Labor heavyweight Anthony Albanese has delivered a stinging rebuke of the Abbott Government in parliament today, describing the Prime Minister as ‘one-trick Tony’, courtesy of his incessant negativity in opposition and government.
Speaking to an almost empty parliamentary committee room, the Opposition spokesman on Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism delivered a speech that was clearly pitched at the party faithful. Although this is one of those occasions where you can actually pick your party – both Labor and Liberal appear to be heartily sick of Abbott.
As all good ageing hippies should, Albanese began his speech with a reference to the Rolling Stones.
“Those great philosophers Jagger and Richards wrote and sang in 1965 ‘I can’t get no satisfaction’. Australian voters might be reminding themselves of this today as they consider the disappointment known as the Abbott Government,” Albanese said.
And then he got nasty.
“This is a government defined by disappointment, deceit and incompetence. The opposition leader who promised so much has morphed into a confused Prime Minister, a man rapidly sinking into the quicksand of his own negativity.
“Not only can he not lead the nation, he cannot even lead his own government, which is desperately split on policy and political direction and crippled by internal power struggles.
“The source of this government’s dysfunction is the cynical opportunism of its period in opposition.
“Most parties in opposition focus on holding governments to account and rebuilding their credibility by developing new ideas. That’s what Dan Andrews did in Victoria in the past few years. He made himself a participant in the battle of ideas and now he is Premier of Victoria.
“When the Abbott Government was in opposition its only focus was attacking the former Labor government.
“As Opposition Leader the Prime Minister transformed the Coalition into the Noalition, building his entire case for power on anti-Labor hatred and three word slogans.
“Everything about politics, and nothing about policy.
“That’s why the Tories have retreated to their comfort zone today. Without positive ideas, they’ve been forced to lean heavily on Tony Abbott’s regressive and punitive personal ideology, one that values individualism ahead of equity and opportunity.
“The Prime Minister’s negativity did make him a formidable opposition leader, but they make him a pretty bad Prime Minister.
“We now see that negativity is all he ever had. It is his only weapon. He is a one trick Tony.”
And you’ll note Albanese hasn’t even got to the part about Abbott’s broken promises yet. Or the budget.
“You can’t win the battle of ideas if you have no ideas. You can’t run an economy on three word slogans. You don’t create jobs by saying no to everything. And you don’t inspire people by misleading them.
“Before the election, the Prime Minister promised no cuts to health, education, pensions, the ABC or SBS. He promised no new taxes.
“In government he has cut $80 billion from health and education, slashed funding for the ABC and SBS and created new taxes, whenever people visit a GP or fill up their car at the petrol bowser.
“Rubbing salt into the wounds, he has since insulted the electorates’ intelligence with Monty Python-esque claims that he hasn’t broken any promises.”
And at this point, Albanese really got started, zeroing in on the Coalition’s real weak spot – virtually everything it’s done since it got in office.
“The Prime Minister is on the wrong side of history, his place defined not by leadership and forward thinking but by a sad yearning for a less equal and less progressive past. A place where average Australians pay a Medicare levy every week, only to be told they have to pay again to visit a doctor. A place where education is about entrenching privilege not spreading opportunity. Where climate science is derided and where a visiting US president’s praise for the splendor of the Great Barrier Reef is attacked by those opposite as an affront to our national sovereignty.
“It’s a place where our renewal energy target has been so successful that it has to be scrapped, where we have only one woman in the cabinet, where radio shock jocks and partisan newspaper columnists set the government’s political agenda, where bigotry is a right, where people communicate over ageing copper wire rather than 21st century fibre, a place where the long-faded trappings of our colonial past are revived through the re-introduction of the British honours system.
“The Abbott Government has misread the egalitarian nature of Australian culture. Australians care about the fair go. Part of what defines us is a generosity of spirit, one that embraces a sense of community and common interest.”
Which is all, of course, true.
But you might equally argue that the parliamentary wing of the Australian Labor Party has misread the electorate too, by installing Bill Shorten to the leadership position, rather than Albanese.
You might also wonder why this sort of parliamentary theatre is delivered to an empty committee room.
Either way, Albanese’s stirring speech suggests that Labor senses there’s more than a few drops of Prime Ministerial blood in the water, and they intend to finally start turning up the heat.
It’s the final sitting week of parliament for 2014… expect things to descend from here.
You can watch the full 10 minute speech on Albanese’s Facebook page here. Albanese moves onto transport and infrastructure, and a brief tirade on the G20.