CHRISTOPHER DORE: Anthony Albanese’s grim bulls..t show would be so much worse without Jim Chalmers

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Christopher Dore
The Nightly
The Anthony Albanese show is grim, but it would be so much worse without Jim Chalmers.
The Anthony Albanese show is grim, but it would be so much worse without Jim Chalmers. Credit: The Nightly

Thank goodness for Jim Chalmers.

Imagine what this Government would look like without him.

On foreign policy, on migration, on environment, energy and industry policy, this is a radical left wing administration under Anthony Albanese and Penny Wong; one that is increasingly erratic and irrational, spectacularly delusional and insincere.

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On aged care, NDIS reform and religious protection, Albanese is overseeing an indecisive operation; stuck, afraid of its own shadow and terrified of misreading the public mood, and thereby misstepping.

Chalmers is calm and assured, and unlike Albanese and so many of his colleagues, focused and consistent. In action and appearance, Chalmers is distinguishing himself from the rest of the Albanese apparatus. He knows what he is talking about and communicates simply, and with clarity.

Right now, it’s the economy, d...head. Australia needs less Anthony Albanese, more Jim Chalmers. Chalmers is quietly ambitious but steadfastly loyal and professional.

The irony is Albanese, at his core an internal party brawler, is so insecure about the younger, more competent Chalmers that he doesn’t recognise his greatest asset. Can’t see it, refuses to acknowledge it, and won’t get out of his way.

This is the Albo Show, folks.

The Albanese experiment is not working.

Albanese’s principal delusion is self deception.

He believes his own bull...t.

None of his, realistic, colleagues need convincing of this: Albanese’s flaws, frequent flustered filibustering, and the misplaced but prodigious self confidence are now parodies. Once seen as endearing, the homespun routine simply isn’t funny anymore. Albanese imagines himself as a statesman, a Bob Hawke-like generational leader, whereas so many in Labor, amateur political historians among them, are seeing this Prime Minister for what he actually is — petty and peculiar. Albanese has an insular political radar — some might call it a mirror — and an unworldly outlook. The gap in mindset and mentality between Albanese and middle Australia is monumental, and as far removed as imaginable from Hawke’s innate, legendary capacity to read the mood of the people and in turn empathise with them.

Today we saw a quite gobsmacking example of Albanese’s arrogance, and an insight into the shambolic, disorganised outfit he has commandeered.

The Treasurer, three weeks away from delivering his third Budget, is playing A grade, shaping the economic narrative, laying down the foundations and setting expectations that will define the Government, and determine its future, and by extension ours.

Australians don’t give a stuff about anything else right now other than how to keep their households afloat, and their families safe. The Government has fallen silent on cost of living. We are waiting. Patiently. But anxiously. Get on with it.

Already, Albanese has upended the Government’s Budget strategy by rushing forward the announcement of the tax relief package in order to save himself from a resentful and rebellious uprising in the suburbs of Melbourne, to avoid an embarrassing by-election defeat in Dunkley.

This is the precise time when Albanese needs to step back from the hokey hogwash, and hand over the mic, and the agenda, to his Treasurer.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese listens to Australian Treasurer Jim Chalmers speak to the media during a press conference tat Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, February 28, 2023. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING
Anthony Albanese scheduled a conflicting press conference right at the time Jim Chalmers was meant to be laying out how the Budget would work. Credit: LUKAS COCH/AAPIMAGE

But what does Albanese do instead? As Chalmers stood in Canberra for a substantial set-piece press conference on the economy, having just returned from the US, the Prime Minister schedules a clashing media event in Mackay. Chalmers is talking to the nation about inflation, cost-of-living relief and plans to crank up economic activity as soon as prices are reined in, Albanese interrupts from North Queensland to wow us with waterways and road upgrades and his big plan to walk the Kokoda Track for ANZAC Day.

He’s not fair dinkum this bloke.

Upheaval in the world economy and stubborn, albeit moderating inflation, has complicated Australia’s economic strategy. Chalmers wants to prepare families for what’s ahead.

“We are making really good progress when it comes to inflation. Inflation has come off substantially since its peaks in 2022 but we know that it is not mission accomplished because people are still hurting,” he said today.

“You can expect to see in the Budget a focus on cost-of-living help, a tax cut for every taxpayer will be the centrepiece of the cost of living help in the Budget, and if we can afford to do a little more than that, then those decisions will be taken in the next week or two … we are still aiming for a second surplus.”

