It’s been an odd year, to say the least, especially for leaders and members of opposition political parties who have been forced to remain quiet and cooperative to combat the pandemic. For Anthony Albanese, the leader of Australia’s Labor Party, I was willing to excuse his inactiveness for most of this year, but now is the time to start rising up again. Australia is through the worst of the pandemic (we can only pray) and if Albanese fails to make his voice known in the next few months, it could see his time in leadership rapidly expire.
The major issue is that Albanese didn’t make a name for himself before the pandemic. By the end of 2019, a small but nonetheless significant number of his colleagues found themselves bewildered by his lack of political strategy and direction for the party. And, due to the pandemic, these issues have continued since then. He hasn’t been able to influence national conversation, he has not introduced an exciting new direction for the party, and he hasn’t been able to exploit or damage one of the least inspiring Liberal governments of the last decade.
The excuse of the pandemic was adequate up until October, but since then, cases in Australia have been minimal, and there has been plenty of opportunities for Mr Albanese to start paving his way back into the spotlight.
This is a significant problem for the Labor Party because if they seek to win the next election, something has to change. Bill Shorten comprehensively lost the 2019 election because he had no plan, no passion and failed to persuade people why the government should change. At this rate, Albanese is heading down the same path. What is Mr Albanese doing to convince voters that they should change their vote instead of just sticking with the one they’ve already elected? Hardly anything.
When I look at the Labor front bench, I don’t see many striking alternatives. Jim Chalmers, Chris Bowen and Tanya Plibersek are all experienced and knowledgeable ministers, but none of them looks likely to stand up against Albanese in a leadership battle.
It is down to Anthony Albanese. It is almost certain that he will lead the Labor Party into an election which will likely be called this time next year. If the Labor Party seeks to challenge Scott Morrison, it starts with Mr Albanese. It begins with a leader who is willing to take risks, who pushes themselves into the spotlight and courageously pushes the party into a new, energetic direction.
I believe Mr Albanese can do, but the clock is ticking, and nothing inhibits a re-election campaign more than a disgruntled caucus.