On Friday, Anthony Albanese retweeted a clip from The Today Show. It was an interesting decision, because during the interview the new Labor leader was attacked several times by Peter Dutton for targeting individual police officers involved in a raid on a journalist's house.
During the discussion, Dutton is like a dog with a bone. But as soon as Dutton launches in, Albanese pushes back: "I'm targeting you, buddy. You're the government."
He tells Dutton he's wrong, then comes straight back to his theme: "I'm onto you." He is more than happy to repeat the (perfectly reasonable) statement Dutton is so angry about: "I have said it is outrageous that Annika Smethurst's house was raided by seven police for seven and a half hours."
There is no ambiguity in anything Albanese says - no hiding behind platitudes about "respect for law enforcement" or the holy whisper of "national security".
He does not for a moment seem worried about saying something which might later haunt him.
Good. Labor has been useless on these issues for too long. But let's not shower Albanese with roses yet.
Labor is acting furious that these leaks were referred to the police. It should be angry. The ministers who have created this culture, and the public servants who have succumbed to it, should be ashamed. The intimidation of whistleblowers and journalists is unacceptable.
But as was reported on the weekend, Labor itself urged the government to investigate the very same leaks last year (though it didn't mention the police). Its aim was to highlight division in the government. In other words: it didn't give a damn about the principle of transparency, only about political advantage.
Our Parliament's failure on civil liberties is an important story. It is also one the press has not paid enough attention to. But there is a more important failure here.
The way politics is talked about by a media-savvy populace, and the way it is often reported, has long been hopelessly meta. This complaint is decades old: decisions are too often judged on whether they are politically smart.
There are many casualties of this shift. A responsible opposition is perhaps the most important. Over time, the role of oppositions has been reduced to a single aim: winning government, ASAP.
In fact, the opposition has another responsibility in our democracy. When the government is engaged in questionable conduct, the largest loudspeaker available to critics belongs to the opposition leader.
The rest of us, busy with our lives, rely on oppositions to tell us when there is a problem.
Right now, that half of the job is more crucial than usual, for two reasons.
First, because this government has an appalling attitude to the idea the public should know anything. Scott Morrison's attitude to the media is flippant, even disdainful.
It was Morrison himself who simply stopped answering questions about asylum seeker arrivals, citing "on-water matters".
We now know he deceived us twice during the campaign, about precisely how tax cuts could be delivered on time and about who his environment minister would be. Neither lie is important in itself - but the contempt that underlies them is.
Second, this a dangerous time in the political cycle. Morrison, fresh from his "miracle" victory, has just learned a lesson that John Howard knew well. An election can be won in the last 12 months before the vote. Bad press, now? Why worry?
Which brings us back to Albanese's role. There was a question he didn't answer during that interview, which was what Labor would do about the laws which made such raids possible. We've seen this act from Labor before on similar issues - deploy sharp words, then do nothing.
That's what happens when an opposition focuses on just half its job. But with an election years away, and a government unconcerned about scrutiny, Labor's responsibility is far greater than making itself electable.
"Bipartisanship", like "national security", has a lot to answer for. There was a time, not long ago, when there were certain areas - domestic violence, Indigenous affairs - where disagreement was seen to be distasteful.
That was until recently, when Labor realised "bipartisanship" was being used as a smokescreen for funding cuts and policy failures.
Right now it's happening again on climate policy - and Labor, it seems, is preparing to fall into the trap. Albanese and his team have been very enthusiastic about agreement. On one hand it's a fair point - provide certainty to business, encourage investment in cutting emissions.
But if what this means is providing business with the certainty it can continue to do bugger all, then who cares? Signing up to bad policy isn't morally virtuous just because both sides agree to do it.
Albanese is actually plain-speaking, unlike Morrison, who rarely says anything clear at all. But Albanese will be tested quickly, as every leader is, by whether his actions match his words.
My suspicion is that oppositions would do better focusing on the half of the job often ignored - holding the government to account, whatever the supposed political cost. The other half might just look after itself.
- Sean Kelly is an SMH/Age columnist and a former adviser to Labor prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.