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Can the Labor Party stay focused this time?

The 2013 election showed that policies and results are immaterial in being successful in politics if you don’t deliver the message.

The Labor Party had an outstanding case to prosecute. That they failed to do so has cost this country dearly.

Rather than pointing to their successes, rather than outlining their plan for the future, they reacted to headlines in the Murdoch Press. They listened to small focus groups and polls instead of trying to inform and lead opinion. They scurried around ‘doing the numbers’ instead of presenting a united voice and vision. They threw out a fine Prime Minister and tried to “save the furniture” by being even crueller to asylum seekers than their opponents.

By handing the election to, of all people, Tony Abbott, we destroyed any chance to take action on climate change. We lost our opportunity to have a world class communications network. We lost our chance to share in the superprofits made by the companies who mine our resources. We lost protection of our waterways and aquifers. We lost the car industry and the renewable energy industry. We lost partnerships with the states on funding for schools, hospitals, and affordable housing. We lost over half a billion in Indigenous funding in one fell swoop. We lost investment in research. We lost the proposed increases in the superannuation guarantee and tax-free threshold. We lost extra paid parental leave and the Schoolkids bonus. The ABC, NDIS, welfare recipients, and unions are all under constant attack.

We came through the global financial crisis with one of the best economies in the world. Since then, our comparative economic ranking has been sliding and, despite a global recovery, our debt has been growing. Big business is making record profits but this has not translated to any increases in wages and underemployment and job insecurity have risen.

For the first time, we were mentioned on the human rights watch list. Our ranking on the transparency corruption index has slipped from 7th in 2012 to 13th last year. Our international reputation has been tarnished because of our inhumane treatment of asylum seekers, the number and abuse of Indigenous juveniles in detention, and policy that has led to rising greenhouse gas emissions.

Under the guise of freedom of speech and freedom of religion, discrimination laws are under attack. Muslims are suffering marginalisation and vilification. Pauline Hanson, who was shunned by all twenty years ago for her ignorant racism, is now courted by politicians and media, normalising her toxic stupidity.

We have created a multi-billion dollar Home Affairs Office to address terrorism yet do nothing about domestic violence and sexual harassment.

As Jane Gilmore writes, “at least 71 Australian women were murdered last year, more than 80 per cent of them by a man who claimed to love them. In the last 20 years a maximum of six people were killed in terrorist incidents in Australia. The federal government currently spends $35 billion on national security and $160 million on domestic violence each year.”

Our privacy rights are stripped away to ‘keep us safe’ while refuges, support groups and legal aid centres close down and women are encouraged to arm themselves. We defund early intervention programs and build more jails.

With rising commodity prices, aging power stations breaking down or closing, a freeze on new investment in renewables, over-investment in the wrong type of transmission and distribution, and record gas exports, electricity prices have skyrocketed. Meanwhile, extreme weather events have intensified. Policy uncertainty and a lack of planning has led to a failure in all three aspects of the energy “trilemma”.

We pursue old alleged welfare overpayments with a system that costs more to run than it collects. We can’t afford to increase Newstart, Youth Allowance or the aged pension. But we can afford a twenty-year ramp-up of war machinery costing an extra $400 billion on top of the annual defence budget.

We insist that young people start repaying their education costs when their salary reaches less than a quarter of a junior backbench politician’s base salary and then wonder why they can’t afford a place to live.

When it’s all about the money and protecting your own privilege, society is diminished.

With the departure of Julia Gillard, we lost the civility, decency, compassion and integrity she brought to the job. We lost our optimism and hope.

Can the Labor Party revive it? Or will they once again let those who shout the loudest distract them.






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  1. Babyjewels

    I’ve all but given up on Australia being a desirable place to live ever again. I know there are worse places, but I remember how good it was here and we thought that would never change. Now, suddenly, we have a Police State. We have fewer rights every year. We are mushrooms, fed s**t and our grandchildren’s future stolen by the political arm of mining companies. As my US friend said in an email to me this morning, “The hard liners in your country and ours have been on a three decade long assault on our democratic form of governance. Democratic in small case d. They are motivated by two of the worst impulses in human experience: money and religion.
    They are experiencing undreamed of success.

    This applies to both sides of government.

  2. Pappinbarra Fox

    Hear hear

  3. David Bruce

    I get the impression from current activities, the Labor Party don’t want to control the franchise “Australian Government”. They appear to be in their “comfort zone”!

    Good article as usual Kaye. Our international reputation has also been tarnished by our school yard, bully boy treatment of Timor Leste during negotiations for revenue sharing of royalties from Oil.

