Labor pains

It’s been a rocky old quarter for Labor’s spinmeisters, what with Prime Minister Albanese’s footsies with Kyle-who-needs-sensitivity-training, all while spending so much time playing in the middle of the road he’s in danger of having white lines painted down the centre of his back.

Not only did we have the Prime Minister of Australia sharing mate-maaaaaaate wedding photos with a group of men who’d look more at home down the back of a side-street tobacco shop, but we had Albanese, Australia’s foremost republic supporter, travelling to the UK for King and country and sitting down for his chosen (as in, not forced into it) UK interview with an attention flaming, dead schoolgirl phone hacking, Duchess of Sussex stalking, former fake war-crimes photo publisher

But that’s Australia’s new improved Labor, now with extra spinicide for you – no one held back and no one left behind. And isn’t it a lovely little feel-good phrase?

Labor’s ‘No one held back and no one left behind’ grand motherhood statement has been given more of a workout in the pre and post budget media coverage than the old Whatsapp group between Scott Morrison’s former media navvies and Channel 7’s, ahem, political reporters. But in the age of drive-through lattes, policy on the run and 30 minute news cycles, it’s easy for the punters to let these grab phrases wash over them and forget they’re actually legitimate promises the current government made to the Australian people.

What exactly does Labor mean by this key statement that’s underwritten most of their messaging from as early as 2019? Because let’s face it, this is the message new improved Labor campaigned on, got themselves voted into government on, and are still using now to sell everything from their budget to their stock market investment fund disguised as a social housing scheme that may even produce some affordable housing – and who are we to argue? 

No one left behind? Behind what exactly? Because in order for something, indeed anything to be behind, there has to be an arbitrary line of some description that denotes where forward is and where behind is. Yes? Yes. Otherwise we’d have no way of measuring which particular thing is behind and which is in front – we’d just be wandering about in a random morass of disparate things like Malcolm Roberts in the Senate.

So if we accept the premise there must be a socio-economic-cultural-whatever line in the metaphorical sand somewhere in order for something to either be behind or in front, then it begs, no it screams, the question: Where is this arbitrary line?

How do we measure who is behind the line and who is in front of the line if we don’t know where the line is? And who in the current Labor government is measuring all of this? After all, it’s their exhausted motherhood statement, not mine.

If I live in a rural location, free of noise and pollution where I enjoy peaceful relations with my distant neighbours and no traffic snarls, am I in front or behind? Does that mean even though someone in downtown Brighton may be on ten times my income, that my fortunate lifestyle means I’m in front of them? Or am I behind them? Am I behind in economic terms but in front in emotional wellbeing terms? Where is the gauge?

Similarly if there’s no one held back either, how do we measure that? Holding something back implies someone or something is moving forward. Who is measuring the “not holding back” of these people propelling themselves forward? And who is measuring the gathering up of the ones left behind given we don’t know what “behind” actually means in this context?

Yes, there is nothing so pure in politics that it cannot be distilled into a single sentence of meaningless nothing.

These are of course questions the devoted Albanistas will have you believe are distractions. You can not fix everything in 12 months they say – and of course they are right. Not quite as right and nearly as righteous as the people calling for perfection from the Albanese government instantly in everything they touch, but we can’t all be millennial performative shit-posters on twitter.

We have Australians living in cars, families in tents, and Australians choosing between heating and eating, and those things can not be fixed overnight. They simply can’t. So for the moment those people are left behind. (Yes, we know all the infrastructure already exists to raise the rate of Jobseeker allowance and it would take no more effort than a Cabinet meeting and a few strokes of the keyboard keys, but for clarity’s sake, let’s just accept these people are left behind. Besides, the unemployed are good for inflation, even if they’re the ones who have to bear the brunt of it.)

We have a revised resource rent tax (PPRT) that sees $2.6 billion in tax paid by oil and gas companies that is still unbelievably, only one fifth of the revenue brought in by the tobacco industry in Australia.  

Does that mean Australians have been left behind by this, or that the multi-national fossil fuel corporations have not been held back? And God forbid if the poor dears have.

We have the Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek in the age of net-zero emissions by 2030, signing off on a new coal field, yes a new one, that would produce 7 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and almost certainly wipe out the existing communities of koalas, greater gliders and ornamental snakes in the Isaac River area.   So for the moment, let’s just accept the dead koalas and dead birds and dead snakes are left behind.

We have an appalling extinction record with our native wildlife to the point we have become world leaders in wiping out our flora and fauna and, of course, these things can not be fixed overnight. So for the moment, let’s just accept Australia’s wildlife is left behind, unless of course it’s the Western Ground Parrot that recently received an entire $10,000 for the remaining 150 almost extinct birds because that’s the Albanese government not holding wildlife restoration back

So yes, Australia’s environment is left behind and our wildlife is left behind and our emissions targets are left behind and our unemployed are left behind and our social housing is left behind and families surviving under the poverty level are left behind but the good news is – nobody’s holding any of it back either. The Labor spinmeisters would be proud.

And with no federal opposition to speak of, (sure there’s Peter-the-Soporific randomly shouting NO! at every available opportunity and a wandering troupe of back-up performers who forget their lines in interviews and flick their hair at cameras, but there isn’t any real opposition to the Albanese government at the moment) it’s more important than ever for ordinary Australians, and even extraordinary Australians, to pick up the slack where the opposition once existed and push for better, push for more.

It is up to Australians themselves to ensure the Labor government actually live, breathe and deliver their promise of no one left behind. Yes we are better off than we were 12 months ago and at the very least we’ve been spared the endless Bunnings, blokes and barbecues, but that does not mean automatic fealty to the victors.

In what world does it make sense to claim a politician or a political party is owed the people’s loyalty?

It is the people who are owed. The people are owed good governance. We are owed more than sound bites that diminish us. We are owed a leadership that inspires us. And it is up to Anthony Albanese and his government to provide that – behind or in front of the line.

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