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Charter for Conservatism: The ALP Campaign Review

Reports on electoral strategies are often written in order to be avoided. They are scripted for the express purpose of gathering dust on shelves, or decaying in digital files rarely to be consulted except by historians. But the review of the reasons why the Australian Labor Party lost the May 2019 Australian federal election was deemed of particular interest. Authored by Jay Weatherill and Craig Emerson, the report was harsh. “Labor lost the election because of a weak strategy that could not adapt to the change in Liberal leadership, a cluttered policy agenda that looked risky and an unpopular leader.” The authors advance 60 findings and 26 recommendations.

The review does make relevant and cogent points. The campaign was deeply flawed: dissenters and contrarians concerned that Labor was not making the progress needed to win government were dissuaded. Victory would surely be inevitable. But with the campaign barely a week old, the primary vote had fallen to 34 per cent, with Labor coming out on the two-party vote with 47 per cent. This was at odds with the optimistic magic that seemed to be coming from internal polling, with Labor set to secure 37 to 38 per cent of the primary vote in marginal seats, and nab 51 per cent of the two-party vote.

Having Shorten as leader was a handicap. Six years which had included seeing off two prime ministers had taken a toll on popularity. (This ignores the obvious point that Shorten was never popular.) He was also “attacked through an enormously expensive campaign funded by Clive Palmer, which dovetailed into the Coalition’s campaign.” The review did concede that, especially when it came to Queensland, the opposition leader fared poorly, especially when compared with Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

The review suggests taking a battering ram to centralised campaigning. “Success is likely to require a campaign culture that is less centralised and encourages a greater diversity of views and more robust internal debates – to reflect the increasing diversity of Labor’s constituency from inner-city voters to those living in outer-urban, regional and country communities.” Australian regionalism, in other words, must become a serious feature of ALP policies.

One of those manifestations is a nod in favour of preserving such beasts as coal mining, thereby giving the renewables sector a generous shove off. The stranglehold of the resource sector is secure. “Labor should recognise coal mining will be an Australian industry into the foreseeable future and develop regional jobs plans based on the competitive strengths of different regions.” The stance taken by the party on the Adani coal mine project “combined with some anti-coal rhetoric, devastated its support in the coal mining communities of regional Queensland and the Hunter Valley.”

On the policy front, the report did not single out the tax policies as being, in of themselves, costly. What mattered was their complexity and their message, lost in the Coalition megaphone approach designed to foster “anxieties among insecure, low-income couples in outer-urban and regional Australia”.

An important point made by such commentators as Katharine Murphy is that the broad church of Labor is fracturing. The view of the congregants are at odds with each other; the high priests are not sure what line their sermons should take. “The central question of the review,” poses Murphy, “is how does Labor fuse its increasingly divided core constituencies – those constituencies being blue-collar workers and affluent metropolitan progressives?”

The reviewers have their own existential assessment. “Success in resolving this dilemma will first require Labor to acknowledge it exists. It will require Labor to devote the necessary time and energy as a party to address it.” The party had “been increasingly mobilised to address the political grievances of a vast and disparate constituency.” A certain core of “working people” facing “economic dislocation caused by technological change will lose faith in Labor if they do not believe the Party is responding to their needs, instead of being preoccupied with issues not concerning them or that are actively against their interests.”

Such analyses tend to contain a mandatory amount of self-flagellation. But the report’s sense of electoral contrition risks dulling the policy making arm of the party, giving the apparatchiks further reason to be more conservative. The focus there will be to push the party further into coalition territory and the political right, thereby making them even less appealing than they already are. Why go for Labor when you can get the true Conservative with reactionary trimmings?

Labor has already become the hostage of the poll meter, the statistical projection, the party factional machine. The Gillard-Rudd years were symptomatic of adjustments that did little to project a party secure about itself, and everything to suggest that demons of contradiction had taken residence in the castle. The poll dictated the policy, rather than policy driving the polls.  Fearful party factions, knives at the ready, did the rest.

The report does little to discourage that, even if it does suggest faults in the internal polling system of the party. Do not dare to dare, as it were. Restrain yourself: the electorate needs generalities, not complexities.

