It was standing room only for former Deputy PM and Labor powerbroker Anthony Albanese when he spoke to the crowd at the Woodford Folk Festival.
Hundreds of festival goers swerved from listening to their favourite band, instead giving their full attention to the Federal Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Tourism.
He told the crowd that he was one of the few full-time politicians to engage with audiences at festivals in this way, mentioning his previous attendance at BluesFest and Splendour In The Grass.
However, there was no denying the elephant in the room – the Stop Adani protestors who engulfed the dance floor with placards, a section of fencing that read ‘GET OFF THE FENCE ALBO’, The palpable tenacity of the anti-Adani protesters trying to make their presence known, was welcomed by Woodford Folk Festival founder Bill Hauritz in his opening speech.
However Mr Albanese, who has embraced the moniker Albo in efforts to engage with a younger demographic, deftly avoided confrontation with the protesters.
“You can’t win over people’s point of view by just shouting at them, it’s as simple as that,” Mr Albanese said.
“It makes no sense at all that you will cut yourself off from debate – that’s self-defeating… If you don’t talk to people who disagree with you, you will never make political change.”
Presented in conversation with chief political correspondent for The Saturday Paper, Karen Middleton, the Shadow Minister tackled the dangers of disillusionment to the crowd of roughly 1000 revellers of all denominations tucked away under the shade of the new Luna Stage.
This was Albanese’s third visit to the Woodford Folk festival, with fellow Labor members Susan Lamb and Linda Burney in the front row alongside Blanche d’Alpuget.
The MP suggested to the crowd that the age of political disengagement was a phenomenon occurring globally, in part because of the pace of change.
He says it would be wrong to assume that the revolving door of Prime Ministers was the sole catalyst for the disillusionment.
“Political disengagement is something that sometimes, here in Australia, people think is because we voted for Kevin Rudd and got Julia Gillard, we voted for Julia Gillard and got Kevin Rudd, we voted for Tony Abbott and got Malcolm Turnbull, and we voted for Malcolm Turnbull and got Scott Morrison,” Mr Albanese said.
“To think the disillusionment was just because of that is to look at the symptom rather than the cause.
“Woodford Folk Festival isn’t really just about the music, although that’s great, it isn’t about the dancing, it isn’t about anything other than bringing together 150,000 people who want to belong, who want to be a part of something – it is collectivism in action.”
In reference to Billy Bragg, Mr Albanese referred to his new lyric “not everything that counts can be counted, not everything that can be counted counts’.
“What we need to recognise is that government can change society; when you change government you can change the country,” Mr Albanese said.
Woodford Folk Festival founder Bill Hauritz says the political debates are becoming an increasing drawcard for the festival.
Mr Hauritz believes this is why the festivals organisers extend invitations to people such as former Deputy Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, to debate contentious topics in front of a live audience.
“Since the beginning of the Maleny Folk Festival some 33 years ago, we intended to always be relevant to the times,” Mr Hauritz said.
“We’ve invited politicians to speak, often going way back. We’ve had politicians from the conservative side of politics, from Labor and many Greens speakers over the years.
“There isn’t a person in this room – not one person in this room – who wants that (Adani) project to go ahead, and I think I might be including those people who are up on stage.”