ANTHONY Albanese is named for the patron saint of lost items and the desperate seekers after them. At the Chifley Research Centre in Sydney yesterday, the Opposition Leader continued his search for Labor’s raison d’être – with or without the Paduan’s assistance – but all he found were tendentious cliches about the loss of civility from politics and idealism from democracy. In the third of his “headland” speeches (the first two were about climate policy and infrastructure), Mr Albanese blamed social media platforms like Facebook and the “culture wars” for the loss of those treasures. As the victim of a recent online fraud suggesting he was a men’s rights critic of the Family Court, that concern was founded but overwrought. There is no possibility such a claim would be widely believed. It was graffiti on the walls of an underpass.
Variations of the same old cri de cœur have been heard before. Reagan/Thatcher/Fraser, Bush/Blair/Howard, Trump/Johnson/Morrison. Whenever left-of-centre parties are out of power and rightists (or Blair-ites) hold the Anglophone triple crown, there is invariably – according to them – a ‘crisis’ in Western governance. Their abusiveness and contempt for citizens are perforce on hold and they don’t enjoy the sabbatical. Sourness hasn’t actuated the same extremes of amelioration here as it has in Britain and the US where leftists are working hard to overthrow plebiscite and poll. Our Senate is pretty malicious but Lambie is no Pelosi.
The Albanese oration (transcript here) is therefore light-on for details and case studies in purported crisis. It is nothing more than a series of partisan gripes taken from the previous month’s headlines – about AFP raids on journalists and legislation to rein in criminal unions, for example – leavened with class-war hyperbole about “millionaires.” But it isn’t digital deep fakes that threaten democracy. The human variety is infinitely worse – like the moral phonies who take money from a union that threatens to assault or bankrupt its critics. They’re the ones we need to eradicate. It isn’t journalists working for billion-dollar conglomerates who are victims of state overreach but powerless soldiers defamed by them using stolen documents.
The Opposition Leader talked about “reason,” “respect,” “constructive national conversations,” “inclusion,” “cooperation” and “genuine political discourse.” Then he insisted the Labor Party is morally superior, that “the conservative side of politics hates change” and that global warming should no longer be debated. The theme of his address seemed to be, ‘we’re good, they’re not – can’t we all agree on that?’ The truth is Mr Albanese doesn’t want social media regulated to protect democracy. He doesn’t want the “culture wars” ended for the sake of civility. He only wants them regulated and ended to weaken Labor’s enemies in the very arenas where the left is trounced in the absence of hall monitors like the HRC or Tony Jones.
Finally, the trouble with speechifying on the headlines is they have a tendency to overtake you. Mr Albanese praised Bob Hawke for permitting two days of parliamentary debate after committing troops to the Gulf War. (As though the LNP would give him grief). We learn today that Mr Hawke wasn’t quite so committed to “a big dose of Australian sunshine” when it came to Bill Landeryou. Deep fakes, indeed.