Note to candidates: Avoid unwinnable seats
Advice to a young, ambitious politician

The timely end of a dangerous government

Teal albo top
Anthony Albanese has to prove himself capable of sorting out the considerable mess that Scott Morrison has left behind


If Albanese exercises democracy and wisdom in the cabinet room, we will have the best government we can have - and nobody can hope for anything more than that

NOOSA - Yesterday’s man under pressure has survived to become today’s hero – and I’m going to explain why.

For many Australians, the Labor Party’s win in Saturday’s national election seemed an unlikely victory.

Throughout his period as opposition leader, Anthony (Albo) Albanese had sought to present a target so small that nobody could take clear aim at it.

He became an exponent of the art of avoiding being wedged on issues by the simple expedient of taking the side of the wedger.

He chose to be a politician who wanted policy in opposition to not become a point of attack, so he made policy thin, infrequent and largely unnoticed.

As a leader, Albanese preferred to hide in plain sight as a virtual unknown – this was a political strategy but it also perhaps disguised his lack of confidence against the bulldozing fulminations of the Pentecostal Mouth to whom, three years previously through Divine Intervention, God had given a nation to run.

Albanese managed all this feinting and dodging and got the top job. In fact, he quite overwhelmed Scott (Scomo) Morrison who had reckoned that his win in 2019 had been a miracle.

Scomo - the man who tried to be king, populist, pastor to the nation and man of the people - lost. Scomo, loser of a massive 19 seats and his prime ministerial office.

He lost these prizes at the hands of his people, including both Quiet and Noisy Australians - people who did not think him a wise, clever and photogenic chap so much as a boorish, divisive, loud-mouthed oaf who, for no good reason, was making their life much more difficult than it needed to be.

It’s arguable that a more inspirational leader than Albanese would have won the election in a landslide. Morrison left so much political and psychological room for his opponent that even Bill Hayden’s infamous drover’s dog (the one that could have beaten Malcolm Fraser) would have triumphed. But even predictable elections - which this wasn't - have complex dynamics and are difficult to win.

That said, Albanese now has to prove himself capable in sorting out the considerable mess, global and domestic, that Morrison has left behind. Not for the first time has Morrison exited a workplace leaving chaos in his wake.

High office changes people. Some it emboldens and builds. Others it shrinks and defeats. People like Morrison it excites and consumes. I'm guessing it will make Albanese confident and secure.

Even if he doesn’t fully rise to the office as a Hawke or Keating, it is my hope and expectation that he will be an effective chairman of cabinet – perhaps more facilitator and conciliator than heroic champion but certainly not the histrionic egotist we have so recently experienced.

If Albanese be a servant leader, I’m confident he has plentiful talent on his front bench to pull things into place and do some necessary building.

For this Labor cabinet is not ‘the same old crew again’. Sure Bill Shorten will be there (now less trusted than ever) but the new guard looks very good indeed. There are a number of absolute stars (who do not include the hapless deputy Richard Marles, who I expect at least to be genial and loyal).

There are 10 star players, the first five of whom are potential prime ministerial material: Katy Gallagher, Dr Jim Chalmers, Chris Bowen, Jason Clare, Penny Wong (PM material but doesn’t want the job), Mark Dreyfus QC, Linda Burney, Mark Butler, Ed Husic and Tony Burke.

If you don’t know them, do a search. You’ll find much of substance.

There are also 10 impressive B teamers, who shape up as much better  than Morrison’s wayward, bumbling front bench.  Tanya Plibersek (past her peak but still capable), Catherine King, Stephen Jones, Brendan O’Connor, Patrick Dodson, Dr Andrew Leigh, Michelle Rowland, Murray Watt, Julie Collins and Amanda Rishworth.

Albanese was lucky to lose Kristina Keneally, who he had parachuted into the once safe seat of Fowler and a community revolution that, because Keneally was an outsider, instead chose an independent of their own.

Albanese must have thought for some reason (possibly because KK told him so) that she would be a star. Instead she lost him a seat that may cost him a majority in his own right. There is a lesson there that political parties have been slow to learn.

Teal cartoonHowever, Albanese was incredibly lucky in this election. He was lucky in his opponent, Scomo, who people had come to loathe. He was lucky in having the best front bench since the first Hawke ministry. He was  lucky that the women nicknamed the Teal Independents (for their commonly adopted election colour) would emerge to rip the heart out of Liberal Party moderates (so-called) in a bounty of key and precious Liberal legacy seats. Who would have thought?

