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Anthony Albanese looks like a kid on his first day of work experience. His hair is slightly unkempt and he's years away from fixing the gaps in his teeth. But there's no mistaking that flat, nasal Australian twang in his voice, or the angry working class warrior enveloped in an awkward, oversized jacket that looks like a hand-me-down from Clive Palmer.
Scott Morrison is draped in a tailored jacket, buttoned-up to conceal the flesh of his belly. His face is almost crease-free, his patchy, receding hair already splashed with grey. But there's no mistaking those confident declarations about family and faith, or the rapid staccato sentences punctuated by emphatic flourishes; a lesson learned, perhaps, from his days as a child actor in television commercials.
If the current election campaign is all about the future as Morrison and Albanese keep telling us, then what does the past tell us about both men? A look at their maiden speeches to Parliament tells us how much they have changed - and how much they have stayed the same.
A startling youthful-looking 33-year-old Albanese rose to his feet for the first time in the House of Representatives at 5pm on May 6, 1996. You can watch that speech here. Describing himself as a democratic socialist, he thanked his single mother, Maryanne, for raising him under "very difficult economic circumstances" and quickly pointed out how many commentators had predicted he would fail to win the working class seat of Grayndler and how "I am pleased to have disappointed them."
His speech was a mixture of policy wonk and political firebrand straight out of Labor heartland. He defended multiculturalism and reconciliation with Indigenous Australians (Pauline Hanson had just been elected). He reminded the House that women continued to earn less than men and worried how working people's savings and superannuation "can too easily disappear in a maze of administration fees and irresponsible speculative investment." Pensions needed to keep pace with inflation and social security programs had to be protected from a Liberal Party that was nothing more than "a wolf in sheep's clothing."
Albanese had already been in the parliament for a dozen years when Morrison's maiden speech took place just before noon on Valentine's Day, 2008, which you can see here. He was six years older than Albanese in his parliamentary debut and if he was armed with more swagger and slicker one-liners there was a hint of an idealist, too. Morrison called for a new round of economic reform and "of particular significance is the need to reform our federation...in priority areas such as water, taxation and infrastructure. Commonwealth, state and local government should operate like a three-legged stool, each supporting the other. At present it is more like a three-legged dog."
His voice became most passionate when talking about his faith and he and his wife's long struggle to conceive - their first daughter had been born a year earlier and could be heard crying in the visitor's gallery. His values, Morrison said, came from Jeremiah, chapter 9:24: "I am the Lord who exercises loving kindness, justice and righteousness on earth". He did not share an armband view of history - "black or otherwise ... I like my history in high-definition, widescreen, full, vibrant colour."
Morrison's and Albanese's maiden speeches were delivered by very different men from very different backgrounds. They're worth a look as we grind our way through this uninspiring and endless election campaign, if only to serve as a reminder that in this small-target, small-thinking election, both politicians once dared to dream of bigger and better things.
HAVE YOUR SAY: What issues do you believe have not received enough attention in this campaign? Has any topic or policy changed your mind about who to vote for? And should we be able to cast our vote on the internet? Send us your views: email@example.com
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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
- Almost 810,000 Australians - about five per cent of enrolled voters - have already cast their votes by mail or at early voting booths as the Australian Electoral Commission prepares to handle a record number of pre-poll ballot papers.
- Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announced a 50-50 funding split to cover the cost of a widening of the Epping Station bridge in Sydney expected to cost up to $220 million.
- Labor said it would commit more than $2 billion towards Melbourne's planned 90-kilometre suburban rail loop that will not be fully completed until 2053. The announcement prompted Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to say his state had been ripped off by "the miserable Morrison government, where we ought to bow our head and treat it like it's foreign aid."
- The Greens outlined a plan to tackle species extinction and establish an Independent Environment Protection Watch that would cost more than $24 billion over the next decade.
THEY SAID IT: "Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and their politicians as a joke." - Will Rogers.
YOU SAID IT: "I live in regional NSW. My closest early voting centre is 40km away - an hour and a half round trip by car. Unthinkable by public transport. I have organised a postal vote, but isn't it time we had the option to vote online?" - Ian.
"We should improve government departments by giving them more funding and resources in preference to giving it to private companies. I work for the government. It would be great to have up to date technology that works - we have just upgraded to Windows 10!" - Lee.
"In dealing with government departments you have to allow an hour or three." - Gary.
"ScoMo is insulting ICAC by inferring it is a kangaroo court. Even if Gladys Berejiklian is found not guilty of corruption in the Wagga issue it can still be said that she had an attitude of 'easy come, easy go' with NSW Government funds. Not her funds, but taxpayers' funds." - Brent.
"I had been a traditional Labor voter and more recently Greens because of their views on climate change. I respect my National Party federal member but will vote for an independent who seems to tick all the boxes. I have over 11 reasons - based on lack of action by Morrison ranging from the bushfires and floods to Tudge, Porter and parliamentary behaviour." - Narelle.
"The 'Debate' was a dog's breakfast. How do you debate questions like 'Why are you so unpopular?' or 'why didn't you follow up on the treatment of Kimberly Kitchen?' These are not debatable questions. The questions should have been restricted to policy matters. Channel Nine did a terrible job." - Gerry.
"I tried yesterday to find out what the preferences of each candidate were in my electorate. I thought this should be a reasonable and easy process. How silly of me. After several unsuccessful searches online I called the AEC, where a very friendly lady tried to find the information. We both had to concede defeat after 25 minutes. Maybe someday our candidates will not have to hide their preferences." - Mig.
"The current government benefits from preferential voting. It is a formal coalition of two separate political parties - Liberals and Nationals. Yet Scomo threatens the electorate with a hypothetical ALP/Greens coalition." - Joe.
"We are a couple of self-funded retirees, now more than five years overdue for our seniors health card. We've tried a number of times to apply but it's all just too hard to explain my husband's superannuation in a way that fits their form. But we'd never vote Liberal, even with their promise to make getting the card easier." - Kay.
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