    We tell south pacific islanders that China will be a monster and they reply, compared to what?

    We have 3rd generation party hacks with no professional qualifications voting on issues along party lines. Don’t mention ethics, chivalry nor compassion.

    I used to think GOD was gold, opium and diamonds. Now I believe god has evolved into guns, oil and drugs, for money!

  4. New England Cocky

    Ruthlessly objective analysis, thank you Kaye. It appears Silly Billy Shorten has been playing the small target game too well for many commentators, but when the Murdoch MSM is fully biased against the Australian people there is probably no better strategy.

    Consider the options, have policy that the LIarbrals & MSM can rip apart in minute detail or let the RAbbott Morriscum Dutton Turdball NLP misgovernment hog the headlines with their inept policies favouring the undeserving wealthy and corporates.

    Sometimes it is necessary for the people to fell the pain of their apathy to react against the fascist bureaucracy that has been elected for the benefit of foreign shareholders of multinational corporations.

  5. helvityni

    Excellent post Kaye Lee,

    ‘With the departure of Julia Gillard, we lost the civility, decency, compassion and integrity she brought to the job. We lost our optimism and hope.’
    …and how good she was in getting results, having positive consultations with the Greens and the Independents.

    I too am losing my optimism, Australia is better than this, at least it used to be better; not even the horrible Howard years seem so bad when compared to NOW…

  6. stephentardrew

    Fantastic post Kay succinct and factual. You have a brilliant way of simplifying and condensing a broad range of issues into a coherent and readable article. As usual congrats.

  7. diannaart

    What is it with Labor they always feel as if they should excuse themselves?

    The latest being Bill Shorten and taxes. Bill is a seasoned politician, all he had to say was that Labor are determined to bring about a fair tax system. Instead Shorten does a Hanson – flip/flop.

    As Kaye Lee so cogently made clear – Labor stay focussed. FFS!

  8. Florence Howarth

    What we have today is a carryon of the Howard years. What amazes me is the freedoms that have been legislated away with no outcry whatever. Latest Centrelink introducing face scanning. We upload a photo. Why not blood group & fingerprinting as well. Has no use for Centrelink but does for Dutton’s empire.

  9. Kaye Lee

    Virginia Trioli just interviewed Jim Chalmers on 7:30 report and tried to get him to say that Bill Shorten’s ‘mistake’ on Tuesday was the result of the stress he is feeling due to the leadership tension brewing in the Labor Party.

    Chalmers did well despite Trioli’s bullying.

    I really despair when even our current affairs on the ABC are turning into stages for hosts with inflated egos rather than a platform for policy discussion.

  10. Jagger

    It seems Labor has their share of bedwetters too, Newspoll today said that 52% supported Shortens plan to abandon tax cuts for those businesses $10-$50million. If they don’t stay united behind Shorten they can kiss the next election goodbye, the msm have been having orgasms ever since he changed his mind or was pressured to change it.

  11. Matters Not

    Watched the same show. Thought Trioli did well with Leyonhjelm – gave him plenty of opportunities to ‘back off’ – but he played to his base and hung tight which the average viewer would hate. Sad that he needs such a small percentage of votes to survive.

    As for Chalmers, I thought she gave him ample opportunities to hit the questions (quite predictable) out of the park but he didn’t take it. Shorten needs more than his ‘economic team’ in support.

  12. Kaye Lee


    I disagree. I thought Chalmers did well not to react to her deliberate prodding about leadership. He stuck to policy. She wants him to say there is no challenge. He didn’t even entertain the idea sufficiently to bother answering it.

    It’s a bit like what Saran Hansen-Young is trying to get across – the conflicting emotions about dealing with inappropriate comments. Do you acknowledge and confront their barbs or ignore them? Do you acknowledge the dead cat thrown on the table? Perhaps the comparison is wrong. In the case of SHY, it is personal and a prime example of the sexual harassment that insiders say is rampant in parliament house. I hope SHY does make an example of Leyonhjelm because his behaviour would not be tolerated in any other workplace.

    I am so over leadership crap as I think most people are. I don’t give a flying fluck. I want to talk policy. I want to talk about what we need to do, not who wears the crown or who cuts the ribbon or who gets a selfie with a world leader.

    As for Leyonjhelm, he got less than half a quota in a double dissolution election. He was the 12th senator elected. Without the donkey vote or people mistaking who they are voting for, he doesn’t stand a chance at a half senate election.