John Howard was fond of saying that “in the end, the mob works you out”. And the mob worked out Scomo. Was there a constituency he did not offend? Yes, just three.

The resource giants sucking out tax-free minerals, big corporates that donated in return for contracts, and global consultancies purporting to know better than a Public Service that has delivered so much for so many governments over so many years and that Morrison had sucked dry of morale.

But the rest, and the rest numbered most of the population, had been offended or hurt by Morrison in one way or another. And they worked him out just as they had worked out Howard in 2007. That working out took much longer but eventually the man who did not take his own advice lost a country and his seat. (It's amazing the Liberals still stagger him out on the campaign trail as if he were a national hero.)

The forgoing matters are all notable but it is my belief that the biggest story from this 2022 election is the fracturing of Australia’s two-party system of government, something that so far a discredited media (which during this election displayed a slovenly bias that voters saw through) hasn’t fully comprehended.

The fracturing first began with Labor maybe 30 years ago. Since that time Labor has been fighting against a slump in its primary vote to the low 30% range, usually considered to be inconsistent with winning office in Australia's preferential voting system. But Labor won twice in that period, propped up by the reliable receipt of 80% of Greens’ preferences.

By contrast, until recently, the Coalition’s primary vote hung around the mid to low 40% zone. It usually went into elections with a big primary vote advantage over Labor. But for the last 18 months or so, the opinion polls had consistently shown that the Liberals primary vote had fallen from the 40s to the mid-30s or worse.

It was this which made me certain Labor would win on Saturday even though Albanese underperformed during the campaign. He was up against an unpopular man whose maladministration, cheered on  by the media, had caused his party’s primary vote to fall somewhere near that of his opponent.

So Labor and the Tories now have only about one-third of the primary vote each. For many years the dominance of an informal ‘two-party system’ gave them no cause for concern. But election after election, independents and minor parties gnawed at their support. The Others' vote climbed steadily for 20 or more years. And now, in 2022, well organised Greens and Independents grabbed much of the remaining one-third, most of it at the Liberals’ cost.

And this time, the solidity of that other one-third of votes was determined by the emergence of centrist women Independents who collapsed the Libs primary vote. But unlike previously, when well-financed major parties always seemed capable of fighting back, this time the two-party oligopoly was under the pump and the Liberals were busted wide open.

I’m not sure anything can be done to regain the lost one-third. Labor might see its share increase somewhat if it can deliver capable government. But the Liberals are the people with big problems. They face an existential crisis, which one would think might be addressed by repossessing and consolidating Robert Menzies’ ‘broad church’ of the centre right.

But instead the move is on to spin Peter Dutton into the Opposition Leader's job. This surly, unpopular former policeman looks like continuing to push the party to the more extreme right. This is where their Nationals coalition partner is already squatting under the beetroot leadership of Barnaby Joyce. The farmers party have now become the resource extractors party and miraculously retained all of their 16 seats on Saturday.

It could be that the Libs and Nats will be compelled to amalgamate in an effort to strengthen their joint one-third of the primary vote. But even though this may offer more internal stability, I an not sure how a ‘further right’ party would survive. I do struggle to understand this Republican-like obeisance amongst the Australian conservatives. Extremes of anything are not where Australians sit and certainly extreme conservatism is not what Australians want. This showed again at the weekend. Australians are right leaning centrists.

There are many lessons from Saturday: one is that now there are three forces in Australian politics: Labor centre-left; Greens left and Independents centre-right; and Liberals right and still moving towards the fringe. Australians are a people of the centre. If you still don’t believe me look more closely at what the Teal Independents just did the other day.

I disagree totally with a growing view on the right (and in the media which is the same thing) that the Teal Independents are a self-righteous, entitled group of women in the clammy fingers of a rich Rasputin by name of Simon Holmes a Court who established the Climate 200 organisation to raise funds “to support political candidates committed to a science-based approach to climate change and to restoring integrity in politics”. Young Hacca has been at pains to explain that this does not give him policy or other control over the Independents that Climate 200 elected to support.

