CANBERRA -- The Turnbull Government's May Budget was a watershed moment in Australian politics, according to Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese. In his view, the Coalition surrendered to the Labor Party over what is being variously described as a "Labor-lite" document.
But he wants to know where Labor's victory march is.
"It was the Budget of ideological surrender," Albanese said in a speech on Thursday to the Transport Workers Union in Perth. He cited the Turnbull Government's acceptance of universal health care, needs-based schools funding and backing the NDIS.
Albanese did not name Bill Shorten -- who defeated him in the 2013 leadership contest -- in his speech, but this urging of victory is in stark contrast to how the Opposition Leader is responding to the 2017 Budget.
"After years of negativity and culture wars," Albanese said in his alternative budget reply, "the Coalition used the Budget to offload much of its ideological baggage and embrace Labor values on some core issues -- at least at a superficial level."
Even Liberal defector Cory Bernardi agrees. He's said the Liberal Party has "jumped into bed with the Labor Party".
The Shadow Transport and Infrastructure Minister is putting out there that while the Coalition has "raised the ideological white flag", "we in the Labor Party and the broader movement should celebrate our victories".
"It reminds us once again that the Labor Party, working with the union movement, is the driver of progress in this nation."
Turnbull has tried to win back the centre and talk up budget "fairness", while Shorten is widely viewed as taking Labor further to the left. Conservative columnist Andrew Bolt decided to liken Shorten to Tony Abbott in making "desperate promises" he won't be able to keep.
Shorten has suggested the budget is "Labor-lite", but also gone much further.
"This is a Budget which has let people down across the country," he's said. It is a being cast by Shorten as culture wars budget, a document for "millionaires and multinationals" over the middle class.
But here is a senior member of Labor's left faction publicly putting a question mark over those tactics.
"Budget 2017 was an overwhelming victory for the Australian Labor Party and the broader labour movement," Albanese told the union audience.
"Medicare, compulsory superannuation, workplace fairness, the NBN, access to university based on merit -- they opposed the lot. But again and again, our leadership, informed by everyday Australian values like the Fair Go, has forced them to shift.
"The way forward for Labor is to accept their rhetorical conversion and triple our pressure for investment, while continuing to argue the case for further progressive reform."
The speech is certain to raise the issue of Labor's leadership, particularly as Shorten has been polled this week by Reachtel as the Opposition's third most popular option for leader.
Albanese was narrowly defeated by Shorten in the 2013 leadership contest, but he has repeatedly said he is not challenging Shorten and recently ruled out running for Labor Leader before the next election.
Earlier this month, Albanese set tongues wagging when he stridently declared a misfired TV advertisement featuring Shorten as a "shocker" that should never have been produced.
"Rubbish!" to racism, but Bill Shorten says THAT Australia First ad was a "bad oversight that won't happen again" https://t.co/9QmEYh181v— HuffPost Australia (@HuffPostAU) May 8, 2017
The pointedly patriotic "Australians First" ad positioned the Labor Leader standing next to a group of virtually all white Australians sparking accusations of racism and leading to an admission by Shorten that it was a "bad oversight that won't happen again".
Privately, there was anger over the ad in Labor ranks, but Albanese -- as member of the ALP National Executive -- went down the public route.
"It's a shocker of an ad. It's not the sort of ad that I want my party to be promoting," he told reporters in Canberra.
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