Australian politics lost its shine some time ago – if, indeed, it ever had it – obsessed as it is by various measures of the pragmatic and reactionary. This review is bound to re-enforce such tendencies, extinguishing any social democratic embers that might be lingering. But an important group who resist sufficient chastisement remain the pollsters who persist in their mawkish way to parade figures supposedly obtained with the highest degree of accuracy. The influence of such modern astrologers must be curbed.

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28 comments

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  1. Joseph Carli

    A very pertinant point, Binoy..: ” Australian politics lost its shine some time ago – if, indeed, it ever had it – obsessed as it is by various measures of the pragmatic and reactionary. This review is bound to re-enforce such tendencies, extinguishing any social democratic embers that might be lingering. But an important group who resist sufficient chastisement remain the pollsters who persist in their mawkish way to parade figures supposedly obtained with the highest degree of accuracy. The influence of such modern astrologers must be curbed.”

  2. New England Cocky

    Labor “failed” because Shorten declined to change for the “small target” before the announcement of too many policies that the Murdoch MSM et al were able to twist to their own advantage. We now see that Palmer’s multimillion publicity contribution was a forward payment for his coal mine next door to Adani, and bigger, and likely using the same railway connection to the coastal port.

    In regional centres, too many voters believed the traditional “Reds under the Beds” mythology and dreamt of long past glories as justification for perpetuating their distant youth. For example, “David Drummond was a great Member”. Yes he was, and he retired in 1961 to be replaced by Ian ‘Sinkers’ Sinclair who preferred chasing skirt around Canberra for maybe 37 years rather than representing the best interests of the electorate.

    Labor has to get into the serious media world via what ever means they can organise. Otherwise, the future for our country is very bleak continuation of incompetent police favouring the select few against the best interests of the many.

  3. Lawrence Roberts

    Dead parrot, non starter, not for real, unbelievable, a sham from the first day when it was declared to be about “ the Climate”
    And Adani was left on the table. The fact that they were not ready for the dirty tricks or Doctor Bob proved conclusively they were not ready for government.
    Perhaps the ‘back-room’ boys could see what was coming and lost on purpose. Labor loves being in opposition; nice money and perks with no heavy lifting.

  4. Dana

    I volunteer at an op/charity shop and in speaking about the election, a fellow volunteer said she would not vote Labor due to the franking credit issue; I said, Oh, are you affected by this? and she said, Oh, no, but look at the self-funded retirees who will be applying for the pension if Labor gets in. I don’t agree with mandatory voting; only the informed electorate should vote; but how to inform the electorate?

  5. Trish Corry

    Albo has already answered Murphy’s question in his first speech.

    It’s exactly what I have been advocating regarding climate change action, that is a worker centric solution to climate action.

    My articles about this might have gone down like a tonne of Bricks on this site and with enviros on Twitter with people exploding with anger and mistaken me for “pro coal” instead of pro jobs; But notice neither LNP or Greens attacked Albo over his speech?

    Read the speech and have a think about why. One. He is spot on. Two he is speaking directly to Labor values. Three. He isn’t speaking from a position of privilege, but unity by seeing everyone. He placed the worker smack bang in the middle of the framework.

    He has smacked down both LNP and Greens who only play what Albo refers to as wedgeslation, in one hit.

    Neither party has anywhere to go on this. He exhausted their never ending campaign tactics in one speech. This will become evident.

    People are still so focused on bashing Labor, they have not taken the time to really dissect his first policy direction speech.

    But the average voter when this narrative takes hold, Will notice the difference that he is not pitting us against each other.

    By harnessing our resources to aim to build a new manufacturing sector to be the global supplier of renewables, he is taking the privileged divisive stance Of the Greens out of it and removing the threat of job losses that the LNP preyed on as a result of the Greens.

    Shorten would have done this too. He spoke of manufacturing hubs here. But he didn’t deliver that message in lingo understood by people who are in tremendous fear of not just their own jobs, but the total collapse of regions under the Greens agenda. He didn’t reassure people in fear. That’s crucial. He’s a policy nerd with a genuine passion for fairness. I love him for that. But he got the communication wrong.

