Flying the Red Flag for Labor and new Liberal leadership, same as the old

The final assessment is in and the Labor Party has won 77 seats, enough to form government in its own right, without needing the support from the crossbench to pass legislation. But is this the best outcome?

The number of crossbenchers has risen to 16 and it would be wise for Labor to engage this substantial group of MPs, and keep that buffer between them and the Liberal and National parties, who are languishing behind with 58 seats.

The new Labor Ministry has been finalised and there are 10 women in a Cabinet of 22, and 19 women in the greater Ministry of 41 – eyebrows were raised when Tanya Plibersek was announced as the Minister for Environment, the media quick to claim this was a demotion, but with the environment and climate change issues featuring prominently during the election campaign, isn’t it wise to have your best people in the most difficult cabinet positions?

And the main message from the Prime Minister Albanese to the Labor Caucus? Don’t waste a minute while you’re in government, and focus on the many difficult tasks ahead which, based on the amount of Labor MPs were in office during the Rudd–Gillard years between 2010–13, must be a reference to the division and Labor naval gazing which ultimately threw away hard-earned government, and gave it to an inept Liberal–National government for nine long years.

And if Labor shows the competence that has been so lacking during the past nine years of Coalition rule, it should be office for some time into the future – governments since 1932 have been rewarded with a second term but, of course, it’s hard to predict what the future holds, and the issues that overcome the Coalition, could easily afflict Labor in government, if they’re not careful enough and diligent enough to focus on the important issues that affect people’s lives.

But when stumped for a response, it’s always best to channel Billy Bragg. Albanese continued his cultural references from his youth to provide guidance, this time a quote from “To Have and To Have Not”: ‘Just because you’re going forwards, doesn’t mean I’m going backwards”. Keep the red flag flying comrade, this is socialism of the heart.

The Liberal Party has new leadership – Peter Dutton and Sussan Ley – but it’s an unspectacular duo and seems more like a collection of placeholders and seat warmers, rather than the people who can provide a vision and dynamic for an election winning formula in 2025 and beyond. Newly installed leaders just after an election loss rarely survive by the time of the next election, although the current Prime Minister – Anthony Albanese – is the only one to have survived and gone on to win their first election as leader.

So, it can be done, but will it? Dutton wants to be seen as a renaissance man, but he’s a clear link between the Howard, Abbott and Morrison eras, and the electorate just voted out that style of government. It will be a long road back into office for the Liberal Party and it’s best that they use this time wisely and embark on the reform that they’ve neglected for at least the past 15 years.

And if new leadership is good enough for the Liberal Party, it’s good enough for the National Party, who have chosen David Littleproud as their new leader, dumping Barnaby Joyce, who returned to the leadership in early 2021 for reasons which might be only apparent to himself.

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