As he was about to be tested on this, on the other side of the country, Albanese gets to his feet. Of course the Prime Minister always trumps the Treasurer for media attention.

Albanese, standing by the water’s edge in Mackay, drew the nation’s focus away from Chalmers, and the economy for this: “One of the things that will assist an area like this we know from experience is our capital cities and indeed many of our regional centres just haven’t valued our waterfronts…” And then the Prime Minister went on to talk, at some length, about a boat ramp, and a ring road.

At least there were no interruptions from Toto.

A properly functioning government doesn’t do clashes like that.

But Albanese Labor isn’t functioning properly.

Where Chalmers is focused on the economy and good government, getting today right and setting up for tomorrow, Albanese is focused on Chalmers. In Albanese’s mind, the real brains behind the Government’s economic management is not Chalmers, but his pal, the left wing finance minister Katy Gallagher. Albanese has assigned Gallagher to babysit Chalmers.

Albanese fanboys over Gallagher, and fawns over her offsider, the Prime Minister’s spiritual guide, his closest ministerial confidante Penny Wong.

The pair have undue influence over the entire operation. Sensible members of the Labor right, such as Defence Minister Richard Marles, are rendered impotent against the irrepressible rise of the dynamic duo from the left.

Politics, not people — certainly not principle — is overwhelming decision-making right now. Of course playing politics, cynical and insincere as it is, has always been fundamental to politicians, their survival and longevity. When it’s tinged with self-awareness, it’s forgivable, but when it’s darkened by delusion, as it is with Albanese, it’s diabolical.

Remember: two years ago, up against a deeply unpopular pandemic PM in Scott Morrison, Albanese only managed to convince a third of the voting public to back him in. That support has shrunk ever since.

And for most of 2024, Albanese has been swinging in the breeze.

Chaotic and erratic.

Big Labor policies are in, then they’re out. Major Labor reforms are on the agenda, then off.

Fuel efficiency standards, a climate policy centrepiece, in, big time, then out, in double time.

A total re-imagining of environmental laws, the biggest project of its kind in a generation, green-lit, then blacked out.

Meanwhile Wong, with the help of like-minded and long-suffering leftists in the public service, is dangerously re-writing longstanding Australian foreign policy. No one signed up for this.

And certainly no one was aware that voting for Albanese meant opening up the borders under left-wing Immigration Minister Andrew Giles, another Albanese favourite, to the greatest influx of migrants we have ever seen. That certainly wasn’t featured on the flyer.

Albanese, however, did promise to kickstart local manufacturing.

But no one expected Rob Sitch and Santo Cilauro’s Future Made in Australia. Least of all Industry Minister Ed Husic, who just a month or so ago couldn’t get an audience with the Expenditure Review Committee of Cabinet, and was whinging to everyone about it.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Australian Treasurer Jim Chalmers speak during debate on the Cost of Living Tax Cuts Bill in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, February 15, 2024. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING
Albo needs to worry less about Jim Chalmers and just let him shine, Christopher Dore writes. Credit: LUKAS COCH/AAPIMAGE

Fast forward a few weeks, and “Ed’s in the centre of the government”, says a bemused Labor backbencher. Very few sensible lawmakers, even within Labor, believe throwing billions of dollars at businesses to make them viable when they otherwise wouldn’t be is sensible policy. Good election politics, maybe.

“A future made in Australia, it’s pretty hard to disagree with any part of that sentence, it’s almost a truism,” one MP says.

Unfortunately, the winner isn’t the company with the best product, the most sustainable future, “the winner is the person who wastes the most money”.

Albanese’s centrepiece industry policy, for which he has co-opted Chalmers, is Orwellian: Spending is reform. Protection is competition.

Former NSW Labor Treasurer Michael Costa is characteristically upfront: “This is going to end up in welfare capitalism, the worst form of crony capitalism. It’s going to be an economic disaster.”

Albanese is presiding over a tidal wave of turds.

And Chalmers, sensible and strategic, and determined to keep the show together, is caught up in the backwash.

One thing Chalmers successfully learnt from his days working under his mentor, then treasurer Wayne Swan, is how to not be Wayne Swan.

Chalmers needs to take lessons from his hero Paul Keating, and figure out a way of bending the party to his will. Be the brawler statesman he admires so much.

Focus, like Keating did, on getting the fundamentals right, getting the settings right and the economy humming.

And then you can screw over the boss.


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