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Two Futures: New options for an innovative Australian social market

Denis Bright considers the significance of Two Futures in helping to revive the leadership profile of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) as a bastion of long-term, innovative centre-left public policy. Federal Labor members, Clare O’Neil from the electorate of Hotham and Tim Watts in Gellibrand talk up Labor’s renewal strategies for changing times at home and abroad. These authors foster public policy renewal though social market approaches with the authority of extensive research from the academic mainstream.

Two Futures raises the profile of new progressive foundations for Australian public policy. Its goal is development of achievable policy pathways towards a more innovative, environmentally aware and socially just Australia.

Co-authored by two federal representatives from Labor heartland electorates in Melbourne, Two Futures is written with a passion for change. It draws on combined youthful perspectives and academic excellence from both Australian and overseas universities.

Both authors joined the federal Labor caucus after the 2013 elections. They easily survived a sharp decline in Labor’s primary vote to win their seats after the distribution of Green preferences.

Both members are seeking a new profile for the Labor Party in its heartland electorates as well as in the twenty-five seats and senate spots which are needed to achieve a workable majority in 2016.

Both authors are prepared to canvass the possibility that the long phase of completely market based public policies may not be a permanent feature of Australian politics.

The authors warn that Australians face a stark choice between the current limitations of exclusively market based development strategies and alternative social market approaches.

Such changes in policy direction are a big ask for both the ALP and the wider community.

Even in Labor’s heartland seats, the voting trends carry some embedded warnings that conventional political wisdom does not always work well for Labor.

Reading the feedback from Election 2013

In Tim Watt’s own electorate of Gellibrand, Labor’s primary vote was reduced almost 13% in 2013. Labor’s current vote of 67% after preferences was built up largely from the distribution of Green preferences which accounted for almost 17% of the primary vote.

In the nearby seat of Melbourne, the demise of the ALP primary vote was sufficient to elect Adam Bandt as the Green representative on LNP preferences.

In Melbourne’s south east in Hotham, Clare O’Neil easily won her seat on Green preferences with a two party preferred vote of 57.3%.

As recently as 2007, Gellibrand could deliver a final vote of 71.5% to Labor from an extraordinary primary vote of 60.2%,

In Hotham, Labor’s two party preferred vote reached 73% in the same year.

The erosion of Labor’s primary vote since 2007 in both seats is repeated in many seats across Australia. The decline in Labor’s primary vote has big implications for the balance of power in the senate.

Labor gained only two senate spots at the 2013 elections in four states. It was reduced to one new senator in WA and an ongoing senator in SA.

Clearly, federal Labor must improve its profile against the rise of senators from minor parties and the Greens.

Two Futures is about fostering a new strategic profile for federal Labor.

Essential Strategies for Political Change

To re-capture a greater share of the middle ground in Australian politics, Two Futures offers a timely commitment to policy renewal in the ALP.

After noting the hazards of long-term political forecasting, the authors offer a pragmatic New Left perspective on policy renewal.

The real political prize is the possibility that Australia can regain its position as an innovative social laboratory with a capacity for both economic development and peace-building across the wider Asia-Pacific Region.

This is impossible under the ideological vision of Prime Minister Tony Abbott. The LNP is quietly comfortable with a growing income divide in society, the slow pace of infrastructure commitment, the secondary role for sustainable environmental management and appalling u-turns in commitments to disability insurance.

Ironically, the government of Prime Minister Gillard had a quite innovative approach to these commitments but only the reinstatement of Prime Minister Rudd prevented political annihilation in 2013.

Remarkable public policy initiatives in 2013 were drowned out by the effective use of populist concerns about the value of a more market-driven Australian society and the existence of contrived threats to national security from asylum-seekers and global terrorism.

Dean Alston’s cartoon from The West Australian summed up Prime Minister Gillard’s communication dilemmas when she announced the election date seven months before the actual event.

This voter backlash against federal Labor in 2013 was often strongest in Labor heartland communities, at least outside Kevin Rudd’s sphere of political influence.

Key Labor seats which resisted the national trends can still provide impressive campaign case studies for the 2016 elections.

Ironically, Labor had blessed its heartland booths with family income support, environmental initiatives and commitment to community infrastructure.

The longer-term challenges

Despite some heroic resistance in 2013, political change is difficult to achieve. Generations of daily news releases from the LNP about the benefits of market oriented development and greater dependence on the US alliance for security are classic communication mantras which are being successfully applied in most representative democracies.

The repetitive communication strategies make alternative scenarios seem complex even if they come from the academic mainstream.

The triumph of centre-right conservatism is repeated internationally in most developed representative democracies such as the UK and Canada.

Instead of just coming to terms with prevailing political realities, the authors use their excellent academic qualifications and professional experience to attempt to humanize capitalism through social market strategies based on commitment to technological innovation, affordable education, tackling climate change and building essential infrastructure.

Two Futures calls for responsible carbon emission control measures to be embedded in a more convincing alternative economic agenda.

Little mention is made of the dangerous headwinds associated with global financial volatility which have afflicted global markets again in August 2015.

A higher profile financial sector compatible with the requirements of a globalized economy might in fact assist in protecting Australian from this ongoing financial instability.

