November 30th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Can we put the 'care' back into aged care?

EDITORIAL Bushfires: One step forwards, one step backwards

ENVIRONMENTALISM Activists and courts give sharks the last laugh

CANBERRA OBSERVED ALP's self-examination will entice no one back

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Cardinal Pell's appeal to go to the High Court

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Deaths after Fukushima due to excessive caution

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Geopolitics, oligarchs and the Moldova miracle

ENVIRONMENT Into the unknown: Should we prepare for climate change or climate variability?

LAW AND SOCIETY Crime and punishment: Are we de-civilising?

WATER POLICY Drought relief still leaves too much water going to waste

ASIAN AFFAIRS Destination Oz: Flood of Hong Kong emigres may restart

HUMOUR MacStuttles, me ol' China

MUSIC Subliminal workhorse: An art takes the backseat

CINEMA Dr Sleep: Kubrick 'shined' from his rest

BOOK REVIEW Science and religion, with mutual respect

BOOK REVIEW A borrowed term for a socialist recipe



FOREIGN AFFAIRS Hong Kong voters reject Beijing and its proxies

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ALP's self-examination will entice no one back

by NW Contributor

News Weekly, November 30, 2019

At the last federal election, the Australian Labor Party took to the people the most radical policy platform since Gough Whitlam’s in 1972 amid the near-certainty of its frontbenchers that they would be in government to implement those policies.

Left: Labor’s policy model; right; Schematic of how to fix and explain it.

Like Jeremy Corbyn’s neo-Marxist Labour in the United Kingdom and the zany Democrats in the United States, who try to outdo each other in taking down the wealthy, Labor went for bold change, but was rejected by the people.

And amid the ashes of that shattered dream, the ALP has been trying to find a new way forward.

The review into Labor’s election performance, conducted by elder party statesmen Jay Weatherill and Craig Emerson, raised a lot of causes of the rejection, ranging from lack of strategy, to a cluttered policy agenda, to poor messaging, to alienating Christians and Chinese Australians.

But this review was far from the fundamental root-and-branch rethink for the party that was needed.

Writing in The Australian newspaper, author Nick Dyrenfurth says Labor still does not get it.

“Federal Labor is at a tipping point, facing an existential crisis three decades in the making; its primary vote has landed between 33 and 34 per cent three elections in a row,” Dyrenfurth says.

“These results are effectively its worst since 1906, when Labor was only 15 years old and politics was a three-cornered, not a two-cornered, fight.

“Labor doesn’t have a minute to waste; not a word to waste.”

Dyrenfurth is the author of Getting the Blues: The Future of Australian Labor, which looks at the Labor Party’s recent poor track record and asks fundamental questions about the party’s identity.

“The ALP election review scolded the party for its ‘complex’ and ‘cluttered’ policy offerings in several places then produced 60 findings and another 26 complex recommendations. This was precisely the problem with Labor’s campaign,” Dyrenfurth says.

It has been the party’s major problem for decades: the review is designed to be all things to all people, to tick “progressive” boxes and to say “correct” things.

The post-election debate has largely been about the extent to which Bill Shorten is to blame for the election loss. It was not really about policies other than the fact that nobody understood its franking credits policy, which enabled the Coalition to mount a massive scare campaign.

Yet Labor had more resources on the ground than the Coalition had. It had the foot soldiers and the campaign skills of the union movement but still did not win.

The truth is that Labor has been suffering an identity crisis for a few decades, living off its supporter of the worker image (to retain the working-class vote) but otherwise embracing the views and ideologies of the inner-city progressives.

The consequences are massive because, as each election passes, small business, tradies, and now even working-class voters are siding with the Coalition or other conservative-type parties because they cannot abide Labor’s disdain for and rejection of their values.

Most Australians want to work hard to get ahead and build a better life for their children and grandchildren. They want government out of their lives, and they value freedom. This may or may not involve sending their children to a Christian school. A large proportion of migrant families are even more conservative in their values system than people who have lived here for generations.

Just on economics we have the left’s Anthony Albanese moving towards a pro-growth economic policy, arguing for increased government spending on infrastructure to drive the economy harder.

Labor has gone from a full-frontal attack on the “big end of town” and a massive redistribution of wealth through higher taxes, to a jobs and growth policy. The policy capitulation is extraordinary.

But not everyone in the Labor Party agrees, including – and especially – Bill Shorten.

Mr Shorten has told the Labor Party in Victoria the Opposition has to “fight” every day until the next election and that “you can’t fatten a pig on market day”. In other words, no “small target” strategy and don’t simply emulate the Coalition’s economic policies.

In reality, Labor needs to spend a lot more time examining its fundamentals as a party in the modern era. Its record over the past few decades, with the exception of the Hawke-Keating era, has been abysmal.

Labor might indeed be competitive at the next election without that self-examination, and may even be a chance to win, but it will be up against a ruthless opponent in Scott Morrison, whose sole aim is to keep one step ahead of his opponents at any cost.

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Last Modified:
April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm