It’s tempting to think Albanese’s Labor is emulating the pragmatism of Hawke. In truth, it’s approaching something closer to Howard.
“The pressures on the budget are acute,” the treasurer told the nation last week, his silhouette briefly shielding the dour prime minister sitting behind him. “But as a Labor government, we will always strive to help those who need it the most. That’s why, tonight, we announce a $40 per fortnight increase for JobSeeker recipients.”
“Hear, hear”, murmured the room in response to a tweak that does nothing to silence the drumbeat of poverty immiserating thousands across the nation.
There was, on any view, something deeply disquieting about Anthony Albanese’s fixed grimace as he observed Treasurer Jim Chalmers engage in one of several acts of classist sophistry on budget night. At the time, it was unclear whether this grim resolve, redolent of someone sitting in a dentist waiting room, was the product of some practised expression of seriousness designed to reflect the weight of the occasion. Or whether, on the contrary, it was emblematic of some haunting prick of conscience — a sense that this particular philosophical failing was one too many.
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