Underestimating Albanese

It seems pretty clear that I’ve underestimated both the Albanese governments chances for a second term and the prospects for getting the Voice referendum passed. So, I’m considering where I got things wrong.

First, I underestimated how bad the LNP Opposition would be. In part that’s because I assumed it would be led by Frydenberg. I’m not a fan, but he would have been much more effective than Dutton. Relatedly, I’ve been surprised by the unwillingness of the LNP to give an inch on the various culture war issues on which it is losing so badly among young voters (climate, trans rights, indigenous issues among others).

My next reassessment relates to economic performance. Since the change of government, most workers have seen their real wages reduced. To be sure, that’s part of a global inflationary trend over which the government has little control. But historically, that hasn’t mattered – if the economy goes badly, the incumbent government gets the blame. So far, at least, the failure of wages to keep pace with inflation has been framed as the “cost of living”, which in turn has been treated as something like the weather.

It remains to be seen whether this dream run survives the end of the Low and Middle Income Tax Offset, effectively raising taxes on most workers. That will depend in part on whether the next budget delivers the Stage Three Tax cuts for high-income earners. But so far at least, the Labor government has been successful in blaming its predecessors for policy commitments it has chosen to implement.

As regards the Voice, I’m still worried about the possibility of defeat. But so far at least, the problems have all been on the LNP side. The core of the problem is that, while some opponents/sceptics are genuinely doubtful about the way the Voice will work, the dominant view on the right is opposition to any form of special recognition for Indigenous Australians. Those in the first group (Leeser, state leaders and others) are gradually shifting to support a Yes vote. This effectively validates Albanese’s line that those asking for more details are simply covering up racist opposition.

Despite this, the risk of failure is still high. Having effectively wedged Dutton into advocating a half-baked compromise, it would be good to present a provisional model.

Suppose that the Voice referendum is passed, and Labor gets a second term. Will we see more than the incremental shifts we’ve had so far. Or will the government campaign on the basis that, having delivered its minuscule 2022 commitments, it’s time for “steady as she goes”. I honestly don’t know.

16 thoughts on “Underestimating Albanese

  1. “Those in the first group (Leeser, state leaders and others) are gradually shifting to support a Yes vote. This effectively validates Albanese’s line that those asking for more details are simply covering up racist opposition.”

    Effectively validates?

    This is misrepresentation. The only problem Dutton created was not granting a conscience vote on the issue. Different opinions here do mark real concerns about the nature of the “Voice” institution being created – a racially-based body with the right to insist on being consulted on policy. Not insisting that all Australians should be equal under the law with equal rights of input into the national parliament, rather than assigning priority rights to one race, is racism.

    On the details. How will this body outperform ATSIC and other past representative bodies? Will the “Voice” have the right to access the bureaucracy and for it to be consulted by the “Voice”? And the biggest issue if all – if the body is purely advisory to the parliament why not legislate to establish it rather than writing it into the Constitution? Why do Marcia Langton and others resist modifications to the proposed constitutional changes that ensure its purely advisory character if they assure us that citing the possibility of legal challenges via the High Court is “scaremongering”?

    To write off these concerns as a cover for “racism” is inaccurate.

  2. Harry again spreading FUD: “that ensure its purely advisory character”

    If a naysayer needs assurance about “The Voice Rendered Toothless” or as Harry states “purely advisory character” read:
    Mark Dreyfus in Hansard re The Voice:

    “Hansard Start of Business BILLS
    “Constitution Alteration (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice) 2023”
    Second Reading
    Thursday, 30 March 2023 Page: 1

    “… Nothing in the provision will hinder the ordinary functioning of our democratic system.

    “…would give weight to the representations of the Voice, those representations would be advisory in nature.

    “It will be a matter for the parliament to determine whether the executive government is under any obligation in relation to representations made by the Voice. There will be no requirement for the parliament or the executive government to follow the Voice’s representations. The constitutional amendment confers no power on the Voice to prevent, delay or veto decisions of the parliament or the executive government. The parliament and the executive government will retain final decision-making power over all laws and policies.”


    Why don’t you get it Harry.?

  3. I agree with what I take to be Harry’s point. I think it’s most unfortunate that one smears arguments as ‘racist’ — especially when, as Harry points out, at least formally, it’s the side arguing for the voice that is making distinctions by race.

