Michael Pascoe: The ‘A’ in ALP stands for Albanese

Anthony Albanese appears to have taken over the ALP, Michael Pascoe writes.

Anthony Albanese appears to have taken over the ALP, Michael Pascoe writes. Photo: TND

Something rather important has been largely overlooked in all the words devoted to the first anniversary of the 2022 election – Anthony Albanese’s takeover of the Labor Party.

To differentiate it from the ALP, let’s call it the AALP – a party whose leadership exerts iron discipline over parliamentary members through the power won from comprehensively defeating the old foe.

That did not happen at the polls a year ago but in the weeks and months since then. The ALP won the slimmest of majorities with its lowest primary vote since the Great Depression.

As has been said often enough, it wasn’t that the ALP polled well but that the Coalition – let’s reflect its current reality and call it the LNP – polled worse. It’s a given that the biggest factor in the ALP’s win was that its leader was not Scott Morrison.

Dutton Voice

The LNP under Peter Dutton is not performing well with potential voters. Photo: AAP

Since May 2022 though, the LNP has continued to implode. It is unelectable outside Queensland.

Even there only 28 per cent of voters scored Peter Dutton as preferred prime minister behind Mr Albanese with 44 per cent, according to the latest Resolve poll.

And while the LNP drifts off into One Nation territory, the government has grabbed more of the middle ground, its primary vote soaring from 32.6 per cent a year ago to 42 per cent now. An election this weekend would deliver a landslide.

Small target strategy

The rolling victories in this ongoing war have delivered the unassailability of the leadership’s small target strategy.

A year before the election there was dismay about Mr Albanese failing to land punches, calls for him to step up.

A year after, he’s planning three terms in The Lodge. Nobody questions it, and anyone wanting a share of the spoils must know their place and mind their tongue.

The promise of making Labor the natural party of government, ahead of the LNP on every matrix, has effectively silenced internal opposition as the leadership exerts iron discipline.

And with the LNP irrelevant, that looms as a disaster for Australia.

Left wing silenced

The AALP has silenced the ALP’s left wing. Mr Albanese, the former leader of the left, has effectively abolished it.

nuclear subs

The AUKUS deal comes with eye-watering costs.

Exhibit A is the AALP swallowing Scott Morrison’s last stunt holus-bolus – AUKUS.

A party suffering a national security policy vacuum beyond saying “me too” to avoid being wedged, adopted in a few hours with minimal briefing a vastly complex commitment with ramifications for generations to come.

Nuclear-powered submarines of dubious worth but massive cost when/if they are finally delivered, a dramatic escalation of our defence ambitions, snubbing any consultation with and thus offending our nearest neighbours, sacrificing Australian sovereignty to America’s declared ambitions to further its own interests against China, turning Australia even more into an American military base, the laughable spin of trying to sell nuclear submarine assembly as nation-building make-work – none of that could be worn by the ALP’s left wing without a massive fight. But there’s no ALP left left.

No debate, no discussion, no weighing of consequences. And all to try to capture the last issue where Labor doesn’t clearly lead the LNP – national security and defence.

A rubber-stamp defence review that was written before it was started is being followed by a quickie Senate committee once-over-lightly of the necessary legislation to abolish Australia’s commitment to not be a nuclear nation.

Submissions for that committee close this Friday, but don’t worry if you miss the deadline – the bipartisan AALP/LNP numbers can be relied upon to disregard any dissent.

With the left abolished, the AALP is all right now.

All the right moves

For the old ALP right, its leader and deputy PM, Richard Marles, is performing as Defence Minister as if he’s Peter Dutton with hair.

Defence Minister Richard Marles is said to be performing as Peter Dutton with hair.

It was amusing at the time and now hilarious that the Morrison government tried to label Mr Marles a “Manchurian candidate”, soft on China. The “DC candidate” is what fits as he pushes Australia all the way with the USA and then some.

A Chatham House rule briefing by an individual with intimate knowledge of defence and security policy, the power of the arms dealers’ lobby and the nature of the military, warned that the misguided predilection of our parliamentarians to adhere to a bipartisan approach on national security issues has proven counter-productive for the prospects of peace.

Bipartisanship is not an end in itself. Bipartisanship is the consequence of agreement on good policy. When pursued for its own sake, it becomes a fools’ journey delivering the lowest common denominator.

Secrecy issues

The AUKUS agreement was reached in secret, even from most ministers, and with no public consultation. Scott Morrison boasted that AUKUS was the most important defence agreement since the ANZUS Treaty. He even gloated about how clever he was to keep it secret.

And then Mr Albanese followed through without public consultation, avoiding being politically wedged because of the ALP’s lack of a coherent national security policy before coming to office.

Adopting your opponent’s policies to assure power is an old ruse, keeping your friends close and your enemies closer.

Decisions taken by the former Coalition government and the current Labor government have and will shape and decide the destiny for future generations of Australians. The stakes are high. And these decisions have been made, and are being made, behind closed doors and without acceptable public or parliamentary debate.

I hear there are ructions in some Labor branch meetings, members of long standing dismayed about Australia’s sovereignty being sold out as a pre-election political ploy.

Security concerns

Our national security and defence policy is too important to be based on such low principles.

Paul Keating’s objections to AUKUS have largely gone unanswered.

That was the central charge in Paul Keating’s attack on AUKUS – a charge not subsequently answered by Penny Wong.

It took an individual of Mr Keating’s legendary status within Labor to break the wall of Labor silence and compliance on AUKUS but that brief kerfuffle quickly died down under Mr Albanese’s discipline and the weight of mainstream media aboard the AALP/LNP wagon, more concerned about Mr Keating’s language than the issues.

A passing murmur from a backbencher, some words in the near-empty hall of the odd branch meeting and the only chance of debate and discussion was quashed. That’s life after the takeover.

All that’s left is a massively outgunned civil society rear-guard action, as exemplified by an open letter placed as a paid advertisement in the Australian Financial Review.

An array of prominent citizens, academics and former politicians and military leaders called for a parliamentary inquiry into the AUKUS submarine deal. The former head of the Australian Office of National Assessments, Allan Gyngell, a man Penny Wong described as “our finest mind in Australian foreign policy”, intended to sign it but died before he could.

The group exemplifies a split between the elders of foreign policy and the government, a split that can be found primarily in publications such as The Conversation and Pearls & Irritations.

But with bipartisanship elevated above analysis and acquiescent media dominant, civil society’s concerns don’t register with the AALP.

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