In what is being hailed as a year of substantial achievements, the Labor government has completed its first year in office. Comparisons have been drawn to the successful first year of Hawke government from 1983 to 1984, highlighting the government’s progress on key priorities outlined during the 2022 election campaign. While significant strides have been made in most areas, challenges persist, particularly in climate change policy and economic reform. However, the government’s focus on competence and credibility has resonated with the public, leading to an overall positive perception of their first year in power.
The Labor government’s eight key priorities included establishing an anti-corruption commission, holding an employment summit, implementing the Respect At Work report recommendations, addressing climate change, reworking national agencies, reforming the aged care system, and making childcare more affordable.
The National Anti-Corruption Commission commences on 1 July 2023, many recommendations from the Respect At Work report have been implemented and the government is also on track to hold a referendum on a Voice to Parliament by the end of the year. Additionally, the Job Summit was held in September last year, several ideologically-driven national agencies were either abolished or restructured, aged care workers will receive a 15 per cent pay increase, and $5.4 billion has been allocated to make childcare cheaper.
However, the government’s progress on climate change policy has faltered and has not matched the rhetoric – certainly, the government has made several announcements and commitments to emissions reductions and electric vehicle policy, but more action that needs to be taken if Australia is to meet its global environmental targets.
Whistle-blower legislation is yet to be fully developed and while the federal Court case against Bernard Collaery was dropped in late 2022, the cases against Richard Boyle and David McBride are still continuing and they need to cease. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has made representations to the United States government, but Julian Assange is still languishing in Belmarsh Prison.
There are still over 1,100 refugees in closed immigration detention, including over 400 who have remained in detention for over two years. There were long-standing and far-reaching calls to substantially increase Jobseeker payments, but the government decided to ignore these and only raised the rate by $20 per week.
Rising inflation and cost-of-living pressures have also presented political difficulties for the government. Energy prices and concerns in areas such as climate change policy and economic reform require continued attention and action.
Despite these issues, it seems that Albanese’s focus on competence and credibility in government operations has been appreciated by the electorate and the absence of constant conflicts and culture wars, which were characteristic of previous Coalition governments, has been a welcome change. The government’s commitment to governing effectively and efficiently, rather than stoking fear and division, has resonated with the electorate’s desire for a stable administration.
Some critics have questioned the government’s cautious approach and its focus on setting up the basics of good governance rather than implementing broader progressive Labor policies. However, the government’s caution may stem from previous experiences, particularly the tumultuous Rudd–Gillard years from 2007 to 2013.
While there is still room for improvement and ongoing challenges to address, the Labor government has made significant progress in its first year. Rebuilding programs which can work in the public interest, and restoring trust in politics require careful planning and execution. The government’s commitment to competence and credibility has resonated positively with the public, leading to a more civil and respectful political environment.
Looking ahead, the government’s focus on long-term goals and strategic decision-making may contribute to their ability to retain power in future elections. However, it is crucial to continue addressing issues and implementing policies that align with public expectations and demands.
Calls for more action in the second year
Moving into its second year in office, in the context of a depleted and demoralised Liberal Party, the Labor government will need to ensure complacency doesn’t grow with Caucus and continues a commitment to surpassing the performance of previous administrations. The Morrison government between 2019–22 cannot serve as any form of yardstick of political performance, an administration riddled with incompetence and corruption, which fell far short of expected levels of good governance.
Scott Morrison’s tenure as Prime Minister was demonstrably poor, particularly in handling major events such as the 2019 bushfires and the subsequent COVID pandemic which commenced in 2020. Albanese, on the other hand, is yet to face similar challenges. The ability to lead during difficult times is seen as a true test of leadership, and although Morrison clearly failed in these tests, Albanese’s mettle remains untested, though optimism surrounds his potential performance.
The Labor government’s focus lies primarily on reworking the economy to benefit the people and reversing what it perceives as unfavourable policies implemented by previous Coalition governments. This endeavour is expected to be a significant test for the current administration, potentially shaping its term in office. While some supporters have voiced their dissatisfaction with the progress made thus far, politics is a delicate balance of achieving what is possible under prevailing circumstances.
Despite the absence of revolutionary change – which has frustrated its supporters – the Labor government has successfully fostered stability during its first year. Nevertheless, there are areas that require immediate attention and improvement. Environmental concerns, such as coal mine approvals, must be reassessed as a higher priority, considering the urgency of addressing climate change. Additionally, the welfare system is still in need of substantial reform on multiple fronts. These issues are identified as crucial matters that demand swift action.
Overall, the Labor government’s performance in its first year has been competent and polished. While recognising the need for ongoing progress, opinion polls have consistently provided the government with a positive assessment. There is a general acknowledgement that more work lies ahead, both in comparison to previous administrations and in achieving the government’s own goals. As the nation faces an uncertain future, the Labor government remains focused on realising its vision for a better Australia.