13 December 2023

The year in review: 2023 is one the Albanese government might rather forget

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Anthony Albanese at a press conference

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese didn’t end the year on the high note he probably expected. Photo: National Gallery of Australia.

Nobody ever said government was easy, although Labor’s first year in office was a bit of a dream run.

That’s all over now as the midterm blues (and, perhaps, reality) set in. So, as Parliament ended the year on a bitter and reflective note, what does the scorecard look like for Anthony Albanese, Peter Dutton and the rest of the federal Parliament, including the ACT’s representatives?

Let’s look at the Voice first, on its political optics rather than the rights and wrongs of the case.

The vote fulfilled a promise made to First Nations leaders but also gave this government its chance to enact a significant win on par with the 1967 referendum, native title, land rights and the Redfern speech.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese could have joined the pantheon of Whitlam, Hawke and Keating with his own grand gesture of reconciliation. The evidence suggests constitutional recognition alone would have won and that a legislated Voice, proving its mettle first, may have been a more prudent approach.

The shame of this was that neither side could contain some very ugly rhetoric – an unfortunate repeat of the destructive narratives around the same-sex marriage plebiscite. The loss took some paint off the government after a very long honeymoon period and losses on the big ideas always makes the everyday business of transactional politics all the more difficult.

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The government had also hoped to push through industrial relations reform, balancing their increasingly questionable decision to stick with the Morrison government’s $300 billion worth of tax cuts due in July.

But IR reform is stuck fast in the Senate, where the ACT’s David Pocock and Jacqui Lambie are extracting maximum value from their votes, delaying reforms to the gig economy, road transport industry and casual work until next year.

And the High Court’s decision to overturn the indefinite detention of non-citizens with criminal records has sprayed the government with shrapnel as the PM races to limit the damage.

Arguably, the decision could have been foreseen, and again, on the optics, detaining criminals hits the exact tricky spot where Labor often feels vulnerable on public safety. No less than six people released from detention have since been arrested.

On the plus side, the relationship with China is significantly less fraught than it was. Australia has (mostly) successfully engaged with imminent associated threats in the Pacific, re-engaging our island neighbours and reinforcing the importance of the longstanding friendship.

Environment minister Tanya Plibersek has somehow managed to get Murray-Darling basin water reforms largely off the front pages with a deal announced in the last week that rewards water users for good environmental practices.

Bill Shorten has done the hard yards on reeling in the NDIS costs and now has help from the states, albeit at the cost of an extra $3.5 billion in GST payments and a further $1.2 billion in healthcare funding.

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But cost of living trumps everything. Again, it’s not entirely the government’s fault, but that’s what you cop when you are running the place. For many families, this will be a tough Christmas and they’re looking for someone to blame.

The government’s working on unexciting but important issues, like the Robodebt Royal Commission and a national firearms registry, but they won’t resonate with ordinary households in comparison with budget pressures as interest rates continue to rise and rise.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton (who, as immigration minister, approved the visa of at least one of those arrested) is looking forward to a happier Christmas than anticipated.

Absolutely nobody thought at the beginning of the year that Mr Dutton would be the next Liberal Prime Minister (and it’s still less than likely), but he’s had a good run calling the government to account for problems it should have managed better.

The Greens have had some wins, including an amendment to the Nature Repair bill that prevents the use of biodiversity credits to offset environmental harm. But in alliance with Labor, their voice has been muted.

It’s been a good year for David Pocock, who made the most of his good fortune in securing the balance of power in a progressive government that largely aligns with the ACT’s own political intentions.

Among his wins have been fast-tracking changes, including banning discrimination against employees experiencing family and domestic violence and improving access to workers’ compensation for first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder in the ACT.

Overall, 2023 was a year the PM might not rank as his favourite. But as former treasurer Joe Hockey once famously said, the worst day in government is always better than the best day in opposition.

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Why do people desperately hark on about fuel excise relief.

As shown during the Scomo vote bribing exercise, all that achieves is a direct transfer from Government tax reciepts to oil companies. The relief last only a handful of weeks before the never ending list of excuses is rolled out by fuel companies and prices return to where they were.

We need reform to fuel excise over the longer term – sure. But pretending it is an effective cost of living measure is a furphy at best. The last people that need profit relief (which is what it is) is oil companies.

If people must desperately be supported for their fuel use, direct and targeted financial support to households would be a far more effective mechanism. At least then the benefit flows to a household and can’t be as easily gobbled up by the fuel companies.

Stephen Saunders4:23 am 14 Dec 23

An arrogant government has their Treasury Talking Points, like budget surplus and cost of living “relief”. Now a Big New Lie – “halving” the massive migration.

Ordinary people are subject to wealth thrashing labour, marked falls in real household income and real wages, energy bill shocks, worst rental crisis on record, rising house prices 4eva, and increased homelessness.

HiddenDragon7:35 pm 13 Dec 23

The extent to which reality has set in for the Albanese government is probably best illustrated by the extent of blatant auditioning which is being performed by would be successors – including this morning’s ridgy didge, dinky di, “did I mention I’m from Queensland?” bravura performance from that most subtle and self-effacing of candidates, the Treasurer.

If the current PM cut back on the hubris, and on the Question Time rhetoric which would be more suitable for after dinner remarks on a Friday night in Chinatown for the Sussex Street mafia, and persuaded his front bench colleagues to do likewise and drop the student politician blather and just get on with quietly delivering, they might finish 2024 in a happier state.

I left out Albanese as he receives the Toto award for National security in not releasing the frequent flyer miles of his dog

The government deserves the following awards – Tanya Tanya Plibersek – awarded the 1000 koala award for approving the destruction of great swathes of pristine rainforest for wind farms, complete with brochures on how to club wounded koalas to death

Jim Chalmers – the Nero fiddle award for ignoring the cost of living and writing articles about how much alcohol he consumes

Chris Bowen – the COP28 “Just sit down and shut up Noddy” award for carbon zealotry and single handily destroying the electricity grid

Clair O’Neil – the Bunny under spotlights award for ignorance of her portfolio and caring more about Twitter (X) posts about Donald Trump than the lowlifes released into the community

Andrew Giles – the Bill Shorten “I don’t know what she said, but support what she said award” for incompetence with a double twist

Capital Retro8:43 am 14 Dec 23

Still a long way to go to beat “there will be no carbon tax from a government I lead”.

@Capital Retro
… and of course, there’s ““No, there’s no way that a GSTwill ever be part of our policy.”

This is brilliant. Well said Futureproof!

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