago, the party was barely breathing, terrified a wobbly first week might stop it from seizing government. 

In landing the launch, Albanese has his campaign back on track. 

But there are likely more breathless days are ahead as Albanese begins his three-week sprint to polling day.

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