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It wasn’t a miracle at all

When you criticise the election loss of the party you support and you do so without the benefit of any internal analysis, then your critique must be flawed to some degree.

I have recently written two such critiques. The first, “The Bill that Australia despised” was an attempt to describe the depth of untrustworthiness the public had for the Labor leader. In it I said that:

My view nevertheless wasn’t that of the majority of Australians. More than enough hated him for reasons beyond my understanding to make the difference between winning and losing.

In a couple of weeks a small group of Laborites will report on why Labor lost to such a group of pathetic individuals unfit to govern our great nation. They will come up with a multitude of reasons, but Shorten probably wont be on the top.

In my second piece, “Is Labor doomed for oblivion, or can Albo mount a comeback?” I wrote:

A leak, however, from the committee appointed to reason why Labor lost, seems to lay the blame squarely on the shoulders of Shorten.

It is now almost 6 months since Labor experienced its night of soul-destroying darkness. All the untruths and scares told by a prodigious teller of fabrication by Morrison wasn’t enough to unseat him.

The accrued mistrust of Shorten together with union association and unpopularity reigned supreme over the lies and scare campaigns of the Coalition. It must have run deep.

Now I know it wasn’t a miracle at all. There were perfectly good explanations,

And so the report by Labor luminaries Craig Emerson and Jay Weatherill saw the light of day on Thursday 7 November.

That Bill Shorten was one of the three reasons nominated by them as the reasons for Labor’s loss came as no surprise.

That Labor went into the contest with no documented election strategy was.

Was it that confident of a win that important matters of stratagem could be overlooked? That a campaign strategy had not been discussed, argued and agreed to within the wider Labor party – smacks at over confidence.

And to not have some formal means of monitoring it’s progress and indeed its implementation is a mystery.

The report found that there were three factors in Labor’s defeat: 1) weak strategy, 2) poor adaptability, and 3) an unpopular leader.

I find it rather odd that the popularity of the leader figured so prominently. Normally in an election the popularity or otherwise of the leader (in polling) means nothing. It’s whom they are going to vote for that counts.

So what does this mean for the future? If popularity is a prerequisite for winning then Albo on current polling doesn’t stand a chance.

“So if Albo is less popular than Morrison before the election, do they dump him?,” a Labor strategist wondered.

Perhaps it means that leaders who play popular politics, like Morrison and Trump, will inherit the world.

Or could it be that Morrison turned it into a Morrison Vs. Shorten campaign and if that theory is correct then Bill in accord with the polls never stood a chance.

If Shorten was unpopular, then he must have been immensely so.

The report says that, “Unsurprisingly, the Labor campaign lacked focus, wandering from topic to topic without a clear purpose.”

And that cannot be denied. Sitting in front of the television some nights I felt as though they were just saying things for the sake of saying them and without any coherent narrative.

The report is comprehensive, outspoken, and fair. That it is open for all to see is commendable and should be read by all with an interest in politics.

However, there are three things that puzzle me.

  1. What does a political party have to do to defeat what was for 6 years arguably the worst 6 years of governance in our history?
  2. Why didn’t the composers pay more attention to the influence of Clive Palmer and more particularly that of Rupert Murdoch?
  3. As reported in The New Daily, the publicly available Newspoll figures had a persistent technical error that overstated Labor’s primary vote, understated the Coalition’s primary vote and

“… consistently suggested Labor was in an election-winning position,” the report states.

“However, the persistent Labor lead in Newspoll (and other published polls) created a mindset dominated by high expectations of a Labor victory, and this affected the Party’s ability to process research findings that ran counter to this.”

Sure, this may have made Labor’s chances of winning less even less so but it draws me back to question 1.

If Labor was never actually in front against a hopeless lot of charlatans what does that tell you?

It says both the Coalition’s and Clive Palmer’s campaigns trained their guns on the unpopular leader, and the interaction between Labor’s expansive policy offering and the doubts about Shorten became a “lethal combination”.

“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 review says. “No one of these shortcomings was decisive but in combination they explain the result”.