Of course, the media sees this differently and tells us, with no evidence, that Climate 200 is a political group that has infiltrated the political firmament under the guise of being independent. The Australian Electoral Commission has formally repudiated this view. But the media still squeals that Holmes a Court seeks to influence parliamentarians using the weight of money, which of course is what the big corporates do themselves, especially Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Murdoch seems to think that everyone else with money would choose to behave with the same unethical abandon that he does.

I see no sign beyond this wild newspaper talk that Holmes a Court is doing what he is alleged to be doing. That is, pulling the strings and causing the Teal marionettes to dance. These admirable women, who stood and won as independents and who were supported by Climate 200 and very many others, stood on the platform of wanting an honest political system, climate action and a fair go for women. These are noble and necessary causes. They are not sinister.

Four of the successful Teal Independents - Kylea Tink, Allegra Spender, Monique Ryan, Zoe Daniel

A friend of mine, extraordinarily concerned by this new tri-focalised Australian politics, referred to the Teal Independents as “self-righteous chancers (entitled white females?) riding on the coat tails and wallet of a very wealthy, self-important, ‘I don’t give a f… about you’, entitled white male”.

I told my friend that such sentiments traduced women who had been drawn to politics by the failure of government to address its own inadequacies, including corruption and irrationality on climate change.

The strategy of the mostly conservative leaning Teal Independents was game and idealistic. To stand in heartland Liberal seats, the toughest for anyone not a Liberal to win, and shake them free. As things turned out, these laudable women were successful beyond all expectations.

They took seven seats held by fake moderate Liberals, who had in parliament voted for a range of evils visited upon refugees, Indigenous Australians, the economically deprived they despise, corruption, climate change and more. Weep not for them…. They are deserving losers and Menzies would have held them in contempt.

Australia has been poorly governed for too long. Under Howard, the Liberal Party developed some very bad habits about ridding the party of moderates (I reference Ian Macphee, Petro Georgiou and others), under Tony Abbott further bad habits about tearing up fine legislation brought to life by their predecessors, and under Scomo in Trumpian mode even further bad habits about the power of the never-ending lie, the never-look-backwards lie and the never-corrected lie.

Australians don’t dig deeply into the mechanics and psychology of political behaviour. But we are straightforward people who sniff out inauthenticity and bullshit pretty quickly, tolerate it up to a point but, if pushed too far know, we know how to sideline the bullshitters, lop the tall poppies and cut smartarses down to size.

That the ‘old system’ seems to be fracturing is of no concern to me. It was taking Australia to a place where we would be worse off – economically, socially and democratically. The success of the ‘third force’ opens up new opportunities for egalitarianism to shine and economic activity to be energised. And Morrison has been ejected just in time to spare us further of his and his party’s mendacity and excessive behaviour. Now the political system must be recalibrated to make deceit and theft punishable not commonplace.

As we move into an era of extremes in terms of environment, disease and global politics, Australians need the safety of a solid, mature, equable and equitable society. We need to protect democratic values, not see them thrown aside by a neoliberal caste which has never stated, but by its actions clearly shown, that the two party state is fine so long as one of the parties never gets to govern. But feels that a right wing autocracy would be better.

Saturday gave us a fascinating election with a necessary outcome. There is so much in it to ponder. I’ve just begun the process.

A alboI want our country and its people to be safe, prosperous and good international citizens. I want Albanese to gain confidence in his role and to spread the burden of leadership across ministers selected because of talent not faction.

Albanese will be a better prime minister than Morrison, an easy thing to be given the latter’s appalling track record. Albanese will govern more fairly and, if he exercises democracy and wisdom in the cabinet room, we will have the best government we can have. And nobody can hope for anything more than that.


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Bernard Corden

Back in May 2019 someone must have voted for the LNP and its sanctimonious mooncalf.

Dave Ekins

I, too, had no time for Morrison and was very happy to see him go. If Tasmania didn’t put up so many drongos of all shades, I might have voted Labor for a change.
Healthy and persistent criticism of any Government is fine, but the point I was trying to make was that I can’t get my head around the degree of personal hatred expressed by many people, particularly towards Morrison. It must be very difficult to get through life with such feelings.
I certainly don’t consider you a hater, Chris, and I always look forward your erudite contributions to this forum along with those of Paul Oates, Chips, Michael Dom and, most certainly, our esteemed editor, Keith.

