While a small gaggle of reporters and cameramen waited patiently for Anthony Albanese in the Queensland seat of Longman on Thursday, the man who would be prime minister was doing what he does best: being Australia’s everyman.
At a nearby pie shop, Albanese regaled a sketch writer with an anecdote about desperately trying to obtain tickets to a packed rock concert while the music was playing.
The story, which ended unfinished because Labor candidate Susan Lamb arrived to prepare for the following press briefing, had the effect of making Albanese look cool (he loves music), modest (he was trying to get cheap tickets) and clever (there was a timing strategy related to pricing he didn’t quite have a chance to articulate).
The formal policy announcement that followed the pastry tete-a-tete (Albanese had to ask his press secretary to pay for his food or coffee) was a trifling $5 million for more car parking at the Narangba train station.
A matter of timing
Albanese was the news. While professing his leadership loyalty – expressing frustration it was even under question – he revealed he first heard complaints about Labor backbencher Emma Husar allegedly exploiting her staff three-and-a-half weeks earlier at a political conference in Sydney.
He didn’t have to mention that Bill Shorten was there, because everyone who follows politics closely knows Shorten gave an election warm-up speech at the conference.
“I knew some time ago,” Albanese said, his cherubic face a study in innocence. “I heard that that investigation was taking place.”
Shorten, who is so close to the 38-year-old factionally-aligned Member for Lindsayhe lobbies editors-in-chief on her behalf, maintains he learnt there was an investigation into Husar from BuzzFeed, a social media news outfit that broke the story a week ago. Which means he can’t be accused of protecting Husar from adverse scrutiny.
Albanese’s comments cast a different light on who-knew-what-when.
They raise the question: how come Labor’s infrastructure spokesman was aware a made-for-tabloid political scandal was brewing and his leader was oblivious? (Electorate officers aren’t often photographed picking up poo from their MP’s dog.)
As for Albanese’s motive, why reveal this information two days before a byelection that some think could trigger a change in leader if Labor loses?
“Well I got asked a question and I gave an honest answer to you,” Albanese said.
Of course it has nothing to do with the leadership. It’s a media conspiracy.