    For the record, as far as I see it, this is one consideration on something that I think is a difficult subject. I’ll be voting for the voice, but not with great confidence that I’m right.

  4. While I am for the Voice as a Constitutional change and legislative changes, I can appreciate that other people might feel less inclined. That doesn’t mean their views are automatically racist or whatever. I figure we give it a go, and if it falls far short, we adapt. My collection of books on Aboriginal Australia, and also on expeditions done by early colonists, make it pretty clear that Aborigines were subjected to some pretty brutal treatment, up to and including death, at the hands of the early “settlers.” I don’t see it as an issue of being blamed for what some ancestor of mine did, but of acknowledging and going some way to addressing the burdens placed upon Aboriginal people through the colonisation, settlement, and outright theft of their land placed upon them. I don’t think it is discriminatory to acknowledge and to address some of the unique burdens borne by the Aboriginal Peoples of this continent, as a result of “colonisation.” This is one of those cases where the weight of (historical) racial discrimination has cast such a pall over an entire category of Australians, we need to redress this in some manner. I can’t swear that the Voice is a very good answer or a good step forwards, but I feel it is worth a try. If it amounts to too little, then we can look to other ways of improving the situation for Indigenous People.

    I know one thing, and that is it is very poor form to look at closing down remote Indigenous communities (a la Abbot and Howard), for would we be so quick to close down a remote white man farming community? (Farming on what had been Aboriginal land?) The better answer is for those communities to be provided with the kind of support that any other white man community would expect, and to work with them on that basis.

    One of the more heartening things has been to see how Indigenous people have slowly but surely gained representation in sport and in art. There are trailblazers in Academia too, and in music. However, they are the very few; we need to give real thought to the everyday person, white or black or yellow or purple or green, and to ensure they have what is necessary for a good life. None of this living on street corner bulldust.

  5. “How will this body outperform ATSIC and other past representative bodies?”

    It will be protected by the Constitution.

    All previous bodies, committees, RCs etc have been either ignored or dismissed or both.

    “assigning priority rights to one race, is racism.”

    The Voice is for the First Nation, or indigenous people of Australia. Indigenous is not a race, it’s a historical fact just as settler is a factual description. Early (and later) settlers are from many races.

  6. Harry, you’ve totally misrepresented what the Voice is all about.

    Recycling views expressed on Sky, Spectator or the Oz is just lazy.

  7. Providing access to the corridors of power which the Voice does is a valuable thing. We know it’s valuable as lobby groups pay lots of money to improve their access.
    I see giving this special access to our First peoples is partial compensation for dispossession. It is treating a particular group differently, not because of their race but because their ancestors were dispossessed.

  8. In an earlier post, Harry Clark complained about the emotionalism in the debate. In an attempt to take out emotions:

    At time t: X – y recorded
    At time t+k, X-y is recognised as an error
    At time t+k+l , error correction requires X + y
    where t+k+l > t+k > t in chronological time.

    Suppose X represents the Constitution and X-y is what Gabrielle Bashir, President of the NSW Bar Association considers to be a gap in the foundation of the legal institutional framework. https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/it-s-time-to-close-the-gap-in-the-constitution-20230412-p5czxn.html

    Clearly, the structure of the error correction problem remains unchanged, whether y is interpreted as ‘race’ or as ‘first peoples of Australia’ or naming the first peoples of Australia, known as Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.

    If one were to argue that +y at time t+k+l constitutes racial discrimination, then one would not recognise the racial discrimination at time t or one would refuse error correction. This is not the same argument as saying one retrospectively judges the authors of X as racists. It is merely an up-dating of a document to reflect the recognition of a past error at time t when viewed from the perspective at time t+k (say the 1967 referendum).

  9. “Will we see more than the incremental shifts we’ve had so far. Or will the government campaign on the basis that, having delivered its minuscule 2022 commitments, it’s time for “steady as she goes”.”

    I predict that 2019 will cast a long shadow on the future of the Labor Party

  10. ‘ Steady as she goes ‘ will get results ,I am looking forward to the NDIS review . However all that has to be weighed against $300 billion subs and stage 3 tax cuts .At least there is some good to weight that against I guess.

