THE FRONT DORE: After the horror of Bondi and Wakeley, we needed leadership. Instead, we got Albo

Headshot of Christopher Dore
Christopher Dore
The Nightly
8 Min Read
Anthony Albanese needed to be a leader for us all this week. Instead, we got Albo, writes Christopher Dore.
Anthony Albanese needed to be a leader for us all this week. Instead, we got Albo, writes Christopher Dore. Credit: The Nightly

A Saturday afternoon suburban massacre.

Mums murdered. Mums. Three of them, stabbed to death at the shops. A bride-to-be, a student and a young bloke, his first day on the job. Slain. By a deranged, drug-addled and mentally ill loner. A newborn, a beautiful baby girl, fighting for her life, drenched in her own blood, left without her mum, murdered, in cold blood. By her side. In a shopping centre.

A shopping centre.

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A priest, a charismatic Christian, delivering a sermon to his flock, rushed by a boy. A radicalised, warped teenager, stabbed in the face, the neck, the back. An alleged act of terror. In a church. A church.

And that riot. God-fearing parishioners, having escaped religious persecution in their homeland, bear witness to an outlandish attack on their faith in their new land, their bishop struck down before them, unleashing an ancient uncontrolled urge for bloody vengeance. Blinded by a godforsaken rage they inexplicably turn on police and paramedics.

This, in Australia. Right now.

Shocked, scared, Sydneysiders are reeling.

And sad. Actually really sad.

Outside of Sydney, Australians are confused. What is going on? How did we get here?

Women in particular are heartbroken, and worried.

We needed something special this week.

Something concrete, something consequential.

We needed Anthony Albanese to be the Prime Minister of Australia.

A national leader.

Instead, we got Albo.

Underwhelming. Average. Albo.

In the wake of one of the most disconcerting, incomprehensible few days in our history, we didn’t get a national figure, a prime minister of substance, of conviction, of action. We got Albo.

As the days went on, Albanese moved on. When Sydney needed the Prime Minister, Albanese went to Queensland. As Peter Dutton and State leaders ventured solemnly back to Bondi Junction, Albanese went to Canberra. Today, he’s in Melbourne, ticking boxes, taking questions here, glibly answering there.

When we needed our Prime Minister to help make sense of it all, to lead us in mourning, to guide us through the despair and confusion, to lift us out of the sadness, to reassure us. We got Albo instead.

FM Albo. ABC Albo. Queensland Albo. Rabbitohs Albo. Half-arsed Albo.

High-viz and hard hat Albo.

Albanese has talked a lot since Saturday night. He did 23 interviews in fact, most in the first few days, most quick, sharp and snappy, radio spots, or fleeting press conferences.

Lots of words. Plenty of platitudes.

Touching base, skirting through, tapping out, moving on.

He was everywhere. And nowhere.

In an interview on Adelaide radio, one of the few Albanese did with a serious journalist, his answers to questions about social cohesion, about hate speech, about the murder of women at a Westfield shopping centre, were interrupted throughout by the incessant barking of his dog.

“That is Toto,” he told David Penberthy, after fed-up listeners texted in to complain about the noisy mutt. “She’s just saying hello, she’s the first line of security here at the Lodge in Canberra.”

In one Queensland radio interview, Albanese talked almost exclusively about the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the State of Origin.

“One of the games at the Lodge, I had Jimmy Chalmers and Anika Wells and Chis around, great Queenslanders, to watch and they were surprised that I wasn’t upset when Queensland won.” Jimmy and Chis.

No mention, at all, not a word, of Bondi Junction or the alleged terrorist attack on a priest.

In another, Albanese won $900 for listener Sharon by successfully naming nine things in 30 seconds beginning with the letter p.

Oh and good news, an exclusive for HIT Central Queensland, “Bollard Man” will be staying in Australia. So good Albo. Legend.

Triple M with Anthony and Pinky, once again, nothing.

Remember, the monster who murdered six people with a knife, days earlier, who stabbed a newborn and countless others, was a very sick man, suffering schizophrenia, from Queensland. His distraught father from Toowoomba revealed his son had struggled for years to get the treatment he needed for the illness.

None of Albanese’s radio appearances in Queensland, the killer’s home State, on Wednesday and Thursday discussed either mental illness, or the safety of women. Not a single word.

In earlier interviews, when Albanese was asked about the killer targeting women, the Prime Minister agreed, “We need to do more”.

And again. “We need to do more about the scourge of domestic violence and respecting women right across the board.”

“We need to do whatever we can.”

In an article written for Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph, Albanese actually put his name to this: “These are testing times but I know Australia will pass this test.” “We will come through this together. By supporting our police and security agents to carry out their task. By maintaining our faith in each other, by upholding our national unity and by looking always to the example of bravery and compassion that our people provide.”