You can read the report here.

My thought for the day

The first rule of politics is to gain power. The second is to retain it.

PS: It seems it wasn’t a miracle at all.

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  1. whatever

    What Shorten had to deal with was the usual Tabloid/TalkBack memes that are showered upon every Labor leader.
    ‘Can’t trust him/her’
    ‘Doesn’t know how to manage money’
    ‘Will put taxes up’……….etc,etc

    But this time with a whole army of supporters working at those memes 24/7 on Facebook.

    Then there was the constant use of surveillance tech upon Shorten, telephoto lenses and laser microphones trying to capture a ‘Gotcha!’ moment.

    A very shabby gossip and finger-pointing exercise that uses a lot of technology.

  2. corvus boreus

    Beyond the unhelpful input of tabloid/talkback clichés in terms of party politics, there are more broadly applied petardations of facts at work (the obvious example being the climate change denial industry).
    In terms of their pragmatic policy responses on issues like climate and the environment Shorten (and Albanese) not only have to deal with dichotomous demands between economics and ecology within their own party (eg CFMEU influence) but compete against a science-hostile public environment deliberately fostered by corporate-commercial media interests (print, broadcast and social), where, in the bloated bubble-world of those informed in the main via Murdoch and meme, fact is the oceans are not even rising.
    Good luck with that.

  3. Matters Not


    The report is comprehensive, outspoken, and fair.

    How do you know that? Particularly the fair bit? While I don’t know much about Jay Weatherill’s background, I know that Emerson had some scores to settle – with Shorten’s late switch from Gillard to Rudd some years earlier particularly rankling.

    What about this para:

    This makes it all the more disappointing to conclude that a Labor campaign with a strong
    strategy and ability to adapt, and which focused on the obvious deficiencies of our
    opponents, would have been victorious.

    Methinks a courageous conclusion? Particularly the would have been victorious bit. Where’s the maybe victorious qualification? It’s a worry that the authors reached that ‘optimistic’ conclusion, particularly when their methodology was based so much of the findings to ‘others’ plus hearsay. And why is Shorten having to carry all the load when his closest (economic) advisors such as Bowen and Chalmers don’t wear any of the flack. Seems to me that it’s anything but fair to Shorten. One things for sure – it’s ensured that Shorten’s future leadership aspirations are dead and buried.

  4. Joseph Carli

    I tell you one thing Shorten shouldn’t have done..and that was to be seen running around in those shorts….just like the old saying ; “White men can’t jump”…SOME politicians just can’t and shouldn’t run!!

    Wetherall is a particularly savvy pollie…straight as a pollie can be, but also a very savvy pollie.

  5. Wobbley

    How fcking far to the right do we as a country have to go before labor, the scum in power now, the msm, the ipa, all the other think tanks, the mining scum, the industry scum, westacott, Wilcox and the rest of the parasitic plague before enough is enough? How far down the fascist slope do they want us to slide? I for one am over it, ever heard of giving an inch only to be expected to give a mile? For fck sake when will this utter nightmare end?

  6. David Fitzpatrick

    The reason was a policy vacuum coupled with outlandish opportunist bullying.

  7. jake

    david, i don’t think it was a policy vacuum, i think it was more the way the msm represented it. the death tax and more tax lies also didn’t help. unfortunately labor didn’t sink as low as the lying nasties and didn’t fight back or if they did it was buried by the msm. too many of the great unwashed have no idea what is going on and only listen to the loudest emptiest noises.

    maybe there were too many big words in labor’s policies, too many of the changes didn’t apply to them so they believed the lies

    i still think shorten is/was a better leader than albo – at least shorten had the courage to stand up and fight for his beliefs under the most appalling pressure

  8. Trish Corry

    John, you might be very interested in the ABC article about the digital NZ team. This is excellent campaigning and it exposes the weakness of the left as a movement. Not just Labor’s campaign. It needs to be taken seriously and respected, not dismissed. Strategies developed to counter it, including minor left parties taking responsibility and stop with the pretence they can Govern and the Labor is totally shit crowd on the left just only enhanced the power by reinforcing the message of the rights digital campaign. Damn interesting read.

