The Inside Word

Threading the eye of the needle 

Prime Minister Albanese will need to tap into all his guile and diplomatic skills to thread the political needle if he is to regain momentum before the year is out. 

Since the Referendum, the Prime Minister and the Government have taken a major hit with the Australian public voting a resounding NO for a Voice to Parliament. 

On further analysis the 60/40 vote across the county has also revealed that 40 per cent of traditionally Labor voters also rejected the Referendum. This is a concerning trend for the Government, particularly because the bulk of these voters are held in a swag of outer-metro marginal seats. 

Hindsight is always clear, but the greatest loss of authority from the failure of the Voice Referendum has been the Prime Minister’s judgement, which is now being questioned. This is a dangerous position, as some ALP caucus front benchers our detecting weaknesses and eyeing up opportunities to move up the totem pole.

For the first time, the Roy Morgan poll has the opposition ahead on a two-party-preferred, basis 50.5 per cent to 49.5 per cent lead. This is extraordinary considering the low approval rating of the Opposition leader. Newspoll has also indicated falling support for the Government.

One or two polls on their own are insignificant but it does give us enough insight to understand that the Coalition will be a strong contender at the next federal election, scheduled between August 2024 and May 2025.

Cost-of-living remains the number one issue for Australians, and until energy prices and interest rates stabilise or fall, the public will remain skeptical of the country’s current leadership. 

The challenges for the Government are real, both on a domestic and international level.

The carnage and chaos in Gaza and Jerusalem have added a new fault line not only on the international stage but within the heart of the ALP membership and caucus. 

The atrocities committed by the terrorist organisation Hamas, the widening death toll and the pressure of a full-scale invasion by Israel on Northern Gaza, are reigniting division in the ALP.  Many members of the ALP Caucus represent Western Sydney electorates with significant Arab populations who are pro-Palestinian are not happy with the Government’s support for Israel. This view is also permeating through the Left of the Labor Party and boosting support for the Greens.

Prime Minister Albanese’s important state visit to Washington was complicated not only by rising tensions in the Middle East, but also by a Congress in shambles. No real engagement was possible on Capitol Hill, since a Republican Speaker of the House was only elected late this week. Important issues such as AUKUS and trade will remain in limbo, which is regrettable given the next stop on the PM’s international tour is Beijing.

The significance of this trip to China cannot be underestimated. It commemorates two milestones, 50 years since the opening of diplomatic relations, and secondly an end to the deep freeze on the bilateral relationship.

For most Prime Ministers, walking the international stage is a welcome reprieve from the rough and tumble of domestic politics. In this case, it means putting as much distance between the Government and the failed Referendum.  

However, this overseas trip to our two major trading partners – our ally the USA, and China, our largest export market and greatest security risk – will require all the political dexterity the Prime Minister can muster. 

Threading the political needle at home and abroad for the Government and Australia’s interest will be paramount before the year is out.

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