    That’s what all those horrible people in QLD voted against. Loss of jobs and collapse of regions. All the stuff I tried to warn about and attacked for,

    How horrible to be worried about basic survival in the here and now. The most progressive policies in all other areas will always take a back seat to that. People are looking past this and blaming regional people as idiots.

    I argue that’s because the finger pointers have lost touch with what jobs mean to people. And that depresses me more and more everyday.

    If people took the time to understand the complexities of regional areas, instead of attacking us, they would understand why neither LNP or Greens have not criticised Albo’s speech.

    I voted for him the first leader vote, I’ve met him and chatted, he is a housing commission kid like me and he gets it. He has my support. I don’t think he will be what me or anyone else will expect. And I mean that in a good way.

  6. paul walter

    They did themselves too much damage voting for the worst of the LNP’s legislation. They demonstrated they could not be trusted to stick to their promises and pursue a Labor agenda.

    Should Weatherill and Emerson be persecuted as “Labor knockers” also”

    To think that for the first time in history we stand open mouth before some thing so perfect that it is beyond questioning, let alone constructive criticism. A sacred cow?

  7. Trish Corry

    So Paul, your argument is people on the left, who are too uneducated to understand the constraints of power in Parliament and are ignorant to the fact that choices are limited to amendments or blind oppose and allow the nutters on the Cross bench decide, voted PHON or Palmer and Preferenced Libs? Or too ignorant to understand the basics of differences in ideology, although they are “more woke than Labor Brokens and more engaged, voted Green but preferenced Libs? Very strange scenarios.

    However these people “on the real left” who are stuck in that bubble of rhetoric, seeing only politics through their lens of “I’m more left than Labor” did however work hard every day since Shorten became leader.

    These people worked hard to send the message that Labor is the same as the Liberals (although they had a comprehensive suite of policies to redress inequality and return fairness to the IR space and Liberals had no policies and contempt for poor people and workers) they screamed everyday all over every social media medium that Labor were as bad as the Liberals, they didn’t deserve our vote (IA even dedicated an entire article to this, that I wrote a response article to) and to vote for anyone else but the majors. The same people are now even more emboldened and it’s incessant.

    Also, Credit where credit is due, the woke Greens and woke Socialist left also successfully created a culture of stigma towards anyone associated with Labor. The progression from Labor Sheep to “Labor Brokens” is a stigma, othering and divisiveness enabled Dutton would be proud of.

    On the non pleb end Greens MPs and PHON, held hands to push this rhetoric together. Vote anyone but the majors.

    When 90% of voters don’t like the Greens, who do you think that the people who listened to these messages voted for? The message that Labor is horrible and doesn’t deserve to their vote. Who do you think they voted for?

    PHON, Palmer and Independents. That’s who they voted for.

    The injustice from one sense, is Libs pay campaign “volunteers” and these tireless workers all over Social media, tweeters, bloggers, blogs posing as “News” FB page owners, commenters, have been pushing this message for years and years every day against Labor and they didn’t get paid at all.

    Next election if they just sign up to doorknock for the Liberals, at least they will get remunerated.

  8. Joseph Carli

    I have for a long time pushed the barrow that more educated working class people ought to be brought into the Labor political tent…I have since had a rethink and I wonder if the “education” is a better or worse thing..perhaps the raw recruit straight from the factory floor or the building site with so much more raw passion rather than inculcated political theory is needed…perhaps that rough cry from the streets will reach further into the heads and hearts of those on bad work agreements rather than the calculated arguements that appeals more to a marketting agency than to honest politics.

  9. Barry Thompson.

    Trish, I agree with your comments.
    Watching Albanese speak at the Press Club, my wife and I believe he will put Labor back in the game. Unfortunately, Shorten carried too much baggage despite his progressive policies and hard work.
    The average Australian voter does not seem to cope with too much change but would rather maintain the status quo. As we know, that is how the LNP operates.
    My depression following the election defeat has lifted and my bet is that this LNP Government will self implode. It has too much hubris and too many second rate Ministers incapable of doing the job required of them.

