(Image: Private Media)

The Australian shocked, just shocked, us with its front page yesterday, alerting us to “Albanese’s battle cry in war on wealth and family tax”. Albanese, we’re told, “sharply criticised capitalism and family wealth as causes of social injustice” and took aim at “incomes over $100,000”. Except that the “previously unreported comments” happened in the early 1990s, roughly 30 years before he took the revolutionary socialist step of backing tax cuts for higher income earners. The parallels with Nicolae Ceausescu are, frankly, chilling.

It got us thinking — what other positions have politicians endorsed decades ago and explicitly repudiated since… but would make for a good headline?

Michael McCormack: union agitation and vile homophobia

Michael McCormack has spent a decade apologising for a vile editorial he wrote when he was a newspaper man in 1993. Headlined “Sordid homosexuality — it’s becoming more entrenched”, it opens: 

A week never goes by anymore that homosexuals and their sordid behaviour don’t become further entrenched in society. Unfortunately gays are here and, if the disease their unnatural acts helped spread doesn’t wipe out humanity, they’re here to stay.

He has apologised several times since (it emerged to haunt him when he was first elected in 2010 and in 2017 when he was appointed to oversee the marriage equality survey). He also voted with his electorate in favour of marriage equality, which Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott did not manage.

But if the last week has shown anything, callous disregard for LGBTIQA+ people is hardly cause for embarrassment in the Coalition. If you want a really embarrassing detail for your front page, it’s McCormack’s history with industrial action. He was a union member as a journo, and after his sacking from his role with The Daily Advertiser in 2002 prompted a 24-hour strike from his co-workers, he sued for unfair dismissal and received an out of court settlement the next year.

Matt Canavan: communist

Before he was an economist who pretends to be coal miner, Matt Canavan was a uni student who pretended to understand what Marxism is. According to a profile in The Australian Financial Review he was a self-proclaimed communist and Marxist at university.

He drifted away from the movement the same way so many committed and knowledgeable Marxists do: defending John Howard’s record on race. According to the piece, on his first day at the University of Queensland in 1998 he made “a beeline” for the Socialist Workers stand:

He spotted the front page of the Socialist Worker newspaper declaring ‘John Howard a racist’ and took an exception to this.

‘I didn’t like John Howard — because I was a Marxist at this time — but I don’t think he’s a racist,’ explains Canavan. ‘So I got into an argument and thought “These guys are idiots” and didn’t sign up.’

Our Marxist theory is a little rusty here — was Luxemburg or Gramsci who argued too much Asian immigration could spoil social cohesion?

Peter Whish-Wilson: weekend penalty rates are outdated

This one isn’t even that old: in 2013, Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson told The Australian that the Greens could double their vote by “courting small business”. While saying he wouldn’t support unilateral action abolishing weekend penalty rates, “a bigger national discussion” was needed, encouraging small business groups to put together evidence that could be taken to the unions regarding the effect penalty rates had on employment and weekend trading.

If all this sounds a bit “liberal moderate”, don’t worry — Whish-Wilson was still a total Green about it. He was opposed to penalty rates because of colonialism, you see: “But I think we need a bigger discussion nationally about weekends versus weekdays. I think it’s just a white Anglo-Saxon cultural thing that we’ve inherited.”

Joe Hockey: uni should be free

When he was treasurer overseeing one of the most unpopular budgets of all time — including the deregulation of uni fees, meaning students would have to pay more interest — Joe Hockey would had to have known that this was coming. Footage emerged of Hockey in 1987 when he was a 22-year-old student at the University of Sydney, offering a full throated protest against the introduction of a $250 administration fee by those bloody conservatives in the Hawke government.

Mark Latham: we need strong laws regulating hate speech

For quite some time, New South Wales One Nation Leader Mark Latham, (so far as we’re aware, the only former Labor leader with the subheading “incident at Hungry Jack’s” in his Wikipedia page), has not spoken like someone who believes minorities and vulnerable groups ought to be afforded any special protection. So we’re sure he winces with embarrassment looking back at his speech in 1994, as the member for Merriwa eloquently and forcefully spoke in favour of the dreaded section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act:

[the bill] recognises that it is part of Australia’s laconic and easygoing character and an expression of our egalitarianism to have these forms of racial tolerance. Most Australians do not pass judgement or express intolerance on the basis of race, colour, creed and culture. Yet a small minority of racists and racist organisations do express and seek to incite racial intolerance and hatred. We need to be vigilant in these matters, understanding the racial intolerance, vilification and violence of a small minority in Australia, and also understanding that, in the broad sweep of Australian history, there have been some unfortunate characteristics of racism that at one time held the majority.