Bernard Corden

I'll tip my hat to the new Constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again

(The Who - Won't Get Fooled Again)

There were even high profile acolytes who provided damning assessments of Morrison's egregious behaviour:

Moreover, take a look at this rap sheet covering the coalition government's performance over the past decade:,receiving%20wages%20as%20low%20as%20%248%20a%20day.">">,bugged%20the%20offices%20of%20the%20government%20of%20Timor-Leste,13269

Biloela Family

There are many, many more examples and I'll get on my knees and pray we don't get fooled again.

Chris Overland

In some respects I think that Dave Ekins has made a fair point. I say this knowing that I am no doubt one of the key offenders from his perspective.

My criticism of Morrison and his government goes directly to the issues of honesty, integrity and proper regard for due process and the public interest or, more specifically, their frequent absence during his stewardship.

Not for nothing did the President of France say Morrison was a liar. Even allowing for Macron's own foibles this was a quite shocking thing for the leader of a major country to say about a serving Australian Prime Minister. Subsequent comments by the outgoing French Foreign Minister confirm that Macron's comments reflected a view held within the entire French government.

This is relevant to relations with PNG and other Pacific countries in that it is plain that they too did not trust Morrison and regarded his pronouncements about our supposed 'Pacific family' as being merely 'weasel words'.

Make no mistake, the conduct of a government in domestic affairs and the actions and behaviours of its leaders are closely observed by other governments. This is one major reason why they have embassies and, very often, engage in intelligence gathering activities.

The damage done in the Pacific to Australia's status and prestige has been pronounced. The Solomon Island's debacle is clear testimony to our lack of influence.

Also, I very much doubt that Macron would have felt any inclination to join with Morrison to deal with issues in the Pacific where France has significant long term strategic interests as well as a military presence.

Consequently, I maintain that my highly critical comments about the Morrison government were very relevant indeed to the broader topic of our relations with PNG.

I will unhesitatingly criticise the current government as well if they prove to be unable or unwilling to do the hard yards to restore Australia's credibility and influence in PNG and the Pacific more broadly.

Happily, the incoming Foreign Minister has already commenced that task by visiting Fiji with a few days of taking up her new role. This tends to bode well for the future but time will tell.

Dave, I expect that history will judge Morrison very unkindly indeed, for both personal and political reasons.

A politician's character, personal behaviour and revealed values (or lack of them) matter in affairs of state and so defects in these areas may be legitimately and fairly criticised. All politicians know this but frequently complain bitterly when they are called out for it.

The man who didn't hold a hose and had a sometimes distant relationship with the truth was never likely to win the trust and confidence of other government leaders for whom actions always speak louder than words.

Dave Ekins

Now that Labor are finally in office, is it possible for this forum to return to its original purpose and philosophy of strengthening the people-to-people relationship between Papua New Guineas and Australians?
What we have had for three long years from many contributors has been a vitriolic campaign of denigration of people in the Coalition government and of anyone who might support them. Contrary to the aims of the forum, PNG Attitude has been a litany of character assassination, offence and ill-temper, all underpinning a leftish ideology.
Whilst I can understand how self-loathing, class-warfare and chips-on-shoulders affects some contributors, I have never been able to understand what sort of person carried such a pathological hatred of Morrison. Who can be so unhinged? What must it be like living with such haters?
As a conservative, I am happy to suck up the election result and I wish Albo well. He has got off to a good start in Japan and I will objectively follow his government’s fortunes for the next three years. But wouldn’t it be tedious if every posting I made was sprinkled with mocking comments about “Shoebox” Albanese or “Liquor Licensee” Wong – that’s assuming they were even published.

Hope you feel better soon - KJ

Diane Bohlen

Well said Keith, and I wholeheartedly agree.

Bill Bohlen

Great article, Keith. I am especially pleased that the Murdochs were greatly ignored by the electorate who could see through the daily bullshit in their rags, now only good enough to wrap the garbage in.

Peter Jackson

Spot on Keith!

The Liberals certainly have big problems when they can't even win the three Sydney harbourside electorates (North Sydney, Warringah and Wentworth) that I can see from our apartment. Happy days!

Let's hope now that the government will reform Standing Orders in the House of Representatives to give the Greens and Independents a fair go at Question Time and in the parliamentary process more generally.

