Whoever wins the next election will face unprecedented challenges not seen since World War II.
Internationally these include enormous regional population growth, world order changing and geopolitical shifts, threats to peace and security, trade and supply chain disruption, rising interest rates, and climate threats.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese and Prime Minister Scott Morrison.Credit:Jason Edwards
Domestically too, challenges include national security, rebuilding our economy, housing affordability, productivity-based wage growth, energy transition, inflation, cost of living and construction, and harassment on social media.
And, post bushfire, floods and pandemic, all this in the most confronting of budget constraints.
Australia has limited capacity to deal with these issues. In the population, manufacturing volume, military, and climate stakes we are still minnows.
We compete on a narrow range of advantages: resources, agriculture, stability, multiculturalism, quality of life and alliances.
To successfully lead Australia through what lies ahead requires a laser focus on the economy, wisdom, experience, good relations and heaps of personal energy and courage.
The new trade agreement with India is just what is needed, and a personal tribute to Scott Morrison and Dan Tehan. Hopefully Labor will offer bipartisan support. Revival of the Quad also, but more is needed.
Scott Morrison is 53, has been in the job for more than three years, and been Treasurer. He has weathered the storms, in every sense.
Anthony Albanese is 59. If elected he will be our oldest ever, newly elected PM. He has yet to be tested. However he will need to do much more to demonstrate he has what it takes.
He has already been exposed on multiple fronts including working knowledge of the economy, grasp of his own policies, the policies themselves (a “disaster for tradies” said Master Builders Australia), and now shameless scare campaigns.
His small-target approach has served only to highlight a lack of energy and capacity in Albanese himself. Ads in which he features did little to dispel that doubt.
The first debate reminded us only of what we have heard before, the nuances of complex policy positions, and what a missed opportunity it was for both leaders to address the big challenges.
Peter Beattie last week declared this was Albanese’s new improved “presentation and image”, “mistakes and all”. Wow! A backhander not unlike Democrats excusing Joe Biden’s repeated stumbles.
The need for energy, capacity and experience has never been higher.
But so lacking is confidence in Albanese and the Labor Party, that I’ve been told that in some seats Labor supporters are being encouraged, by their own, to vote for independents instead.
In those seats candidates are standing as “independents” in campaigns, substantially funded by Simon Holmes à Court’s Climate 200 group – on the most bizarre of missions. To replace some of Australia’s most capable, most energetic and most experienced MPs!
And to do so with those who have limited experience of political or civic engagement and limited capacity to impact let alone lead the great challenges.
Independent candidates Allegra Spender, Zoe Daniel, Kylea Tink, Sophie Scamps and Kate Chaney.Credit:Jessica Hromas, Elke Meitzel, Wolter Peeters, Nick Moir, Tony McDonough
Public utterances from these independents are, aside from uniformly scripted lines, even more small target and narrow than Albanese’s. Some one-liners and that’s it.
Their targets on the other hand are all high-profile, successful, middle-of-the-road, traditional Liberals – a tradition with which the independents feign affinity. But these campaigns appear other than they claim to be.
The energy around these independents is coming not from the candidates but from the money spent on those campaigns, and ugly trolling on social media. Candidates are hardly seen or heard. They have campaigns but no answers.
The “sensible centre” is where Australia stands. And that is where all those targeted Liberals stand too. They are good people and values based. They are young, diverse, talented, experienced and capable. They are leading. And they are also local, very local.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
It seems the unspoken objective is to chop out this next generation of Liberals. A political aim maybe but no benefit to Australia. They have all earned their places.
Josh Frydenberg, as Treasurer, has risen to the toughest challenge. He has grown in the role. He is calm, confident and controlled. His budgets are realistic and prudent. His work on big tech reforms led the world. His critics can only say he spent too much in the pandemic and then demand he spend more.
In Wentworth, Dave Sharma has unmatched international affairs experience and is well regarded worldwide. Tim Wilson in Goldstein has had extraordinary diverse experience in public policy, community and human rights.
Then again! That other great civic solipsist, Clive Palmer, assures us daily that Craig Kelly will be our next PM. Yes, that’s the answer! The Clive and Simon show! Another challenge!
Ted Baillieu is a former Liberal premier. He is a Kooyong resident and has volunteered for Liberal MP Josh Frydenberg’s election campaign.
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