The truth, of course, was that Labor offered no tax cut for these workers, who would gain more over time from the Coalition instead.
Albanese does not pretend he wants big tax cuts for workers on higher incomes. Labor supports the first and second stages of the government’s $158 billion personal income tax cut but does not support the third and final stage, which delivers big benefits to wealthier workers from June 2024.
So what does Labor offer that worker instead? “Security,” says Albanese.
“Labor believes in Medicare and the health system. Labor believes in better funding for education and TAFE and skills. That person isn’t just concerned about themselves. If they have a trade, they want that trade for others to be able to experience, as well.
“I don’t think people are just selfish individuals. I think they look at the society they live in, because that determines their quality of life. It’s not just about their income.”
That is not the only thing Albanese needs to clear up. The Labor election campaign was also evasive on coal. Shorten tried to appeal to voters worried about climate change in the south but worried about jobs in the north.
Queenslanders saw through the tricky language about the Adani coal mine and swung against Labor, even when national polling showed big concerns about climate.
Albanese drops the ambiguity. He backs coal exports – and the jobs that come with them.
This does not mean he endorses the Adani coal mine, because he stands by existing environmental safeguards, but he says the market will decide whether it proceeds.
The Greens may attack immediately with the claim that Albanese is waving the white flag on climate action, but he is instead making a crucial distinction between international exports and domestic emissions.
He also recognises that a climate policy that throws workers on the scrapheap is bound to fail. Labor cannot prevail without these workers. This week’s tour across Queensland is only one essential step in getting them back.
David Crowe is chief political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.