  11. One disturbing element to the Voice, one that I hadn’t previously considered, is that of the feeling of entitlement that Australians have, called it nationalism, parochialism, jingoism or whatever and it will be seen that Australians (ie settlers) will be giving something (ie power) to indigenous people.

    The perception of loss of entitlement could develop into resentment and it seems that the LNP is playing that one for all its worth. Resentment has worked well for Trump, Brexit and Putin,, to name a few.

  12. Entitlement and resentment was something that JWH used well eg

    “We will be compassionate, we will save lives, we will care for people but we will decide and nobody else who comes to this country.”

  13. No-one addressed the core issues I raised – I guess the slur is that I suffer from “a loss of entitlement” and am being “resentful”. No, I just think that the “Voice” proposal is bad for Australia and I will vote against it and encourage others to do the same. There is no clear reason why a centralised group in Canberra will give better advice than past allegedly representative indigenous groups such as ASIC and the refusal to simply legislate a new group is evidence that more is sought than has been publicly admitted. It is a racist proposal because representation by the “Voice” is based on race irrespective of indigenous history.

    A previous Supreme Court Judge had his say today in the Oz. He nails it particularly with respect to Albanese’s offensive implication that voting against the “Voice” is bad manners. That is no way to win a constitutional change:

    “A former Supreme Court judge predicts the Indigenous voice will paralyse the Australian parliament and “in many cases the approval of the advisory body will have to be obtained before a bill can be enacted”.

    Nicholas Hasluck KC, who retired from the West Australian Supreme Court in 2010, describes the proposal to entrench the Indigenous voice in the constitution as contrary to democratic ideals.

    ………In his written submission to the joint select committee inquiry into the voice, Mr Hasluck criticises one of the justifications offered for the advisory body offered by Anthony Albanese. Mr Albanese has said consulting Indigenous people about matters that affect them is good manners.

    “To say, as some have said in recent months, that the voice should be enshrined simply as a matter of ‘good manners’ is a shallow and misleading line of argument,” Mr Hasluck writes in his submission to the voice Senate inquiry.

    “It confuses the matters in issue by suggesting that people who vote against the voice lack the decency usually associated with good manners.

    “An emotive plea of this kind seeks to shame people into voting for the voice. A profound change to the structure of government by constitutional amendments should only be made in response to well reasoned debate on both sides of the question.”

    Mr Hasluck says the proposal to make “a profound and essentially irreversible change to the structure of government by vesting an influential advisory privilege in a section of the community defined by race is contrary to democratic ideals reflected in the Constitution, a document underpinned by conventions referable to the rule of law and the notion that all citizens, high and low, are to be treated equally”.

    “As a matter of principle, the voice should be rejected on the grounds that our democracy is built on the foundation of all Australian citizens having equal civic rights, all being able to vote for, stand for and serve in either of the two chambers of our national parliament,” Mr Hasluck writes.

    “A constitutionally enshrined body defined by race, as to which only Indigenous Australians can vote for or serve in, is inconsistent with this fundamental principle.””

  14. “To say, as some have said in recent months, that the voice should be enshrined simply as a matter of ‘good manners’ is a shallow and misleading line of argument,” Mr Hasluck writes in his submission to the voice Senate inquiry.

    “It confuses the matters in issue by suggesting that people who vote against the voice lack the decency usually associated with good manners.

    Although I could enlarge on it, if I had to summarise in two words only my reasons for intending to vote Yes in the proposed referendum, ‘Good manners’ would probably be the best way of doing so.

    Since I regard voting Yes as good manners, it must follow necessarily that I regard voting No as bad manners. I understand, of course, that people who intend to vote No do not regard what they plan to do as bad-mannered, but that takes us no further toward settling the issue than my contrary evaluation does. The fact that somebody doesn’t think that what they are doing is bad-mannered is not enough by itself to establish that it is not bad manners. For example, Nicholas Hasluck does not agree that voting No would be bad manners, but that by itself is not evidence that it isn’t bad manners.

    Given that Nicholas Hasluck and I disagree about this, in a way which places us in directly contrary positions, one of us must be right and one of us must be wrong, but anybody else who wants to evaluate which of us is right and which of us is wrong is not going to get any closer by observing the bare fact that we disagree, nor by observing the displeasure we both take in the respectively opposing positions. They’ll have to try harder than that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s