The Canberra bubble and Paul Kelly is determined to end Labor:
The Labor Party now resembles two rival constituencies fighting each other — their origins embedded in the party’s past and its future — a conflict that extinguished Labor’s hopes at the May election and a chasm that nobody knows how to bridge.
This week the 91-page review of Labor’s 2019 election loss chaired by former minister Craig Emerson and former South Australian premier Jay Weatherill offered a devastating assessment of Labor’s campaign blunders under Bill Shorten, but the report was almost devoid of any solution to Labor’s crisis of competing identities.
In the end the report backed the Labor status quo. It confirmed Labor as a permanent party of dual identities. It believes Labor has no option but to remain a champion of progressivism, the tertiary-educated, high-income cosmopolitans focused on climate change, social justice, inclusion and, increasingly, identity politics while it argues that Labor’s great challenge is to rediscover and win back its traditional, lower-income workers in the suburbs and the regions.
Anthony Albanese and his frontbench share the same conclusion. They embrace the review’s bedrock assumptions. The task Albanese and the Emerson-Weatherill review have set Labor is heroic: it must reconcile the cultural tension — certain to intensify — between urban, well-off, self-righteous progressives and the alienated, more socially conservative workers facing poorer incomes and weaker services.
Albanese said on Friday he aimed to change “the culture of our party” by restoring trust, respect and aspiration as Labor virtues. He wants core changes to the policy agenda and platform. He has defined a timetable for renewal and outlined the policy principles that will define Labor under his leadership: jobs and the economy, a fair Australia, infrastructure, climate change action and national security. The pivotal questions for Albanese are: what are the cultural changes he envisages and is he capable of integrating the rival constituencies that now define the ALP?
This is a test most social democratic parties around the world have failed. The key to grasping Labor’s dilemma lies in the difference between tactics and identity. The Emerson-Weatherill review is about as frank as any published critique can be of a party’s election loss. It is lethal on the 2019 campaign blunders and the failure of Shorten as leader, with strong messages on how Labor must rethink its tactics, policies and organisation.
The Labor review was not honest. The ONLY thing that mattered in the loss was the QLD wipeout. Holding six of 30 seats in the third largest state leaves Labor without hope. It held 19 of 30 under Rudd. That is a swing of 26 seats. I mean, come on.
Labor MUST recapture at least five QLD seats for it to govern. Yet, bizarrely, the review offered only a couple of sentences on it.
Kelly’s analysis is right to the extent that QLD represents the working class branch of the two Labor indentities in tension. But he is completely wrong that it is diffuclt to address. QLD has not swung to the Coalition but to nationalist fringe parties that preference the Coalition. Ipos facto Labor must outbid the Coalition on nationlaist politics. Der.
This is not some terrible outcome that burns to the ground everything that Labor stands for. On the contray, nationalist politics has a strong Labor tradition. Nor does it necessistate giving up on climate change, multiculturalism or other equity issues that drive Labor’s progressive wing. You simply:
- have a popualtion policy that halves immigration below 100k (and cuts temporaries), still massively generous, to manage house prices, debottlencek cities and take pressure off wages;
- manage climate change with a very clear eye on the QLD coal district losers with big stimulus and transition policy;
- shift rhetoric away from an obsession with lifestyle fairness to economic fairness and national interest.
You’ll lose a few votes to the Greens but so what? Those preferences will flow back anyway. They’re not going to go to Fuhrer ScoMo.
Nordic progressive parties already did it and won in landslides, via Nicholas Reece, principal fellow at the University of Melbourne and is a former Secretary of the Australian Labor Party in Victoria:
After years in the political wilderness, the last 12 months has seen centre-left political parties win elections in Denmark, Sweden and Finland through a combination of attention-grabbing policies and shrewd political strategy.
The Nordic democracies have long been a source of public policy inspiration for social democrats in Australia. But as the Australian Labor Party picks up the pieces after its shock election loss in May, it should study both the policies and politics of the centre-left parties in the land of the Vikings.
I had the opportunity to meet with General Secretary of the Danish Social Democrats Jan Juul Christensen in Copenhagen this month, who outlined how his party charted its return to power at the June election. As the architects of Denmark’s cherished ‘cradle to grave’ social welfare system, the Social Democrats wanted the election to be fought on their policy strength. “We wanted to make this a welfare election, to overturn the years of austerity and make the welfare of the Danish people the top priority again,” Christensen said.
To do this the Social Democrats first needed to neutralise the immigration debate that had caused their working-class voter base to desert them for a conservative anti-immigration party not dissimilar to Australia’s One Nation party.
In 2018 – citing the need to protect the Danish welfare system – the Social Democrats adopted many of the hardline positions of the then-conservative government on immigration and refugee policy. According to Christensen, the policy shift was challenging for the party but allowed it to move onto its policy strengths – and this is where the creative new policies came to the fore.
The Social Democrats committed to new spending on health care and education, but the policy that really captured public imagination and brought home the political bacon was a new retirement plan.
…A third important component to the Social Democrats’ policy agenda centred on environmental policy with the 2018 European heatwave making climate change a priority issue.
The party responded with a promise to “make Denmark a green superpower again”. Framing the debate around national pride, the party committed to ambitious emission cuts. Job creation and industry development was central to the policy, with a doubling in green research to support new cleantech industries and a pledge to build three massive offshore wind farms creating thousands of local manufacturing jobs.
It’s bloody simple. Get on with it.