11 May 2021

Benjamin Clark urges Albo to read the room: “The Labor leader took a rare opportunity to share his moving personal history and articulate the values it imparted. ‘I know the difference that governments can make on people’s lives because I lived it,’ he wrote. ‘Mum lived it.’ Alas, the advisers who vet Albo’s social media posts could not let an articulation of working-class pride slide without appending some cynical triangulation. ‘She taught me how to save,’ he wrote. ‘And how to spend wisely — because every dollar had to count.’ The line echoed a speech Albanese delivered on Thursday, in which he invoked Kevin Rudd’s famous ‘economic conservative’ slogan, reiterating a promise to keep government spending tight if he is elected PM. ‘Money was always tight at our place,’ he said. ‘That’s why, when it comes to thinking about government spending, I am cautious.’ The speech was dropped to The Australian, in an apparent effort to signal Labor’s fiscal discipline. It comes after Albanese asked shadow cabinet members in February to attempt to offset all new spending proposals with cuts. This fiscal frugality sees Albo sounding even more hawkish than Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who has … declar[ed] it is no time for an austerity budget so soon after the coronavirus recession. … Polling also suggests the Australian public agree deficit reduction is a low priority. Why, then, is the ALP still projecting a ‘miserly bean-counter’ image?” Not a good sign.