Party can’t become ‘a grievance-focused organisation’


“Labor cannot abandon its commitment to social justice but it must reconnect with low-income voters in the outer suburbs and regions,” said the report by former South Australian premier Jay Weatherill and former federal cabinet minister Craig Emerson.

Craig Emerson and Jay Weatherill released their review of Labor’s federal election campaign on Thursday.Credit:AAP

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

“Careful attention needs to be paid to the use of language which speaks to people Labor has alienated.”

The review clears the way for a complete rethink of mammoth tax revenue increases from franking credits and negative gearing, as well as a new approach to personal income tax cuts for workers on higher incomes.

While the review did not identify any single policy as a decisive factor in the defeat, it recommends Mr Albanese and his colleagues scale back their agenda to assuage voters worried about the “risk” of the combined policies.

The report relied on detailed study of the election result to warn that Labor suffered swings against it from Christians, coal mining communities, Chinese Australians, Queenslanders and younger voters in outer suburbs.

In an alarming finding for the future, the analysis found voters in the 25 to 34 age group swung against Labor by 4 per cent.

As well as urging the party to regain support from traditional voters, it warned against relying too heavily on political constituencies interested in gender equality, racial equality or the environment.

“Care needs to be taken to avoid Labor becoming a grievance-focused organisation.

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“This approach leads to a culture of moving from one issue to the next, leading to the formulation of myriad policies that respond to a broad range of grievances.”

Over 92 pages, the report lists strategic and tactical blunders during the election campaign including a complacency that allowed the party to be overtaken by the Coalition on digital campaigns and the use of social media, a field Labor dominated at the 2016 election.

“Labor’s campaign lacked a culture and structure that encouraged dialogue and challenge, which led to the dismissal of warnings from within the party about the campaign’s direction,” it said.

Labor caucus members welcomed the report, with some praising it as the best of its kind, but the findings sparked criticism from those loyal to Mr Shorten.

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While the report said the party had no formal campaign committee to fight the election, others said there was a committee structure in place and it was wrong to attribute so much of the defeat to Mr Shorten when the wider leadership team shared responsibility for the policies.

Mr Shorten conceded in a statement that he should have campaigned with “fewer messages” and taken a different approach on franking credits, the tax reform that infuriated older Australians who stood to lose thousands of dollars.

“Were the universe to grant re-runs, I would campaign with fewer messages, more greatly emphasise the jobs opportunities in renewable energies, and take a different position on franking credits,” Mr Shorten said.

“In 2018 I presided over a bigger tax cut plan than the Liberals for ten million working Australians but I concede, with hindsight, when they matched ours we should have gone bigger again.

“I’m personally committed to continue contributing in public life, serving my constituents, the people of Australia – including people with disabilities and the vulnerable – for the next 20 years.”

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The statement about the next 20 years answers those who questioned whether Mr Shorten would stay in Parliament after he relinquished the leadership and was replaced by Anthony Albanese.

Mr Shorten did not say how he would have adjusted the franking credits policy but his comments are another sign the proposal to raise $56 billion in tax revenue over ten years will be heavily amended or dropped.

Former Labor treasury spokesman Chris Bowen, who now holds the health portfolio, also acknowledged the need to review the franking credits policy.

“I had a view that it was ripe for reform, but I also have the view that you fight the 2022 election not the 2019 election, so that’s something that will need to be dealt with. There are all sorts of options available,” Mr Bowen said.

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