The McKinsey Global Institute, where Claire O’Neil worked as a consultant, is one of the most steadfast defenders of alternative approaches to pragmatic public policy in an unstable global economy which does not run according to the old LNP mantras.

Relying on the market as the main mechanism for the delivery of new public policy agendas, is somewhat pointless in the context of the global market failures which have occurred since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC).


Partial Recovery in Global Capital Flows since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) McKinsey Institute 2012 (See for ongoing research updates and commentaries)

Commendable too, are the authors’ challenges to conventional security based defence and foreign policy commitments.

Many international security dilemmas are clearly embedded in an over-commitment to economic globalization as a cure-all solution for every development challenge abroad.

The prophetic statement that Canberra must share foreign policy leadership with Washington, Beijing, New Delhi, Jakarta, Hanoi, Seoul and Tokyo has patriotic resonance.

In keeping with political conventions in Australia, the authors steer away from saying too much about the specifics of our place in the global economy and the related security concerns associated with keeping the world safe for global capitalism.

A newer generation of Australian leaders will ultimately have to face the challenges of security problems arising from a gun-ho commitment to a bland model of economic globalization when alternatives do exist through social market approaches.

Towards a new national consensus

The synopsis of Australian political life concludes with two stark realities. There is the possibility of life in an ailing democracy that is kept in control by political elites through the use of populist rhetoric and fear strategies. The alternative is an optimistic, vibrant society that cherishes political participation and innovation.

The authors conclude:

These are our two futures. They are bookends: our most likely future sits somewhere between them, depending on what we, as a nation, choose to do. The choice— we hope you realise— is yours.

By implication if the future is with us, the authors need not be too prescriptive about the strategies to attain the better of the Two Futures.

denis bright Denis Bright (pictured) is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). He has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations.




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  1. susan

    Labor has done an extensive post mortem on its loss to Abbott but still seems short on good strategy for 2016. I think they need to target some of the newer ethnic migrant communities who don’t understand or trust our electoral system. Their default vote seems to go to the LNP. Another issue that needs attention is the Labor versus Green thing. Attacking the Greens doesn’t do Labor any favours.

  2. Harquebus

    Another namby pamby dreamer article with nothing based on fact nor in reality. It is just two more politicians trying to ensure their political future and willing to say anything to do it.

    This following radio show is more like what we need to hear.
    FUKUSHIMA & DEPOPULATION in the Age of Fission
    h ttps://

  3. Matters not

    Harquebus claimed:

    Another namby pamby dreamer article with nothing based on fact nor in reality

    Harquebus, having read your claim I am reminded of Voltaire’s ‘insight’ that before a serious discourse can proceed the proponent should define their ‘terms’. Accordingly, Harquebus could you define ‘fact’ and ‘reality’.

    Not that I am asking you to do so in terms of ‘necessary’ and sufficient’ conditions but perhaps a view on what constitutes a ‘fact’ and what constitutes ‘reality’.

    Further, given that ‘facts’ are almost infinite in number, how do you choose some ‘facts’ and ignore, or at least give much lesser value to other facts. And why.

    As for ‘reality’, and how it is or might be constructed might be one step too far at this point.

    Over to you.

  4. Harquebus

    Matters not
    Did you listen to the link that I posted. My money says that you didn’t.
    Back to you.

  5. Matters Not

    Harquebus, you made a claim. I didn’t. All I am asking is that you explain or, at least, expand on your claim(s).

    Should be so simple for a ‘futurist’ such as yourself.

    Or haven’t you engaged with how you ‘view’ the world and why? You know, the ‘assumptions’ you make, the ‘facts’ you select (and those you ignore), the ‘methodology’ you employ to identify same and then the ‘meaning(s)’ you finally attribute to those selected facts. If not then why not?

    And I don’t think that such a ‘link’ would suffice or even be available.

    As for listening to your ‘link’, you are correct. I didn’t.

    Talk about an intellectuall light weight.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    Just jokin …

  6. Limerick Ryan

    A well-timed commitment to the social market as global financial markets are in retreat again: Fortunately these younger federal members in Australia have the integrity to demand some alternative approaches

  7. MBA Student

    Like the co-authors mentioned in this article, I am a big fan of the McKinsey Institute and its outstanding papers which are available to everyone online. Unlike Tony Abbott, McKinsey is not an advocate of resurgent global capitalism

  8. brisbanej

    An interesting article.

  9. Harquebus

    Matters Not
    The global economy has begun its free fall as I have saying it will, the Pacific Ocean is being killed with radiation and now, the methane monster that I and others have been warning about has begun.
    With the death of mankind staring us in the face, the author of this article has no idea what is happening and the neither do the two politicians in it who are trying to save their seats.
    Whatever future they imagine just isn’t going to happen.

    “These Methane releases are what Hansen warned of as the Clathrate Gun, or in other words the tipping points have tipped.”

    I am totally sick to death of watching our world disintegrate faster and faster so that now, it is probably unstoppable while a bunch of know nothings who think that they have the answers to everything bang on about the sort of rubbish that this article represents.

    How do we survive the near future?

