I spent a lot of time with Anthony Albanese, the opposition leader, back in our 20s. While we were young and probably said and did things older and wiser people would not, I do believe I took the measure of the man. I have no doubt about what kind of leader he will be, if he is elected by the Australian people to be prime minister on May 21. He is authentic, inclusive and entirely up to the job of restoring long term, strategic governance. I would not agree with everything he does, just as I did not all those years ago, but he is the real deal.
Through his long parliamentary experience, he has demonstrated a passion for the institutions of liberal democracy, embraces the rough and tumble of parliamentary debate and the forensic process of weighing evidence before making policy decisions. Further, he has a track record in previous Labor governments of achieving parliamentary outcomes, sometimes against all odds. He is a respectful listener and a loyal person, unlike most politicians in my experience. The battered institutions of Australia’s democracy could do with a breath of fresh air, not least an anti-corruption body and an infusion of new talent that is more representative of Australia’s diverse society.
Might Australia really be at a tipping point? Australia needs to restructure its economy to realize the opportunities of renewable energy, new technologies, new jobs and new infrastructure needed for the green and technological industrial revolution. It needs to find an authentically Australian way to understand itself, including First Nations and Australia’s uniquely multicultural reality, to strengthen its social cohesion at a time when divisiveness has too often been tactic of choice. It needs a serious debate and, ultimately, a grand strategy to position itself to be safe and to prosper from the changing world balance, by learning how to better build partnerships with its own region and globally. It must address climate change. All of these imperatives point to the need for change. That is in the hands of the Australian people on May 21.