  9. Stephengb

    After the Labor loss in 2013, I did remark that shorten was the wrong man for this job, I gave my reasoning as the popularity of Albo in the ALP members vote.

    But as time went by I recognised that changing Labor Leader after the 2016 election was clearly stupid and I put my whole hearted support of Bill Shorten front and centre, although I did fear, and said so, that it was not going to be a lay down misere.

    I also made it very clear here on AIMN that unless there was a more Labor support on Facebook instead of just in echo chamber’s like AIMN then we were in dead trouble. Seems as though I was right to be fearfully and spot on the button about social media.

    Now I know that I am not the bright button in the box, nor I am Iso articulate or as clever as most of the regular contributors on AIMN, but I recall being scoffed at, at the time.

    So my challenge to you regular and extremely articulate AIMN contributors, how about you put your skills to better use by publishing your articles both on AIMN and on social media, in particular Facebook which is by far the largest and most followed social media in the world.

    I need your extremely good skills to counter the absolute Right wing garbage that floods Facebook

    Oh, and no this is not a dig but a cry for help. I could not face another 3 years of Scomo and the lurch to Facist Right.

    I do NOT believe ALBO and the Right Faction will win at the 2022 Federal election, unless the ALP lurches to the Left like Corbyn has in the UK. But I may be wrong we will see after 12 December whether Corbyn is right to take a traditional 1945 British Labour election stance.

  10. wam

    The right’s standard is to share anti-climate change, anti-union, anti-women, anti-labor posts and anything that sounds good from English and republican far right. The absolute favourites is how good it is to have fox and 2gb. How trump and hanson tell it as it is. Why are we giving aid when our veterans are homeless straight from america. All with a big anti-muslim pro-white bias.,
    But the How good is labor???
    6 years ago the workers choice was albo but the pollies chose shorten Wow what a good decision. It gave rise to thousands of words here. Most of these opinions were without praise for any of shorten’s action(s).
    Such a consistent myopic approach hits again as the pollies choose a couple pollies to ‘review’. The conclusion of these baby-boomer boys fits with the expected wash of calcium hydroxide.
    There is no doubt, that Kaye Lee and couple of labor party members could have done a better job and cost nothing. Indeed listening to insiders now probyn, sadsack would have been preferable. Albo sounds good liked his franking credit story a bit late to hear it. Go Albo!!! Get lord’s message and go for the win by arming the workers with evidence to counter the lnp slogans. The top two are labor and the greens/labor and the unions. Make it LABOR.

    Anyone with a reason the Greens increased their support in every Senate race, except in the NT, where the greens are loonies,.and went from $6m to over $9m??? Narrownose and his boys are yet to thank senile boobby and his girls.

    The miracles were in the last days before the election.
    After 6 years of very average opposition performances, a virtual plethora of complex good policies were aired to the delight of the spinners and didn’t they spin.
    Emerson has just woken up that the lying rat and the rabbott won because the put the fear into the workers in the 50%below average and within days of the vote fear of job losses were headlines in every paper, on every TV station and blaring on talk back.

    Impossible to argue with Crow and Matters. as they are spot on. Perhaps they think the land is sinking but will rise when the weight of glacial ice disappears wonder if they have ever heard of ‘hope’s apparatus’ and expansion that makes water unique.

  11. paul walter

    Yes, wam. You would have thought even the village idiot could have worked out from six years of working examples what the LNP was about.

    Even the village idiot must have guessed that even Labor could have been no worse and probably a good degree better than the fascists who are now back in trying to smash what is left of a civil society.

    Stephen, they sank themselves straightaway throwing the leadership poll back in the membership’s face and the next years only reinforced the impression many of us held, especially after the Rudd sacking and revelations about NSW Labor and the brawls that followed Abbott ‘s election..can you imagine a People so STUPID as to vote for Abbott? such idealism, just like don Watson resigning as DL of Brit Labour a few weeks out from an election despite the utter horrors of tory rule ove r there.