  10. Wobbley

    How about we, labor and any other fair minded reasonable entity, political or otherwise, just fuck off and leave the little babies to their toys. I’m up to the neck with this country, the msm, the fucking coal lobby, I’d outlaw it tomorrow, fuck them. I’m just over it, until we get into the streets and seriously tell these scum nothing is gunna change and the corrupted right wing of labor have achieved their goal of a one party state led by the lienp, the ipa and turdoch, as green day sang, WELCOME TO PARADISES!!!!

  11. paul walter

    “Success in resolving this dilemma will first require Labor to acknowledge it exists”.

    Well, it is a full generation on now since David Beddall entrenched the false and Tory binary that jobs and enviro are oppositional.

    Nor did they challenge a whole heap of other paradigms begging to be knocked down, including the bogus reasoning for the surveillance state.

    No.

    They busted their guts reinforcing them.

    False consciousness created in a info vacuum gave us three Tory wins on the trot and a massive and mounting bill for the future most exemplified in the Murray Darling mess and as to so many other examples the last half a dozen years, too many “shockers” actually, spinelessly supported by Shorten Labor.

    Joe Carli, they won’t bring educated people back into the tent, The right faction has spent the last twenty years getting rid of anyone challenging the gravy train version of neolib ALP style

  12. paul walter

    Trish Corry, you only have yourself to blame for your unpopularity here for reasons already explained and not responded to in any relevant way by yourself, this hundreds of times over the last couple of years. Had you ever engaged with other people instead of snarking perhaps the whole thing would be different.

  13. Joseph Carli

    Paul Walter..; ” Trish Corry, you only have yourself to blame for your unpopularity here. . . “…I cannot EVER recall Trish Corry seeking approval or currying favour to what you call “popularity here”….Blogging or commenting is not a game of poularity stakes, though some seem to want it to be so…the really relavent LEFT WING blogger or commentator SEEKS DISSENT….creates talking points WAY OUTSIDE the comfortable echo-chamber of soft centre political agreeance…we can seek communal approval at a tea and scones gathering…but HERE, I would like to think…believe …we seek to stir the pot..and stir it with vim and vigor….so I say…good on yers, Trish….throw a spanner in the works…contraryiness! dissent!…let the Kraken wake!

  14. Joseph Carli

    I would draw attention to the idea that our politicians look, read and listen more than we think so to social media commentary…that being so, it behooves us to tell them EXACTLY how we feel on subjects close to our collective politics…soft-soap the ideology and we get soft-soap pollies…state objectives sought in either city, suburb or region, and they will read ….go radical and they too will go radical…just look to the lunatic element in the Right-wing of politics…THEY have control of the LNP now through incessant lobbying and are calling the shots in that party…
    Labor is the Left…and Left it must go..and it is up to us in the arena of public commentary to give at least hint of direction…and a healthy argy-bargy of discussion and dissent without petulant spite of what might have been would give more direction than a legion of political advisers…

  15. paul walter

    Joe, Corry and you are welcome to yourselves, but the next time I get an attempt at engagement from Corry will be the first.

    As for you, youwill be of no use till you bury your overweening ressentiment, your counter productive and Iago-esque animus toward Kaye Lee and discuss the issues also.

  16. Joseph Carli

    AIMN dashboard…: Posts by Joseph Carli..: 218…….Posts by Paul Walter…,”no posts found”…I rest my case.

  17. Trish Corry

    My personal unpopularity on here is driven by nasty people, like ones unfriended on Facebook. Paul That doesn’t bother me. Hasn’t for years now.

    The unpopularity of the arguments in my articles is what bothers me, because post election shows I’ve been spot on. People voted in droves against the privileged enviro elitists who pushed workers down and attacked regional communities. They voted to protect jobs and community. These voters saw this as “The Left”

    The digital campaign of the right (now being analysed) was reinforced by the Greens and purists on the left that Labor is just dreadful.

    The Adani convey listed as a reason for the loss.

