opinion

CHRISTOPHER DORE: Gaslighting Anthony Albanese is cooked, he’s done, he’s the wrong man for the top job

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Christopher Dore
The Nightly
6 Min Read
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is the wrong man for the top job, writes Christopher Dore.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is the wrong man for the top job, writes Christopher Dore. Credit: The Nightly/DIEGO FEDELE/AAPIMAGE

The exasperation, the eye-rolling. The callous disregard for the feelings of the young woman standing beside him, a victim, a survivor of domestic violence, shaken, upset: crying the tears he brought on.

Her humiliation met by a brief pause, a dismissive look, then back to combat, to shouting, to confrontation politics. The raised voice. The frustration. The mansplaining.

Don’t you understand, you silly women, shhh. I’m here to help you.

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And then in the morning, it begins. Re-defining the narrative. No apology. Just the patronising, pathetic, gutless re-writing of history.

No, no, no, that’s not what happened. No, she’s mistaken.

She got it all mixed up. She is “emotional”. Poor thing.

Then the mates join in, they go a little harder, she’s crazy, poor guy.

It is literally the definition of gaslighting, one of the most excruciatingly cruel and insidious forms of psychological domestic violence men routinely, outrageously, subject vulnerable women to. Flip the abuse around. The perpetrator is now the victim. This is terribly unfair. She’s confused. She got this all arse about.

Anthony Albanese has been prime minister for less than two years. He’s cooked. He is done.

Scott Morrison made some terrible blunders. He was the bulldozer. But Morrison never bullied his way onto the stage of a rally decrying male violence against women and so cold-heartedly, so insensitively, made a brave survivor, feel so small, reducing her to tears. Humiliating her. And then rather than try to console her, he chose to ignore her and walk away instead.

When Morrison declined to front a similar march outside Parliament House three years ago, The Guardian’s Katherine Murphy, now Albanese’s star media adviser, wrote this: “Behind the noisy women in the streets are others watching how small the prime minister has been in a moment when he needed to be big.”

Albanese, of course, tries to do the right thing. He does. Morrison did too. Their very human flaws meant that often, no matter how hard they tried, how desperate they were to get it right, they nevertheless ended up completely stuffing it.

It is a judgment thing. It’s leadership. Almost impossible to define. Some leaders just have it. Others simply don’t.

Albanese does not have it.

His party know that, they’ve seen it for years. But in power, these past two years, it has become grotesquely apparent, with every maddeningly hopeless misstep.

What Albanese did on Sunday would have been comically cringeworthy at best had Larry David engineered it for an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Turn up to show your support for women fighting domestic abuse only to behave so boorishly you end up making women cry.

But even worse has been Albanese’s performance today.

The clean up. It has been catastrophic. So bad, some of his colleagues can’t even contemplate it. Others naturally are furiously briefing out a defence. Curiously, the Canberra Press Gallery’s usual ferocious critics have fallen strangely quiet. The perversely rabid hatred from leftist media, The Guardian, the ABC, and Nine’s tabloids, during the Morrison era? Nup. “PM brushes off accusation… “, “Cheers, tears and heckles …” Contrast the treatment of the national rally organiser Sarah Williams, who bravely endured Albanese’s petulant performance and refused to back down only to be met by a skeptical media, with the celebration of the Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins campaigns against Morrison. It’s sickening institutional hypocrisy.

Williams, who organised the national rally, says that we are in a “serious national emergency” with at least 27 women dead this year alone at the hands of men.

She accused Albanese of “abusing his power by aggressively” insisting he be given the chance to address the Canberra crowd, saying “I am the prime minister of the country, I run this country”.

When confronted on Sunrise by Nat Barr this morning about those claims, Albanese skirted. Evaded. “Look, Nat, I’m not going to go into that sort of debate.”

Asked directly, did you lie, as Williams claims, Albanese said: “Look, good on Sarah for organising the rally.” “It was an “emotional day”, “congratulations to her”.

Then rather than apologise to Williams for the confusion, or take some responsibility for whatever role he played in it, for bringing her to tears even, no, he ended up, not directly accusing her of lying about it all, but telling Barr, with an awkward smile, to go look at the vision and listen to the tape. “Channel 7 were there for the recording of everything that went on, so you were all there, so the media were all around, they heard everything that was said there …”

In other words, Nat, she’s lying. Again, can you imagine how Morrison would have been slaughtered for this? Morrison was endlessly trolled by the left wing media, and Labor, for having the temerity to admit to seeking his wife’s advice on the impact of sexual assault.

Albanese is having a fight with a victim survivor, treating her like an irritant and then gaslighting her before insinuating she’s a liar.

Holy hell.

“Misogyny at its finest,” Williams says. “What broke my heart was the lack of compassion for myself and my team. I was beyond vulnerable and I am pretty traumatised by the situation.”

Equally as galling of course is Albanese’s approach to the actual problem of gendered violence. Once he finally got his mitts on the microphone yesterday he yelled into it, above the din.

His style of politics is not suited to leadership.

“We are here today to demand that governments of all levels must do better … “ Say what? Demand who? In response to heckling: “I agree! It’s not enough! I said that! We need to do more.”

You are literally the Prime Minister of Australia. The most powerful person in the country, acting like a protestor. You do not demand anything, you do better. You stand up and tell the country exactly what you, yes you, are going to do to change society, to fix it, not to lecture us about what we can do better. What will you force the states to do about it? What laws can you enact? We don’t do laws, mate, that’s your job.

If Albanese were serious, and not just playing silly performative politics, he would have stood up in front of that audience, in front of all Australians, and declared this a personal commitment to once and for all tackle this “scourge”, as he calls it. Stand up and promise to make this a foundational measurement of his success as prime minister. Rally the country behind you. Don’t shout platitudes. Do something. Make it your No.1 priority. You know, like the Voice was, until it wasn’t.

Be the Prime Minister who does something to stop men killing women. A personal commitment. Anything short of that is meaningless, utterly lame.

As prime minister Albanese has had a relatively straightforward period in which to govern, no war to send Australian troops to, no global financial crisis. No COVID.

All he has had to do is govern. Do the basics. Front up, say the right thing to the right people and do the right thing when you can.

Prime ministers are made by how they handle the unexpected, how they deal with crises no one saw coming, no one could ever contemplate.

John Howard had Port Arthur, 9/11. He led. He grew. Year after year, Howard grew into a leader, from almost unelectable to undeniable. He wasn’t everyone’s guy. But he was on the spot. Predictable. We all knew exactly how he would respond, and he did.

When confronted by a contemporary crisis, even of his own making, Albanese has crumbled.

He didn’t just fail indigenous Australians on the Voice, he failed us all.

He is stranded, slowly shrinking into irrelevance on Islamist terror, exploding in Israel and manifesting in the suburbs of Sydney. He has encouraged division at home by again gaslighting Israel, turning the victim into the aggressor and standing back, silently to watch the subsequent ethnic and religious hatred and division fester in his own backyard.

And now he fronts up to a rally for women and makes them cry.

Albanese is losing moral authority not only within his own party but with all Australians.

His style of politics is not suited to leadership.

It’s petty.

It’s factional, reactionary, divisive. It’s too political.

It’s too much Labor, not enough Australia.

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