  12. Ross Stagg

    Why oh why are we NOT stating the blindingly obvious. Capital through Rupert Murdoch owns the media. If they decide to sell the lie that Shorten is ‘shifty’ that lie is sold. Every organ of democracy has been attacked under the Coalition but especially the ABC. Now it turns out that two manipulating 20 something criminals from NZ were employed to institute meme attacks against Labor they’re currently in the UK doing the same thing to Britain’s Labor Party because they were so successful for Morrison. In my view they should be arrested just the same as Russians doing the same thing would be. The Libs knew they deserved to lose they were resigned to it. Through deception including the $60 million intervention by Clive Palmer pretending to run a political campaign for Palmer United but instead making an illegal donation to the LNP our conservatives connived a win. Labor has only a small keyhole in which to operate due to the totally corrupt and imbalanced landscape instituted by the Australian right wing headed by Murdoch and the IPA. This is the only reason that Labor must keep its messages really simple – the tiny keyhole they have is just too small to accomodate anything other than kindergarten level simplicity from them to a lazy unengaged electorate. Unless there is a way found to level the playing field in our country I see only eventual violent revolution. Morrison does too that’s why he’s already threatening people.

  13. mark delmege

    Shortie might be a great bloke and party man but out here in voterland he just didn’t inspire as in not even a ‘drovers dog’. I’d argue a better leader would have won easily. It wouldn’t have taken much to win or even win well. Shortie was charisma challenged its just a simple observable fact.
    Modern politics is three parts perception one part policy.

  14. Porking Wartneck

    I don’t believe hatred of Shorten cost the ALP the election. Or even that the ‘people’ deemed him untrustworthy. Maybe it’s the ‘people’ who are untrustworthy.
    I lived through the Whitlam years, and blind Freddy (is that still PC?) could see that the Coalition would stop at nothing to throw him out.
    Two things stand out for me from that era; Whitlam wanted to know about Pine Gap, and also wanted to ‘buy back the farm.’ Australians patently didn’t care – then – that the US was taking us for mugs, snd also didn’t care that the country’s resources were being given away.
    The only subsequent ALP governments have been neo-liberal governments; Hawke, Keating, Rudd, Gillard. All only marginally different to the Coalition.
    The Left died here in 1975. And ‘we’ don’t care much for it, I’m sorry to say. But we will, only when it’s too late.
    And it’s almost too late now.

  15. Trish Corry

    I agree Ross, they should be arrested and I also think we should have a new election. It’s foreign interference.

  16. LambsFry Simplex.

    Warty Porkneck, they are as complicit as ever, but the dumbing down has become too intense and I fear it has become too late.

    No excuses since Howard and certainly not after the last six years.

  17. John lord

    Stephengb. I do share my work on Facebook and get excellent results.

  18. Ill fares the land

    The endless commenting on the Labor Report is interesting, because it seems to me that it is an extension of a clear tendency to more or less let Morrison off-the-hook for his endless politicking, lack of meaningful policies, lies, and his more recent foray into blatant authoritarianism with his “boycott” crap, but to endlessly examine Albanese and his suitability as PM. This also happened with Shorten prior to the election. If it was Labor who were talking about a “boycott” using the Morrison terminology, the screams about how Australia is becoming a “Communist state” would be heard from the rooftops. Morrison does it and there is barely a whimper in the mainstream media but it is symptomatic of a secretive government that will brook no criticism, but is inexorably taking this country down a very slippery slope towards some very disturbing controls being put in place without any meaningful scrutiny. Perhaps Albanese is not the ideal choice for Labor leader, but surely it is enough that the vacuous, devious and deceptive Morrison leads an inept and corrupt bunch or liars and fruitcakes and as another respondent noted, probably the worst government since Federation.

    During the election campaign, every Shorten utterance was microscopically analysed and he was flogged mercilessly for the merest slip, whereas Morrison told lie after lie and all were largely ignored. He also lost the debates with Shorten, despite the disgraceful episode where he more or less “shirtfronted” Shorten, with the deliberate intention of trying to physically intimidate him and show that he is strong, whereas Shorten is weak. No doubt Shorten should have consulted more broadly in the election campaign and I recall noting early on that Labor were in trouble – it was already clear that Labor’s campaign was not proving effective and a radical shift in approach was necessary, but nothing was forthcoming, but the bias in the media’s reporting and analysis was both expected and a disgrace.

  19. David Bruce

    When I realized the Australian Government was a registered business, many of the issues associated with policies and government of the people, for the people, all disappeared.

    We no longer have a constitutional democracy as our government. We have a business franchise, hence the sale or lease of every possible Australian asset, from ports (in Darwin), airports (in Kempsey), utilities in each state (now owned by the Li family), water resources, broad-acre farming properties and political parties. Get it all done and dusted before the climate changes.

    Imagine Australia on a Monopoly Board and the Australian Government is the Banker. To me it helps to explain everything! Shorten, like Whitlam, was a threat to be neutralised.

  20. corvus boreus

    An informational addition to wam’s postscript re the relative effects on sea level rise of the influx of meltwater and effects of saltwater thermal expansion

    Extra water or more heat – what’s driving sea level rise?

    Current credible seems to put it at around 3/1 in favour of the meltwater

  21. Christine Farmer

    Like you, Porkin Wartneck, I clearly remember the Whitlam years, and the atmosphere of hope and promise of the time. Although Murdoch supported the election of Whitlam, he soon changed sides to support the LNP. He has moved further right ever since, to the point where most of his newspapers are echo chambers for the LNP and attack dogs for anything the ALP proposes. I hope some day the Dismissal will be seen for what it was: an outrage against procedure of the conduct of parliament, condoned and abetted by Kerr.

    Morrison is not the messiah. He only has a two seat majority, but it’s sold as though he has the total and enthusiastic support of the vast majority of the population. His ability to mislead, to obfuscate, to do nothing positive, to refuse to concede that we have a crisis with climate – none of this apparently shakes belief in those who shape our view of what’s happening in Australia. Much more important to legislate to try to stop protesters, and give even more power to Dutton’s department. Incredibly depressing.

  22. Pete Petrass

    I have to say from what I have seen so far I don’t think Albo is the right leader for Labor either. All we have seen from him is a lot of navel gazing, dribbling on about why they lost the election and bending over and taking it up the arse by okaying anything the Lieberals want to pass through parliament. I really think the people wanted Wong or Plibersek or even Keneally.

  23. Terence Mills

    Why is Gerard Henderson invited on to Insiders as an impartial commentator when he is not a journalist and is unable to discuss any issue without praising the Liberal Party and John Howard in particular

    But it was quite revealing to hear Henderson this morning all but admitting that the Death Taxes scare campaign run by the Liberal Party was just a red-herring to confuse and mislead older Australians on the Franking Credits issue and implying that it’s alright to tell blatant lies in election campaigns.

  24. Patagonian

    For me, one the most disappointing aspects of Labor’s campaign was the failure to describe the types of industries and jobs that would be created via a carbon-neutral economy. A vague wave of the hand and a motherhood statement about there being loads of new jobs just does not cut it.

    The vast majority of people really struggle to envisage the possibilities, and I include myself in that statement. We need specificities, programmatic or otherwise, to demonstrate that moving to a green economy is not a threat but a massive opportunity, particularly in areas where jobs are currently very thin on the ground.