    “development of achievable policy pathways towards a more innovative, environmentally aware and socially just Australia.” Ha! We will soon see just how caring and socially just Australian’s really are.

  10. Matters Not

    Yes Harquebus. I think you’re ‘spot on’. But stay calm. Please.

    BTW, I am now walking slowly backwards, but keeping my eyes on you.

    As an aside, I note that you refuse to ‘engage’ when it comes to any form of what might be called ‘intellectual’ discussion.

    Perhaps it’s already too late and at so many levels.

  11. Harquebus

    Matters Not
    You asked me to expand. I think I’ve done that.
    You do not read, listen nor watch anything that I post. Any discussion I would only be repeating the information that I have already provided.

  12. Need Some More Inspiration

    Thanks to Claire and Tim for inspiring the electorate again on behalf of the Labor Party.

    The Labor Party used to be more progressive with leaders like Dr Jim Cairns leading thousands of activists down Bourke Street to protest against the excesses of the Vietnam War.

    As the global share markets totter again this morning, Australians want a well thought out economic agenda that protects Australians from this market instability through a more robust local financial sector and variations of the Future Fund which mobilise capital for infrastructure investment.

    A Labor Party that supports more global capitalism! Is that really inspirational?

    Appreciations to the authors and to Denis Bright for his article.

  13. Kaye Lee


    I too cannot understand why the future fund is not being used to fund infrastructure and health. As of March 31, there was $117 billion in the fund which was supposedly set up to “ease the pressures on the budget of an aging population”.

    At 31 March 2015 the value of the Education Investment Fund was A$3.73bn, the Building Australia Fund stood at $3.59bn, the Health and Hospitals Fund stood at $1.78bn, and the DisabilityCare Australia Fund was A$1.67bn. Now might be a good time to start using some of that money rather than hatching it.

  14. Kyran

    It is interesting to note the situation in England with the rise of the Jeremy Corbyn phenomena. From what I have read of his platform, he advocates a return to the core Labour values, for which he is receiving popular grass roots support. The blow back has been extreme, with Blair being one of the most vocal (and vitriolic) critics. Unsurprisingly, the remnants of Newscorpse are giving him a ‘bollocking’.

    “There is the possibility of life in an ailing democracy that is kept in control by political elites through the use of populist rhetoric and fear strategies. The alternative is an optimistic, vibrant society that cherishes political participation and innovation”.

    ‘Occupy’, ‘Arab spring’ and other movements are examples of a real desire for political participation. They seem to have underestimated the savagery of the political (and corporate) elites in protecting their turf. The Gettysburg sentiment, ‘of the people, for the people, by the people’ seems a bridge too far. Unless the current translation of ‘people’ is ‘business’.
    Thank you Mr Bright. Take care

  15. Kaye Lee

    “Government of the people, by the powerbrokers, for the mates”. – Ted Mack

  16. Kyran

    The conundrum, Ms Lee, (in my opinion) is the aspiration. The brutal truth of Mack is not impervious to the observation of George Bernard Shaw,
    You see things; and you say “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say “Why not?”
    Robert Kennedy used it well. Whilst I suspect my cynicism will outweigh yours, I (still) have a dream. Thank you, Martin Luther King. It is such a pity that these decades old aspirations have been extinguished by the sanctity of cronyism.
    Take care

  17. Patricia Ryan

    A very relevant interpretation for these times Denis. Joe Hockey still believes the global economy is an ethical market whose dictates need to be respected. I respect the up and coming leaders who understands that the current volatility in the global economy is just a bizarre form of Casino Capitalism. Let’s have some more alternatives from our leaders!

  18. Teresa

    Two futures is a timely publication. Recent reports from Price Waterhouse Cooper show that young Australian’s can no longer rely on the market for job security or housing / rental affordability. Young people will flock back to a rejuvenated Labor Party if it can communicate with the courage and enthusiasm of Claire O’Neil and Tim Watts. Thanks to Denis Bright for bringing this to my attention.

  19. Pablo

    A very interesting and thought provoking article. Thanks to the Author for putting the time in so that we can stop and think about the future we want.

    Sustainable longterm public policy is needed from all parties. To move the debate away from this with short term petty political distractions certainly does not assist the Australian people or our planet! We need all parties to come onboard and raise the level of debate to a mature and respectful level. We must consider the short term and long term implications (beyond the next hundred years) of actions through diligent and expert research not just whether it will get a particular party in at the next election.

    I hope the authors of Two Futures advocate for change within their party but I also hope that they can work collaboratively with the other parties to take them on the journey. How can people expect parties to adopt sustainable long term policy, if we don’t advocate for it.

    All parties need to have more faith in the Australian people and explain “Why” they consider things should be done a particular way – Fear campaigns do nothing but underestimate the population ability for a mature debate.

    Each party should review what values they want to stand for and the culture within their parties, and then propose policy in line with those frameworks. If they don’t and their values, culture and policy don’t align, how can their approach be considered reliable, made in good faith or sustainable.

    Let’s keep upbeat about things – the future can be great, if we all respect one another and consider the interest of the wider collective at the same time as looking after ourselves. It does not have to be one or the other.

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