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Federal election: Labor leader Anthony Albanese surprises vacationers in Fitzroy Island


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Those holidaying in Fitzroy Island were met with a nasty surprise when the Labor leader and his media pack reared their heads today.

Holidaymakers on Queensland’s idyllic Fitzroy Island were brutally blindsided today when Labor leader Anthony Albanese and the media circus following him around the country popped up to sully their paradise with election politics.

Mr Albanese woke up in Cairns, did a couple of local radio interviews and then hopped on a ferry to the island, whose population of 44 doesn’t exactly make it a vote-rich environment.

The point of the field trip was to talk up $195 million in funding for the Great Barrier Reef and $225 million for threatened species. And, one might suspect, to give Mr Albanese a more photogenic backdrop than yesterday’s drab oil refinery.


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Driving home the casual Friday vibe, Mr Albanese swapped his usual business attire for a polo shirt, baseball cap, chinos and sneakers.

Who cares what he wears, you may think. This isn’t the Oscars red carpet. Heck it isn’t even the ARIAs red carpet. But consider this: Mr Albanese was blatantly encroaching on Scott Morrison’s trademark “daggy dad” style.

It was an obnoxious display of dominance; a signal, like a WWE fighter showing up to the ring in his opponent’s outfit. Mr Albanese doesn’t just want to steal the Prime Minister’s job. He wants to take his very identity from him, leaving behind a husk of a man clinging to his mediocre footy team and his raw chicken curry recipes from him.

(Lest we face a defamation lawsuit from the Prime Minister, I should note that he denies the chicken was raw. It was in fact a trick of the light, and people enjoyed the chicken not giving them salmonella so much that they returned for seconds. )

Fitzroy Island, it transpired, was home to sunny beaches and a comfortable resort, whose garden served as the location for a press conference.

The lush surroundings were a rare highlight, I must say, in a campaign whose press conference locations have been much like the politicians involved: consistently subpar.

Scott Morrison is partial to holding them in loud, cramped spaces where the journalists can barely fit, and can’t make themselves heard without bellowing over the noise.

As mentioned before, Mr Albanese spoke to reporters outside a refinery yesterday, where it was so insufferably humid that he cited the weather as a reason to end the presser.

The lush greenery and pleasant breeze of the island certainly contrasted nicely with that. But this venue came with a far more insidious foe than humidity: people. Random people, with unpredictable opinions. And there is nothing scarier for a politician. Not even Laura Tingle.

As Mr Albanese started to speak, an unimpressed-looking man watched grimly from the balcony of his room high above. An elderly couple two floors below him, who had been hanging their washing, retreated inside.

Passers-by strolling down the nearby path craned their necks over the foliage at the sound of the Labor leader’s distinctive voice – some with genuine interest, some with mild annoyance, while others squinted through the bushes with undisguised contempt.

The press conference itself proceeded without interruption, in the usual manner.

A Labor MP slammed the government’s record on climate change as an “absolute disgrace”, albeit with the enthusiasm of… well, of someone who had come to a beach resort, but only to talk about politics.

Mr Albanese treated the press pack like they were members of parliament again, calling for “order” as they bombarded him with questions.

Halfway through, old mate on the balcony got bored and sat down, scrolling his phone. On the periphery of the scene, though, a handful of people were still listening attentively.

When the press conference was over, news.com.au spoke to a couple of them. Leigh and Jan, from northern New South Wales, said they were “absolutely” surprised to see Mr Albanese.

“Somebody just texted us this morning and said they’d seen it on the news that he’s coming to our island. ‘Oh sh*t. We came here to avoid all of this,’” Leigh recounted (in perhaps the most relatable statement I’ve heard all campaign).

The pair have lived in Australia for the last 35 years. Leigh said they “didn’t need to be interrupted by a politician speaking his motherhood statements”.

“He doesn’t actually say anything that specifically deals with the issues that he talks about. He just says nice things that sound good,” Leigh said.

“I was looking for a bit of substance, maybe, in real life. That he could say, ‘This is what we’re going to do and these are the steps we’re going to take. You know, it’s all very well to talk about climate change, but how is the transition to renewables going to actually happen? “How is it going to affect jobs for people?

“We all know we need to get there, but there’s a transition that he never talks about. He just says we’ll deliver all these wonderful things, he doesn’t tell us how.”

Asked how he felt about Mr Morrison, Leigh conceded he “might not like him particularly as a person”.

“But that’s because the media has done a good job of slashing his image. And maybe it needed to be,” he said.

“I think he’s done a bit himself,” Jan quipped.

“In fairness, he has had to govern through the worst period that any Prime Minister could ever wish to govern through,” Leigh continued.

“It’s very easy to sit back in Opposition and point fingers, and with the benefit of hindsight, which is what this guy (Albanese) has done frequently through the pandemic. He hasn’t come up with a solution, but he’s sat back saying, ‘You should have done this, you should have done that.’ The hot seat – it’s actually not been an easy position to be in.

“So I have a bit of sympathy for Scott Morrison, although personalities aside. We don’t vote for personalities, we vote for outcomes. We have an economy which is the envy of the Western world, and how can you argue with that?”

Jan, who was a little less charitable in her assessment of Mr Morrison, said Australia had to realize that “someone’s got to step up and address climate change”.

“I’m not convinced that anyone’s actually got the answer there,” she said.

“Australia is only a small part of the world, but we also have to play our part, and somebody’s got to show some real leadership in the world. Why not Australia?

“Leigh’s right when he says there are motherhood statements. But they’re motherhood statements from all sides of parliament.”

She brought up the recent floods in Lismore, and the need to protect other flood-prone areas.

“We’ve seen what happens there. And that’s pretty heart-rending, and absolutely horrible. So everybody’s got to do a little bit of work.”

She said one of the problems was the constant, 24/7 media cycle, which means “nobody has any time to explore issues in depth”.

Leigh described the current election environment as “quite sad.”

“We’ve come through the worst possible set of circumstances that this country has probably seen,” he said.

“You can’t blame the government for everything … Scott Morrison did actually take some very strong stands in the early days of the pandemic.”

Asked about Mr Morrison’s admission earlier in the day that he could be a bit of a “bulldozer”, and would need to “change” the way he does things should he retain power, the pair had slightly different takes.

“I think I definitely need to change. In my opinion he’s not a nice person,” said Jan.

“But that’s through the eyes of the media as well. You only see what the media want you to see,” Leigh countered.

“But he chooses what the media sees,” she said.

At this point I had to dash to Mr Albanese’s next event, where he was meeting a turtle. This is what election campaigns are like, folks.

Tom the Turtle, while cute, did not look entirely impressed with the situation.

Nevertheless he gobbled up the food thrown at him by Mr Albanese.

“How much does he weigh now?” asked the Labor leader.

And so the idyllic beach trip wrapped up: with the alternative prime minister fat-shaming a turtle.

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