ANTHONY Albanese is going from bad to worse. I’ve written about the promise he once had, at least compared to Bill Shorten; more recently, I noted how his series of ‘headland’ speeches had deteriorated into a blancmange of fatuousness. When controversy arose about the Prime Minister’s Christmas holiday, he improved again. The Opposition Leader defended the Morrison family’s right to have a break, bush-fires or no. But as that outrage ripened in the Yuletide sun and became juicy as a differentiation temptation, he couldn’t resist the low-hanging fruit. Rushing to the mikes, he announced that volunteer firemen should be paid. It was cheap politics. Just like that, the Opposition Leader could be goodie to a boardies-wearing baddie. He was supported by the astro-turf Volunteer Firefighters Association with whom he was suddenly, suspiciously simpatico.
Now, this is one of the most stupid and deeply offensive ‘policies’ ever thought-bubbled into existence. But no, it wasn’t surprising. The left has always been resentful of volunteerism. Especially so when the volunteers put their lives at risk while serving others. Distributing how-to-vote cards for the Labor Party and being thanked with a sausage sandwich is one thing but doing dangerous, unremunerated toil for days on end undermines the left’s Marxian view of man: workers as victims caught betwixt the big tectonic plates of dialectical materialism and in dire need of rescue themselves. Mr Albanese sees himself as the Tony Abbott of industrial justice – face dirty, hands gnarled, hi-viz jacket stained with sweat and ash, manhandling the money hose. NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons doesn’t see him that way. “Don’t do the volunteers a disservice by suggesting that you’re going to pay them, because then they’re no longer volunteers and that’s absolutely the sentiment that I’m getting loud and clear everywhere I go,” he told reporters.