No good deed goes unpunished, Oscar Wilde famously quipped. Neither, it seems, does a glow-up, the latest buzzword for a successful attempt at self-improvement.
When Adele burst onto Instagram in 2020 looking svelte in a black mini-dress, the slimmed-down songstress set the internet aflame. While some fans cheered her on, others felt betrayed, accusing the balladeer of abandoning the body positive movement.
Scott Morrison took aim at Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese’s transformation on Sky News for a voter town hall.Credit:Sky News/James Brickwood
Now Prime Minister Scott Morrison has tried to weaponise Anthony Albanese’s weight loss against him, citing it as evidence his Labor opponent is an inauthentic shape-shifter who cannot be trusted.
After cutting out carbohydrates and reducing his alcohol intake, the Opposition Leader has shed 18 kilograms over the past year. He’s also sporting a trendy new set of eyeglasses and better-fitting suits. This comes on top of significant orthodontic work in 2015 to fix what Albanese called his “terrible working-class teeth”.
Rather than an admirable display of discipline, Morrison wants Australians to see Albanese’s physical transformation as something more suspicious.
With the latest Newspoll showing Labor maintaining a commanding lead over the Coalition and Albanese drawing even with Morrison as preferred prime minister, Morrison went on the attack at a Sky News town hall on Monday night.
“I’m not pretending to be anyone else,” Morrison said. “I’m still wearing the same sunglasses. Sadly, the same suits. I weigh about the same size and I don’t mind a bit of Italian cake either … I’m not pretending to be anyone else.”
Morrison didn’t cite Albanese by name, but the target of his dig was obvious to everyone watching.
Even by the rough standards of Australian politics, it was a noticeably personal attack. A risky one too.
It’s fair game for Morrison to question Albanese’s claim he would govern in the tradition of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating given his track record as a leading warrior in Labor’s left faction.
To suggest Albanese’s success at shedding his pot-belly makes him a political fraud is more of a stretch. After all, going on a fitness kick is hardly the sole preserve of elites in the “Canberra bubble”. Who among us has not, at some point, attempted to slim down or otherwise zhuzh ourselves up for an important life moment?
Labor figures quickly leapt upon Morrison’s dig as a sign of desperation and hypocrisy. “This from the fakest Prime Minister the country has ever had!” Labor MP Tim Watts fumed on Twitter. “A politician who gave HIMSELF a nickname.”
Others pointed out that Morrison himself dropped a noticeable amount of weight after becoming Prime Minister and was pictured at a 2018 Parliament House sausage sizzle eating two snags without any bread.
Asked about the remarks at a press conference in Perth, Morrison said he did not believe Albanese was “precious” enough to be offended. “I was having a giggle at myself,” he said.
Many prominent politicians have embarked on fitness kicks over the years, reflecting the fact weight gain is an occupational hazard in Parliament.
“It’s very easy in politics to put on weight; you’re constantly being fed,” then-Liberal cabinet minister Christopher Pyne said in 2015, explaining why he adopted a strict diet. “There are very few functions where food isn’t included – spring rolls, party pies, it’s very calorific.”
Former MP Ewen Jones, who was one of the larger members of Parliament, said being overweight can hold back a politician’s career.
“People look at you and think you’re lazy, that you can’t do the job,” he said. “You only get one chance to make a first impression.”
After voters rejected Labor’s expansive tax-and-spend policy agenda in 2019, Albanese is trying to minimise differences with the Coalition this time around. This sets the stage for a presidential-style election, full of the kind of personal jibes Morrison previewed at the Sky News forum. Anyone hoping for a high-minded, policy-driven campaign better look away.
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