JOSH Frydenberg started the week with old-fashioned reverse class-warfare in The Australian – a newspaper that shares his mission to rebadge the philosophically blank Morrison government as a Menzian redoubt. The column featured a picture of Anthony Albanese with former UK Labour boss Jeremy Corbyn, the clanking inference being that the Opposition Leader is a wolf in Leon Trotsky’s duffel coat. When he isn’t standing athwart history yelling Spend!, the ‘conservative’ Treasurer will be working hard to convince voters that Mr Albanese intends to raid what’s left of their life savings. Dismissing as insincere Labor’s abandonment of the Buffet Rule, the Treasurer has the advantage that his foes have no intention to scarify the Coalition for all of its betrayals of cherished principle. Mr Albanese might revive his interest in upping the tax burden of the wealthy if elected but Messrs Morrison and Frydenberg actually did lie about their intentions on CO2 ‘emissions.’ They get away with it because Labor is hardly going to criticise Liberals for yielding to Labor.
The Treasurer’s trick, then, is neat but fraught. Pushing Labor further left in the public mind clears real estate on the political spectrum for the LNP to move in the same direction while pretending to be immovable. It follows that only non-Labor third parties will attack the government on Net Zero from the ‘right’ – which is to say, from the position occupied by Scott Morrison and his Cabinet five minutes ago. However, there is danger in guilt by association as a tactic, as Paul Keating illustrated in 1990. Andrew Peacock – a creditable stager on the hustings – didn’t recover.
While visiting regional Queensland this week, Mr Albanese cited newly simpatico business lobbies to seize the “opportunity to end the climate wars.” He means on his terms, as victor. It was a smart, disarming comeback. On ‘climate change’ (and everything else), the government’s campaign theme will be relentless: ‘Don’t vote for Albanese – he’s even more wedded to Keynes, deficits, green tape, vaccine mandates and Gaia than we are.’ Or words to that effect. Not only is this retail and lazy but also foolish. Right now, the Opposition Leader’s plan to build a “strategic fleet” of privately owned ships to secure supply chains looks a lot more appealing and achievable than a nuclear submarine. What does the government think Australians care about most in 2022: safeguarding the delivery of life’s necessities or dropping bombs on Chinamen in the 2050s? A week of campaigning that began with Corbyn comparisons ends with one of the world’s most respected conservative doers asking a question no Treasurer wants to hear. I call that a bad week.