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History is against Albanese but does that matter?

By Tim O'Hare - posted Wednesday, 18 May 2022

If the polls are to be believed, a thumping Labor victory is to be expected at this week's election.

This is a stark reversal of fortune considering the speculation around Anthony Albanese only a year or so ago.

Albanese would be an unlikely Prime Minister. A former activist from Labor's Left faction (which has typically had minority status inside Labor's federal parliamentary ranks), it's fair to say that few would have ever seen him as a future leader let alone Prime Minister.


Aside from a stint at the Commonwealth Bank (back when it was publicly owned) when he left school, Albanese hasn't had a job outside the Labor Party.

He began as a research-officer to the left-wing darling, Tom Uren, then graduated to become Assistant General Secretary of the New South Wales branch of the Labor Party.

Albanese entered parliament in 1996, just as the Keating Labor government was swept from office and it doesn't appear that Albanese did much to distinguish himself. It was a full decade before his promotion to Manager of Opposition Business by Kevin Rudd and then Leader of the House when the Rudd government was elected the following year.

Even then, Albanese seemed too much like a dyed-in-the-wool, Labor head-kicker (perhaps a Labor version of Tony Abbott?) to ever be leader. Indeed, if the Rudd-Gillard saga hadn't burned through so many talented MPs then maybe Albanese would still be chief strategist for the Labor Left and someone like Stephen Smith or Greg Combet would be leading the ALP.

But Albanese has emerged as somewhat of a last man standing, being perhaps the only figure from the Rudd-Gillard years to emerge with his reputation not just unscathed but possibly enhanced. He stuck fat through Opposition and endured two agonisingly close losses in the Shorten years before taking the leadership while his rivals were still licking their wounds from the 2019 defeat and now leads a re-energised party poised for government.

To achieve this, Albanese has had a literal and metaphorical makeover. No longer is he the left-wing activist, now he positions himself as a mainstream leader in the Hawke and Howard tradition.


And the chubby, union-brawler Albanese is gone, replaced by a svelte, bespectacled statesman.

Yet true believers are understandably reticent after being burned so many times before.

Being Labor leader is a tough gig. When Ben Chifley died, a woman said that there was no doubt he was in heaven because Labor leaders have their hell on Earth.

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About the Author

Tim O’Hare is a Sydney-based, freelance commentator, originally from Brisbane. He has written about a range of subjects and particularly enjoys commenting on the culture wars and the intersection between politics, culture, sport, and the arts.

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