Close followers of federal politics in Canberra would recall that when newly-elected Prime Minister, Hon Anthony Albanese MP unveiled his new Ministry in the days after Labor’s federal election win in May last year, he declared the party would not “waste a single day in office”.

Almost a year later, it’s not a phrase which is regularly repeated publicly by Mr Albanese or his Ministers, but it still remains highly relevant because it remains a key driver of the way Labor is approaching governing after almost nine years in opposition.

The genesis of this motivation to be an effective government can be traced back 13-14 years when the political fortunes of the previous Labor government took a sharp turn. Under then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, Labor was unable to secure enough support in 2009 for its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation to pass Parliament, largely because the Greens chose to vote against it (as they didn’t think it went far enough).

It was also at about this time (circa late 2009/early 2010) that many of the major policy reviews undertaken by the Rudd Government shortly after it came to power in late 2007 started to deliver their reports. Among these was the report on Australia’s Future Tax System, which was the outcome of a review led by former Treasury Secretary, Dr Ken Henry AC (the Henry Tax Review).

One of the headline recommendations in this review was the introduction of a resources super profits tax or “the mining tax”, as it became known. Not surprisingly, the measure was strongly opposed by the mining industry which launched a high-profile national campaign designed to water down or defeat the proposal. In addition, it turned out to be one of the issues that occupied the minds of Labor members and Senators when a challenge to Mr Rudd’s leadership was launched in June 2010. The challenge was successful, installing Julia Gillard as Prime Minister just weeks before the 2010 election.

It was from this period until the September 2013 federal election that many people on the Labor side of politics look back with regret. The 2010 election resulted in a hung Parliament, meaning Ms Gillard had to rely on the support of cross-bench independents in the House of Representatives for Labor to be returned to power – a scenario which is very rare in federal politics in Australia. The political authority that Ms Gillard and her team lacked – together with ongoing leadership instability (which ultimately saw Mr Rudd return as Prime Minister ahead of the 2013 election) – contributed to an extremely challenging period in office.

Many of the current group of Cabinet Ministers, including Mr Albanese, were senior Ministers in government at this time, which is one of the explanations about why Labor is determined to deliver a stronger performance on the government benches from 2022 onwards.

This is not dissimilar to the motivation that the Hawke Labor government had after it was elected in 1983. After the conservatives were in power in Canberra from 1949-1972, Gough Whitlam led Labor back from the wilderness with his historic “it’s time” win in 1972. But after a somewhat chaotic time in government, Mr Whitlam and Labor lost power again just three years later. Bob Hawke and his team were determined not to repeat the mistakes of the Whitlam era and ultimately, Labor remained in office from 1983-1996, in what was its most successful period in office in Canberra.

Although Mr Albanese’s term as Prime Minister has not yet been 12 months, he is already looking ahead to set Labor up for a longer period in office than last time. As well as pursuing the Indigenous voice referendum, the government is aiming to have cheaper childcare, address climate change, establish a national anti-corruption commission, higher wages, more affordable housing and reduce cost-of-living pressures by the time it faces voters at the next election, which will almost certainly be in 2025.

– By Hamish Arthur