  13. Matters Not

    Chalmers should’ve taken the opportunity to flatly deny that speculation about leadership right at the start. (Next question please.) He didn’t. As for:

    He didn’t even entertain the idea sufficiently to bother answering it.

    That’s a sympathetic interpretation. Not sure that the average viewer will be so kind. But, in truth, we will probably never know.

  14. Kaye Lee

    I take your point but, once again, we are being shifted away from what is important. Do we allow the media to dictate the news? Do we allow ourselves to be distracted from the main game …. again?

  15. Matters Not

    We hear lots of talk about neo-liberalism – it’s the political swear word du jour. One of the characteristics of neo-liberal discourse is the emphasis on economic aspects of life at the expense of almost anything else. Almost every time Shorten appears on TV he is flanked by Bowen, Chalmers or Leigh – because he is focussed on economic matters – almost to the exclusion of all else. I should add, that it’s this economic team that do him no political favours. What with this latest stuff up coming so soon after the dividend imputation back flip. He might do better elsewhere.

    When will Labor try to set an agenda that goes beyond the dollars. Surely Tanya’s been doing her homework? TAFE, Universities – (free undergraduate degrees – they can do it in many countries in Europe) and so on. What about King in Health? Is she looking at Canada and that system? What about extending the Banking RC to include the big 4 accountancy firms? Etc etc

    The point being – that there is a need for greater vision – a real reform agenda. Their own ball park. Maybe the odd Gish gallop of their own. Ideas, ideas, ideas. Get people excited. Labor knows they will be targeted so may as well have a go. Where’s the visible support from teachers, actors Universities etc. Anger needed etc.

  16. helvityni

    “Chalmers did well despite Trioli’s bullying.”

    Totally agree with that.

    Wayne Swan did even better ( older and more experienced) with Annabel..
    Where have all good ones gone: Kerry O’ Brien ,Emma Alberici etc. Liz Jackson was so good , she has gone Heaven

    Tried to watch Q&A, too tedious….

    At QT they all behave badly, especially the Coalition, they are all Leyonjhelms…watching it once, was once too often…

  17. Michael Taylor

    Don’t watch QandA either, but I will make an exception next week. Our very own Victoria Rollison will be on the panel.

  18. PK1765

    I just died laughing… seriously how soon you forget (not that I’m championing the LNP) but with the loss of “Julia Gillard, we lost the civility, decency, compassion and integrity she brought to the job. We lost our optimism and hope.”…. have you forgotten that it was under the Gillard Gvenment that saw the Howard policy of moving sole parents to Newstart extended, even though they had reports stating, povety and homelessness was growing among sole parents… AND it was the Gillard Goverment who altered the DSP asessement criteia process that now see’s 1 on 4 people with a chornic diease left t languish on Newtart, including terminal cancer patients…. OR that the Gillard Government actually did the initial work for the robodebt clawback… and continued intervention and expanded the basic card… just to mention a couple of the biggy’s… and not to forget the refugee “solution”…

    Sh was just another neoiberal on the path of austerity measures, nothing compassionate about her… I’m pretty sure sole parents actually LOST considerable hope with Gillard in power as did the NT communities, and people forced on to the Basics Card… SHE WASN’T ALL THAT AND NEITHER WERE/ARE THE ALP!! Both parties have contributed to the plight of the most vulnerable in our communities and where they now find themselves!!

  19. Egalitarian

    There was some great talent on the Rudd /Gillard years in The Labor Party. Just a pity that the egos couldn’t be managed better.

  20. DIANE Larsen

    Great article Kate as usual spot on the money, my dad a fierce labor man always said Labor’s biggest problem was itself, the factions the infighting and loosing focus in fighting the liberals and being distracted by small rocks thrown in the way by opponents. I sometimes despair that they can’t see the wood for the trees, if they loose this election this country is in deep shit

  21. Kaye Lee

    I have, unfortunately, been involved in a few court cases and I have seen the tactics used by barristers. They ignore the substantive case and distract from the main issue by focusing on minutiae or on the specific wording of one statement. It isn’t about justice or what is right or wrong. They are masters at the dead cat strategy.

    And this is exactly what the Coalition does. And Labor then reacts to the dead cat. They waste time and energy responding instead of ignoring the deliberate attempts to derail.

    And I agree about the factional thing. It REALLY pisses me off that they put their own ambition first.

  22. Peter F

    I could not believe that Rudd would claim that Climate change was the greatest moral problem and then cave in to the coalition scare campaigns. We needed to be able to decide between the two , but Rudd didn’t give us a chance. A great loss for this country.(and I mean the country!)

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