  25. Spindoctor

    The lesson learned is that social media by the NZ Tory team overwhelmed apathetic voters with their 300 memes per week media attacking Bill Tax, KillBill, they’re coming fror your pensions etc. Labor was outgunned by the Murdoch 2034 day Shorten smear, unprepared for the Palmer ad blitz, and social media shockwave of memes, the party HQ was overly cautious and trying to be seen as responsible when they should have got in the gutter and attacked, directly gone for their detractors in the LNP/IPA/ Sky/Murdoch and shock Jocks. The Tory Marketers openly gave how their social media flood carried the day. Labor is still underdog because of the Murdoch monopoly and Albo/ Keneally/ Wong/ Plibersek etc hit campaign. Labor has two years to refine its strategy, go for the fights it can win even on now right wing commercial mainstream media, they are not going to miss reporting on gotchas for the openly AFP secret police using LNP, and go direct through social media and online with incisive hard hitting memes, satire, cartoons, messages that hit home to stir up voters. Labor has to turn the attack back on Scummo, go hard every time there is an opportunity. The list of corruption, stench and bribes is already massive and growing, they need timely hard hitting exposes and probes to ram it up every LNP politician and IPA/media/resources, business, banking and lib or nat quisling so public distate for the Libs sees millions of people in the streets demanding change.

  26. Lawrence S. Roberts

    When you say its an election about climate change and do not say something definitive about Adani on the first day and Keep Doctor Bob in bed you know they were not for real.
    The fact that they could not counter the LNP nonsence showed the incompetence and unsuitability for management.
    End of Story.

  27. Deidre Zanker

    Who could have countered Morrison’s lies and manipulation, IPA lies, Clive’s $60 million worth of saturation coverage lies, which corrupted the election, “electoral commission” signs near some voting booths which instructed Chinese people to vote LNP, and presumably the tax payers money spent on an Adelaide advertising and communication agency which designed Morrisons campaign slogans and strategy. How could Bill or anyone else fight that freight train?

  28. Wat Tyler

    Terence Mills

    This morning, early, NewsRadio had an item about the ALP’s navel-gazing. Two people were asked for their opinion, one being Erich Effing Abetz.
    Every sodding political item on any ABC outlet has Liberal spokesperson and/or someone from the Australian.
    I used to be addicted to The Insiders. Haven’t watched it since the election.
    People who leach hope out of the ‘they only have a 2-seat majority’ vibe quite wilfully overlook that ALL crossbenchers apart from Wilkie and the Green are Liberals who only stood as Independents because the Libs rejected them when pre-selecting.
    This country is Blue, and Albo is not up to changing it.
    Get used to it.

  29. Phil

    Shorten X Franking Credits X Shock Jocks X ABC X SKY = LABOR LOSS. Simple really.

    The Labor rank and file warned/told the Party Shorten was untrusted for nearly his whole tenure as leader but, what do all those office cleaners and other working stiffs know about that? And now, it’s full steam ahead into another disaster with Albananese.

  30. Wayne Turner

    The public are the problem. The average person is an ignorant gullible moron. Easily manipulated and conned by the LYING coalition,and their MSM. That’s when they bother to pay attention.

    Our mediaocracy aka media is owned by too few. Pro the coalition,and anti Labor.

    Good luck combating that. The Main Stream Media, Palmer, and a mainly idiotic public caused the coalition to win.

  31. Sean Crawley

    There’s a whole shitload of reasons why Labor lost, many discussed above. But on the topic of Bill Shorten’s popularity it seems that the Labor review hasn’t even asked the question: why was he unpopular? I don’t think popularity should be a factor in an election, but unfortunately it is. So shouldn’t we be asking how come he was so unpopular?

    If you ask me, the electorate is sick and tired of hearing politicians talking to a script. Some do it better than others, but Bill was hopeless at it. He is not a good actor. When he spoke candidly he was much more likeable. The electorate are thirsty for pollies who speak their minds.

  32. Kaye Lee


    I agree. Talking points should be blown up. The repetition of phrases by multiple politicians is mind-numbing. A politician should know the topic well enough that they can answer a question. If they don’t know the answer, they should be honest enough to say so.

    Bill was much better unscripted. Actually, so is Albo. His prepared pressers where he says a phrase, pause, phrase, pause, phrase pause, drive me bonkers. That’s not how people speak when they are being honest. It’s how they speak when they are carefully delivering a script.

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