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Labor lost the campaign but won the election.

Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor announcing their support for Labor They are not the change we need

This means that our campaign was hardly a stellar effort. But despite that, despite the concerted effort by the Murdoch Press, despite the leaks, Labor has won the election.

Now Labor has formed a minority government with the support of the independents Wilkie, Oakeshott and Windsor, it’s time to consider what progressive Labor supporters can do to make sure we don’t lose the next election.

Labor has to win the battle of ideas.

I am immensely proud of Labor in Government.

  • Labor ratified Kyoto and recognised climate change as the greatest threat to Australian and global society.
  • Labor apologised to the Stolen Generation and the Forgotten Generation and committed to closing the gap.
  • Labor abolished WorkChoices and introduced progressive workplace laws.
  • Labor made unparralled investment in our schools and hospitals.
  • Labor saved Australia from the Global Financial Crisis and kept tens of thousands of Australians in productive work.
  • Labor massively increased funding for higher education, indexed funding and abolished fee-paying undergraduate degress.
  • Labor increased our renewable energy target and has increased funding for renewable energy technology and public transport.
  • Labor created the National Broadband Network that will future proof our economy for generations.
  • And much more beside.

Labor came into power at the end of a boom and oversaw the country when global fortuned turned down and almost every industrialised country went into recession. Kevin Rudd, Wayne Swan, Julia Gillard and Lindsay Tanner took some difficult, brave and necessary decisions. These were the righ decisions.

The Labor campaign saw some impressive successes – winning some seats against the odds (like Corangamite, Deakin and La Trobe), increasing margins in some seats and holding on by very narrow margins in others.

It also also likely that, in our preferential system, Labor won the two-party preferred vote.

However, we lost the campaign.

We experienced a 5.4% swing against Labor. This is considerable, and appears to come from all stratum of Labor’s support base. The Liberals only picked up a 1.4% swing – with the majority of Labor’s support going to the Greens political party. A 5.4% swing against Labor cannot be regarded as a success, even if we are now forming Government.

We lost because of two reasons.

We lost the ability to communicate with Australians, and we appeared to squib on climate change.

In 2007, Labor was elected – in part – because of the perception that we would being about chance on a range of issues including climate change.

Our inability to articulate what the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme would mean for the average punter – combined with the failure (in part of the Greens’ party’s fault) to get the CPRS through the Senate was a major blow to Labor.

We couldn’t communicate about the ceiling insulation scheme, or the building the education revolution, or the CPRS, or the economy.

We weren’t proud enough of our record. We were too cautious and hesitant – too scared of The Australian, the Telegraph and the Courier Mail.

At the end, we did not symbolise openness, transparency and accountability – and the circumstances of Gillard’s ascension exacerbated this perception.

We forgot about the idealism that sits at the core of Labor. Labor politics was seen as a game, not a calling.

How can we win the next campaign (and election)?

We must reconnect our party with our values, our ideals and our voters. Politics without values is pointless, and ultimately fruitless.

We need to renew our ideas, policies and ideology. Labor must be a strong reforming government, and we should champion bold visions of a better Australia.

We must renew our party. The election showed that our campaign machine struggles without the community fueling it.

Finally, we must hold each other, and the Opposition accountable. There must be no blood bath, no whispering campaigns, no leadership challenges. We need to challenge the outrageous and wild claims of the Liberal Party and their propaganda pieces, The Australian, et al.

Labor must become again a living breathing movement, not just an election winning machine.

Labor in Government deserved to be re-elected, and the independents made the best choice for Australia’s future.

4 responses to “The change we need”

  1. JoshC Avatar

    Good piece Alex, but it's Oakeshott – shame on you. We should all know the names of our new overlords.

    I especially agree that the Gov was too hesitant in blowing it's own horn and I think reticent in putting together a real vision.

  2. Alexander White Avatar

    Thanks Josh – I've corrected the typo.

  3. Rowan Avatar

    Communication is the war that was lost. Not many 'ordinary' people know the MSM is extremely biased. I had to educate my parents but they now look out for it and recognise it. I think many people are starting to wake up on their own, but I have been telling anyone and everyone the same thing in the hopes of getting them to judge for themselves.

    I saw a car sticker this morning on the way to work—Is it true, or did you read it in The Courier Mail?

    BTW, grammar error, strata is the plural of stratum….

    1. Alexander White Avatar

      I agree about the communication. It's widely said that Labor (and Rudd) lost the ability to communicate. The conscious decision by News Ltd papers to run smear campaigns against Labor on BER and ceiling insulation was also a factor in this, but I think there were some strategic factors from Labor's side.

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