Australian Election: Is the remarkable reinvention of hard-left Albo a facade?

Australian Election: Is the remarkable reinvention of hard-left Albo a facade? By Troy Bramston.

Did he lose all his socialist baggage?

Albo ’19 is not Albo ’22. The transformation of Albanese as a political leader has been the most extraordinary in Australian history.

This metamorphosis has been personal and political. He has had a cosmetic makeover, has jettisoned long-held policy views and has embraced a small-target political strategy. Even the young firebrand Albanese would not recognise his mellowed middle-age self today.

Few people have any idea just how radical Albanese once was. In 1983, a few weeks before his 20th birthday, Albanese spoke at a Young Labor conference urging the party to express its “full support” for “the revolutionary forces in El Salvador”. You can’t get more radical than that. Albanese wanted to align the foreign policy of Australia with a coalition of Marxist-Leninist guerrilla groups — the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front — backed by the Soviet Union, North Korea, Nicaragua and Cuba.

Now, to be fair, that was a long time ago even though Albanese was a young adult at the time. But make no mistake, Albanese was a radical socialist in his youth. That is how he identified himself. He was a leading figure in the Hard Left faction of NSW Labor.

This is why he was a critic of the Hawke-Keating government through the 1980s and ’90s. He opposed many of the landmark reforms: financial market deregulation, dismantling the tariff wall, fiscal consolidation, wage restraint, privatising assets, exporting uranium and the Higher Education Contribution Scheme. …

Older and wiser now:

But, to his credit, Albanese has accepted that he has changed since those radical Cold War years. I have made these points to Albanese in several interviews and he accepts that he has changed. He has learnt. He has grown. He owns up to it and accepts it. He says he is no longer a radical socialist. Albanese’s ’80s comrades would be astounded by how much he has changed.

Labor’s most left-wing leader in more than a half-century has moved the party back towards the political centre. He dumped the class war rhetoric, the politics of envy and the tribal “I fight Tories” approach. He is not anti-business or in thrall to the unions. He talks consensus and wants to bring Australians together. He is a completely new man.

The remarkable change in Albanese’s policy views has coincided with a glow-up. He has shed about 18 kilos, updated his wardrobe and got a new pair of stylish spectacles. The teeth were fixed years ago. But in 1998 he lashed John Howard’s makeover, ridiculing the trimmed eyebrows, capped teeth and modern glasses. “Same stuff, different bucket,” Albanese said.

In 2020, Joe Biden was presented as the moderate face of the Democrat Party, specifically chosen to not frighten the voters. But his administration has turned out to be the most hard-left US presidency to date.

In 2007, Kevin Rudd was presented as just like John Howard except he would take “climate action,” as fiscally and socially conservative, so as not to scare the voters. But once in power he turned out to be nothing like John Howard — plunging Australia into debt and restarting the illegal “refugees.”