BONDI JUNCTION, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 18: Members of the public lay flower tributes at the edge of Westfield Bondi Junction during a day of reflection on April 18, 2024 in Bondi Junction, Australia. The Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre opened today for the community to reflect following stabbing attack that killed seven, including the offender, on April 13, 2024. The shopping centre is not open for retail trade but is expected to re-open for business on April 19, 2024. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
Members of the public lay flower tributes at Westfield Bondi Junction. Credit: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

By Thursday night, Albanese was on Nine’s A Current Affair, where mental illness was the focus of incisive questions that elicited meandering, meaningless answers.

“We can always do better.” With “additional resources”, there is a “range of programs”, “we need to do better”, and “these things are always difficult”.

“How do we give support to each other as a society?” “We will come through this, overwhelmingly I believe we have the best society and the best country in the world, but we need to continue to work at how we can make it better.”

Albanese looked prime ministerial; orange tie, well-fitted blue suit, well-lit, perfectly curated Parliament House office backdrop.

He absolutely looked the part.

But Albanese, hollow man, talked nonsense.

Words with no meaning, phrases with no value.

He’s playing at being the prime minister. Acting the part.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 16: NSW Premier Chris Minns and NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Peter Thurtell hold a press conference on April 16, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. Hundreds clashed with police in western Sydney after an Orthodox Christian bishop was allegedly stabbed at the alter at Mar Mari Emmanuel at Assyrian church in Wakeley. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
NSW Premier Chris Minns stepped up in the face of a week of horror, writes Christopher Dore. Credit: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

Albanese has been exposed as a leader incapable of seizing the moment these consecutive tragedies required of him. That his country demanded of him.

He talks a lot about multicultural Marrickville, but he has failed to fathom the mood of the city he grew up in.

He shows no signs of understanding how women, fed up with words, are feeling after the Bondi Junction massacre. None.

Three more women have been murdered by men since Saturday.

He has failed to understand the fear families feel, every single day, living with violent mental illness. Holding their breath. Praying.

He has not even bothered to navigate the intrinsic complexities of the multicultural, multi-faith Australia he claims to know so well. In fact, his Government has inflamed it. He has shown no capacity to understand how Jewish families have been made to feel, with his acquiescence, since October 7. He is either utterly oblivious or outrageously complicit in the racial hatred radical Islamic extremists in Gaza have unleashed, unchecked, in his own country, terrifying Australian Jews and evidently endangering Christians.

Where was Albanese’s outrage and “strong action” against Sydney’s very own radical YouTube imams, local Islamic hate preachers, inciting vile mobs, whipping up racial and religious division?

Rather than actually address the underlying issues, violence against women, mental illness, racial hatred, Albanese takes the easy option. It’s social media’s fault. I’m “quadrupling funding” for the e-safety commissioner, he said today. Not to order the removal of Islamic hate speech, no wave that through, but to order the removal of the consequence of Islamic hate speech: the alleged terror attack itself.

Think about that.

Albanese has been most animated this week when reflecting on the heroics of Bollard Man. In his late conversation about the evils of unregulated social media, the irony is completely lost on him that he only knows about the bravery of Bollard Man because it was captured on social media. Albanese again today in one breath chided witnesses for posting on social media rather than sending evidence to police, while celebrating Bollard Man. He’s staying. How good, hey, I’ve let him stay. Look what he did.

Albanese’s inadequate leadership this week, his inability to rise to the occasion, to seize the momentum, to rally the community, to grab the moment to force change is a lost opportunity for us all.

A prime minister would have, should have urgently convened a special task force or national roundtable, an emergency summit, to address the mental illness crisis in Australia, or establish a special envoy to do something substantial, national, meaningful to combat violence against women.

Albanese was angrier and more active in response to the unfortunate accidental death of an Australian aid worker in the war zone of Gaza than he has been in the wake of the Bondi Junction horror.

He did not hesitate to deploy a special envoy to pester the Israeli government, under attack as it is, from the psychotic Islamic Republic of Iran and in the middle of an existential war with the (actual) genocidal rapists, murderers and hostage-takers of Hamas.

But here, at home, where we need a prime minister, a leader, we’re getting bluster. Fake outrage, faux tears, empty emotion.

This week has shown, confirmed, that this is a Prime Minister out of touch with Australians. At best, he has a superficial understanding of middle Australia, in all its complicated glory.

We were all amazed by the magnificent Bollard Man, of course we were. Albanese knew that. How could he not. So he latched on to him. He became Albanese’s narrative, his safety net. The most superficial path he could possibly take in response to this unspeakably devastating massacre. Albanese took it. Substance, or a lack of it, is Albanese’s kryptonite. Always has been. We saw it with the Voice. We are seeing it now, confronted with a national tragedy, and a society riven with division bubbling barely below the surface.

While we lost one leader this week, fortunately we found another.

NSW Premier Chris Minns, confronted by the horror unfurling in his city, stepped up. Prime Minister Albanese curled up.

Where Minns grew. Albanese shrank.

Albanese praised the bystanders who ran into danger at Bondi Junction last Saturday. He ran away in its aftermath.

Fragile as he is, Albanese will be outraged by this analysis, dismissing it, by the numbers, as wildly unfair. He will, again, miss the point, and will be destined to repeat the same mistakes. Sadly so, for all of us.


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