    All key themes of my articles.

    In fairness, That’s a lot of hate that’s been directed at one person (believe me, the hate is worse on Twitter) who was just trying to highlight all the above via various articles if you want to look back on my work. For what? What did it achieve? Successfully bullying me? At times… Sure. Reflection on any of my different ideas that may just have merit that turned out to be true? Nope. Did that behaviour add any value? Nope.

    And it’s that type of unpopularity that doesn’t allow discussion for a view that’s not on the popular bandwagon to be discussed thoughtfully. Isn’t helpful. But it rose up and bit us all, didn’t it?

    Hate me? Fine. But I argue my political articles should be considered, even if you hate the messenger. So it’s helpful to approach such articles without hating the author first before you read it. Alternative left views that aren’t on the left populist bandwagon are going to more important than ever now.

  18. Egalitarian

    I agree with you Joseph with regards to politicians reading and listening to social media.Many are even stealing from me.Usually it’s The Consevatives and they fashion the stolen words to suit their own propaganda.I will have start charging them.

  19. Joseph Carli

    Trish…I wince when I see supporters of centrist Labor or The Greens describe themselves as “The Left”…they are NOT left-wing!!…they are what I call ‘Status Quo-ers”…they want a system in situ that maintains an economy and social status best suited to THEIR accustomed lifestyle…
    I would call Left-Wing as those policies that attempt to shrink the economy from a worship of corporate enterprise to a more smaller community located enterprise…reduce mega agri-corp to smaller generational farms that employ local labour NOT 457’s….etc.

  20. Kaye Lee

    The idea that education is a bad thing that somehow brainwashes people into some sort of group think really disturbs me. It encourages the mindset that we are being conned by scientists. It also implies, and this with perhaps some basis, that education is the privilege of some sort of exclusive class. We MUST fight for public education to be adequately funded and for vocational and tertiary education to be free if possible, or at least much more highly subsidised. Perhaps a HECS debt scheme where owing fees are waived if/when you graduate? Or fee-paying scholarships in anticipated areas of need? Or requirements for a certain number of apprentices/trainees being employed on any government contract? Or increase Youth Allowance so kids don’t have to work as well as study. We need ideas and education is an investment, not a cost.

    And yes, politicians do sometimes read this site. We have, on occasion, been contacted by various politicians – not usually to say thanks. Michael was actually invited to address a senate committee.

  21. paul walter

    Actually just back to back an FB friend commenting on cuts to Emergency Services, to pick up that info on the other thread.

    Yes, watch Rupert’s ABC and Fairfax hammer us with weaselly slither, while Murdoch and Nine go to work on the rest.

    Lazy spin/ lies becomes dull fare if constant, like cold porridge.

    Anyway Kaye If there is a single (covert) plank with the authoritarians, it is the Americanisation of this country before any personwakes up to the fact that it has all going and sounds the alarm. That they didn’t this time STILL baffles the writer.

  22. Miriam

    We have, on occasion, been contacted by various politicians. Be careful of the “Royal We” Joseph

  23. Kaye Lee

    Miriam,

    You speak of something about which you know nothing. Do you have something of value to contribute or should I just call you Lamb Chop?

  24. Lambchop Simnel

    Or Lambkin.

    Miriam, and what were the objects of such Visitations from the Ectoplasm?

    Did you have to clean up jelly stuff and call in Don Murray?

  25. corvus boreus

    The one true Lambchop (accept no imitations),
    And I misquote…
    ‘Open-mouthed at the height, length, width, depth, magnitude, extension and cognitive and intellectual intensity of the last comment…’.

  26. Kaye Lee

    Any resemblance to real commenters here was unintentional. Apologies…..I meant the Shari Lewis Lamb Chop connection. I should add I also enjoyed the sock puppet when I was little. Now? Not so much.

  27. Kaye Lee

    cb,

    I am reminded of the ignored signs at the Opera House suggesting patrons not feed the seagulls. Having had my plate of oysters swamped when I stood up to go to the toilet, I understood the need for the signs. I also understand your not-so relaxing video.

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