A New Government – What’s driving politics

The new PM. Anthony Albanese being sworn in at Government House Yarralumla yesterday. Brilliant photo courtesy Brendon Thorne | Bloomberg | Getty Images 

There could – so easily – have been a problem with this change of government. Scott Morrison could have insisted, over the weekend, that he hadn’t definitively lost office and there was still a chance for him to form government with a couple of the independents.

Fortunately he didn’t.

Yesterday it became apparent that the combination of a huge swing in Western Australia, big swing in Brisbane, and holding the line elsewhere means that (although we are still waiting for the final details) Labor has now probably won government in its own right.

Now we can begin exploring what this means.

FIRSTLY, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Most important to the Labor strategists is that this victory was delivered in the West.

This has consequences. There will be pressure on Anthony Albanese to add at least somebody from Perth to the Ministry. The party will be forced to recognise that without Premier Mark McGowan’s key stabilizing role navigating that state so confidently through Covid, Scott Morrison could still be in power.

The Queensland party couldn’t confidently defeat the Greens in Brisbane; the NSW party couldn’t surf over the Teal wave (instead losing a seat in Sydney’s West to a dynamic young Vietnamese immigrant, and the state’s south coast to a Liberal who’d clashed with Morrison during the fires); and couldn’t even bring home the most marginal seat in the country (Tasmania’s Bass).

The key question Labor faces is not working out how it won, but why it didn’t win better, much better. It has just three years to discover the answer.

THE (MURDOCH) MEDIA

Was the way Labor was portrayed in the most dominant media outlet responsible for its lacklustre performance? A detailed study by the ABC ‘s Mediawatch demonstrates how subserviently Lachlan Murdoch’s editors responded to their master’s well-known antipathy towards Labor. News Limited’s hostility was extraordinary. It won’t be at all surprising if Labor acts to slash the huge stream of government support that flows to this international corporation, particularly if it continues displaying such strident aggression towards the new government.

The new media landscape is still emerging. Our bet here at ability.news is that the internet is forming new ‘imagined’ communities – ones that will certainly not be serviced, or even require, the newspapers that held the old ones together.

Although there may be some editorial pressure to continue attacking the new government, doing so may prove to be unsustainable for the corporation over the longer term. It will be interesting to see how this battle will play out: it isn’t over yet.

LABOR’s LEADERSHIP DILEMMA

There is another explanation for Labor’s poor showing in the East, and that’s it’s leadership. Albanese, the oldest first-term Prime Minister the country has ever installed, has done an incredible job in taking the party to power. This doesn’t mean he will be the right person to lead Labor to the next election.

The same goes for most of the rest of the cabinet. They have experience but they’re all a decade older than the last time they sat on the government benches. A great deal has changed in that period. Younger, ambitious people are thrusting through, bringing with them new ideas and new ways of doing things.

Albanese may well find a culture clash begins to emerge within his party unless he discovers a way to effectively harness this energy.

The old ways won’t cut it any more.

Albanese will wake up this morning in Japan, where he will be attending his first international summit, a meeting of the Quad (Australia, India, Japan and the US). Although navigating this confidently will be a challenge, the real shoals are the ones he’ll be returning to back in Canberra.

Nic Stuart

Nicholas Stuart is an author (Kevin Rudd, an unauthorised political biography; What Goes Up, behind the 2007 election; Kevin Rudd, 2007 - 2011) and columnist with the Canberra Times. He was the ABC's Indochina Correspondent when he suffered a significant head injury in a car crash in Bangkok.

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