Jim Moore

Andrew Bolt's column is not something I would normally bother with, but this week it was worth reading, only because it highlights firstly, the utter and deliberately wilful ignorance of the far right to acknowledge the science of climate change, and secondly, the lemming-like rush to to even further depths of the lunatic right that people like Bolt think will win them back their "base". That thinking is simply beyond understanding.

One point the Murdoch rabble overlook is the fact that there are some 11,000 contributors to the Climate 2000 movement, and that Holmes a'Court apparently has contributed just 2% of its funding (comments I heard him make on TV since the election). Hardly puts him in the class of super-influencer, I would have thought.

Lindsay F Bond

Were those voters of Teal in sync with Blackdaws of Cornwall? That is, the bird species of which flocks raise a crescendo to a sound level significant as signal to all of their intention to take flight.

Perhaps such a science report will find learners among Libs.

Chris Overland

I endorse Keith's comments whole heartedly.

I think that Anthony Albanese will be a much better PM than is commonly believed. He appears to be a man of both genuine humility and steely determination. He does not need to be a champion because, as Keith rightly points out, he will lead a champion team.

My expectation is that Albanese will be a very solid 'Chairman of the Board' and let his very talented Ministers get on with their jobs, unlike the controlling Morrison.

As for the Liberals, they richly deserve their fate. The seats taken by the so-called teals will not return to the Liberal fold anytime soon. The independent in my own electorate, a former small 'l' liberal and an original teal, has just won the seat for the 4th time with an increased majority. An entrenched independent is notoriously hard to shift and I see no reason why it will be any different with the teals.

If the Albanese government proves to be merely competent and not overtly corrupt, I would expect it will be re-elected easily. If, along the way, the teals prove to be as effective as I expect, it would not be a surprise to see more Liberal seats fall to independents as well.

I'd like to see that.

William Dunlop

I couldn't agree more Keith; the corporate sector needs a reaming out.
Particularly resources; in non-payment and or avoidance of their tax liabilities.
Multi-Nationals lead the Pack.
Literally in the Billions.
There also needs to be a Bar on former Politicians being appointed to the Board of Corporations in any shape or form.
I'm speaking as a Resources Investor for the past 60 odd years.
Old Boys are not accepted!.

Lindsay F Bond

The other night in NRL (hand/foot-ball) in the game between Sea Eagles and the Eels, it was for the 'winged' to win or to lose, and right at the close of time, the Eels were gifted the win. Great game to watch. Sorry for Sea Eagles who may fly again, but for the Eels, their writhing won.
In such a team game, all are required to give themselves to the endeavour.

When a gaggle of political like-ables gather into contest and then conquest comes to them (the libbers lost by their say), its all ahead to succeed at the endeavour or to fall to disunity, disfunction, or disincentive to the electors.

Low scores at the count of the ballots indicate the grind of the game, and that the game (that is, the elected representatives) have more to embrace about the variation in the 'rules', that electors (voters) have imposed.
Pleased for the leader, yet as is the saying "not for ourselves alone" (Latin: non nobis solum), the call is to embrace caring for all and globally (yeah, PNG and Pacific peoples).

Governance including supply seem to have a way forward so electors may hold off at this break in the contest.
So, coaches, its to you to put into the forward pack the science and the planning for shape of nationhood, not only have a captan tok.

Bernard Corden

There is far too much emphasis on the militaristic leadership hero myth that prevails amongst most Western democracies.

Bureaucrats exercise authority and require obedience. Tyrants or sociopaths exercise coercion and force others to capitulate.

Leadership is bequeathed by followers and it is a relational and reciprocal process and as FDR proclaimed....."It is a terrible thing to look over your shoulder when you are trying to lead - and find no one there."

Paul Oates

Well said, Keith. The essence of the issue is something many politicians seem to have forgotten and that is that they are there to represent their constituency, not their own personal views. Power corrupts etc.

The media barons want to preserve their duopoly in order the feed this age old perception of class struggle. Most Australians are too savvy to fall for this in the 21st century.

Political parties of any persuasion need to listen to their members and not end up with rusted on, self-centered adherents who believe it's their god given right to decide what their members and the public want without actually listening to them. That includes running genuine surveys and not weasel worded questions that elicit the answers the originator requires.

Financial backers of politicians will have to sit up and take notice if their 'donations' are truthfully revealed next year. Therein lies the challenge of introducing an Independent Commission Against Corruption.

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