opinion

THE FRONT DORE: For modern Labor, diversity and inclusivity are everything. So long as you agree to conform

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Christopher Dore
The Nightly
Fatima Payman, for all her faults, including of course being disloyal to the party and people who put her into parliament, is everything Anthony Albanese thinks he is, everything he used to be, but has lost. 
Fatima Payman, for all her faults, including of course being disloyal to the party and people who put her into parliament, is everything Anthony Albanese thinks he is, everything he used to be, but has lost.  Credit: Supplied/The Nightly

Anthony Albanese, like every self-important inner-city know-it-all, is big on inclusiveness. Loves diversity. He’s all about it.

Albanese heads up a Labor Party that by his own account is full of different skin colours, and non-Anglo names, and all sorts of religions and ethnicities.

He made a big deal of it on Friday, in a colourful press conference … we’ve got Jews down there in Melbourne, the Attorney-General no less, and a couple of Muslims, ministers sworn in on the Quran! “We are led in the Senate by someone called Wong”. “That is what we have.” Why are you questioning me on this. “We have diversity, we are an open party, we are an inclusive party.”

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And of course me! Al-bah-nay-zeh here in the Lodge. The first Italian to run the country. Al-bah-nay-zeh is how I like to pronounce it. Try Bolog-nay-zeh, and you’ll be on the right track. It’s the Italian way. Before he was PM, Albanese would tell people: don’t underestimate the extent to which, not just for the Italians but for all those non-Anglo-Celts … ‘wog boy’ here is the only non-Anglo-Celt name to ever stand for prime minister in this country. It matters to them, he would confide, it’s aspirational.

Albahnayzeh spent an awful lot of time playing factional games in his youth, no doubt drinking macchiatos and eating salami focaccias at Bar Italia in inner Sydney’s Leichhardt, so he is fair dinkum. You can say a lot about Albahnayzeh but do not deny his true-blue Italian heritage, it’s coursing through his veins. And it’s what makes Labor so great, so diverse.

For modern Labor, left-wing, Albo Labor, diversity and inclusivity is everything. And nothing.

Sure be diverse, culturally, religiously, faith, sexuality, whatever you want. As long as you conform.

You have to be “part of the team”. Our team.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at a press conference after visiting an urgent care clinic in Queanbeyan, Friday, July 5, 2024. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Credit: MICK TSIKAS/AAPIMAGE

We have rules and regulations here in the Australian Labor Party. Stick to them. You get a voice, of course, you do, we encourage you to speak out! As long as it matches what that old white Scottish bloke who runs your union has to say, that progressive fella with the Eureka Stockade flag tattoo, or that old Catholic chap who loves a tipple and will determine your preselection status, or decide what spot you can hog on the Senate ticket. Rule No.1 around here: be as diverse as you like, we will embrace you, and we will celebrate you, just don’t stray from whatever we told you to say, or whatever your union boss insists you should believe in. So if you’re gay. Good on you. We’ll be right beside you, marching up front at the Mardi Gras but it’s entirely up to us to tell you what to say about gay marriage and when to say it.

We stick to the rules, or you’re out. If you’re an Arab, well, shush. If you’re a Semite, think about the Arabs. And everyone else with a bit of flex to their backstory? Stay on message. Talking points. We have rules. We all agree. There is no Albahnayzeh in team. And remember: smile for the camera.

Labor was happy to parade Fatima Payman around. Slap her on that Senate ticket, exploit her family’s refugee tale, that hijab will really set off the Labor red on those corflutes.

Albanese is all about diversity and all about women until they disagree with him, ask Tanya Plibersek, or until he uncovers a rat in the ranks. He hates Labor rats more than he loves fighting Tories. When confronted by a Labor rat, diversity is irrelevant. Jovial Albo emerges from the proverbial phone box as tough guy Albanese, factional bully.

Remember the first brush with fame for Albanese came in the 1996 documentary, Rats in the Ranks, when the mysterious shadowy power broker from “head office”, who refused to appear on camera, tried to resolve a factional dispute by telling the warring local councillors fighting to be Labor mayor to “pull a name out of a hat”.

They did. It didn’t work.

DJ Albanese is also all about the kids, being in touch with the youth vote, on trend with the issues of the day on campus. He takes pride in his understanding of the King St Newtown crowd. He’s into indie bands and is the face of a microbrewery.

Yet he had a real-life young Muslim woman in his own caucus and it turns out, he wasn’t overly interested in what she had to say.

The Prime Minister has spent the past nine months shit-scared of saying the wrong thing about Israel’s war against Hamas terror, so worried about an electoral backlash in Muslim-dominated seats in Western Sydney that common decency abandoned him. Arab votes are more important to Labor right now than principle and national leadership.

And yet Albanese revealed on Friday that he had not sought out the views in caucus of a 20-something Afghan refugee, an intelligent, arresting and competent young woman, of the Muslim faith.

Completely uninterested in what had driven her to the edge, to quitting the party she literally married into, and she clearly loves, Albanese, entirely unsympathetic to her existential dilemma, attacked the first-term Senator for remaining silent on Gaza.

Albanese, the leader of that party of diversity and inclusiveness, all fired up, and with a straight face: “There’s 103 people who are members of my caucus who have a common position.”

“One of the things I find disappointing about Senator Payman … at no stage, no stage, did Senator Payman stand in the caucus and make any comments about the Middle East or about anything else about West Australians or about anything else,” he said.

“No comments in the time in which Senator Payman has had the privilege of serving in the Senate as a Labor senator.” Imagine.

Senator Fatima Payman
Senator Fatima Payman. Credit: Andrew Ritchie/The West Australian

No wonder the Greens are slaughtering Labor on the Triple J issues once the domain of Albanese’s beloved left faction.

Senator Payman is another victim of Labor’s long history of exploiting diversity and taking the communities for granted. Ignoring them, playing with them, toying with their values, promising and prodding them.

He’s the leader of a political party that for years has talked about diversity but only pretends to live it. What’s always been important to Labor is to give the appearance of diversity, to give the appearance of inclusion, to give the appearance it is progressive and modern.

In reality, every principled position adopted by Labor is driven by a censorious mindset built on a collectivist spirit. Power, principles and position is determined not by the rank and file, as claimed, but nutted out mostly behind closed doors in deals struck by factional leaders and union muscle.

Albanese, the hero of the rank and file, the legendary backroom operator, has had his arse handed to him by a 29-year-old rookie senator who has exposed his weakness and hubris.

He couldn’t land a cohesive position on Islamist extremism, has been caught appeasing, rather than leading, thereby upsetting both moderate Muslims and Jews alike.

And personally challenged by Payman, he gets nasty and defensive.

Fatima Payman, for all her faults, including of course being disloyal to the party and people who put her into parliament, is everything Albanese thinks he is, everything he used to be, but has lost.

She is a truly modern Australian with a unique and valuable voice, a person of genuine conviction. She is eloquent and engaging, passionate and principled, feisty and fearless.

Albanese can’t see that.

He can only smell a rat.

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