Australian Labor Party, Australian Politics, Election, leadership, Uncategorized

Week Three: The ALP Leadership Debate

Now, I know that the main premise of this blog is to examine the Abbott Government one glass of wine at a time, but even I am particularly intrigued about recent developments within the ALP. The most notable has been the decision by The All Knowing and Omnipotent God, I mean, Kevin Rudd, to allow the members a say in who will be the next ALP leader. It’s a format that also works particularly well for Australia’s Got Talent. Essentially, 50% of the caucus gets a say, with the remaining 50% going to a vote with the members. If there is still no leader, Bill Shorten’s head explodes and the universe as we know it ceases to exist.

Fairly easy to understand methinks. If you’re lost, you probably should refer to the ALP rule book, because let’s face it, no one really knows what’s going on.

The two players in this Shakespearean tragedy are Anthony Albanese – or Albo to his mates, and Bill Shorten – or just Bill Shorten to everyone else. The apex of the drama unraveled on Tuesday night at the ALP leadership debate held at the University of Technology. The debate allowed questions from the floor and gave the members a unique insight into the policy differences between Albo and Shorten. After an hour later, it turns out the policy differences are fairly minor. It also turns out one shouldn’t watch too much politics on a romantic holiday away with the missus, or else someone gets a little cranky.

Anyway, this is a long post, so get comfortable …

The Opening Address

Bill Shorten kicked off the debate with a stirring opening address. He commenced by discussing the impressive (his words, not mine) history of the ALP. As leader, he wants to make the ALP relevant to Australians by making sure it’s a party that stands up to improving the quality of life for its citizens.  The party needs to bring in fresh blood, rather than rely on the true believers to turn around the fate of the party. Shorten also ripped off – I mean, drew on the material of former PM Whitlam, who emphasizes the importance of the three Ps – Party first, Policies second and then the People. Essentially this means that the party needs time to reconstruct, formulate a vision for Australia and eventually this will be communicated to the broader community. Shorten believes that in order to win the next election, they must be an effective opposition in parliament. However, unlike a certain opposition leader they weren’t keen on, the ALP must stay positive about their vision of society and be the party of ideas.

Shorten’s address seemed to learn from the ALP’s previous experiences in opposition after the 1996 election. During that time, it seemed that Beazley, Latham and even Rudd to an extent wanted to distance themselves away from what I consider to be a proud period of reform under Hawke and Keating. His speech was focused remembering the Rudd / Gillard / Rudd legacy and reflecting on their impressive contribution to Australia. (NB: backstabbing not included).

His opening address concluded with something of a PSA – that the ALP needed to be the collective voice of the vulnerable and the voiceless, which is undoubtedly a powerful sentiment in light of Abbott’s proposed cuts and suspiciously all male cabinet.

Albanese’s opening address revisited many of the themes touched on by Shorten.  There was so much emotional and respectful touching going on. I was expecting the two of them to burst out into an open bro hug, saying to one another “No, you be leader Shorten”, “No Anthony, you would be a great leader”. Albo was impressed with the revamped energy within the ALP, saying that he couldn’t believe that this was the state of the party after loosing the election. I think that has a lot to do with seeing a whole lot less of Kevin Rudd, who has a remarkable ability to sap the life source out of anyone really. Albo’s view of the ALP is that it’s a party that needs to be united and focus on becoming a better and fairer country in the future. Typical lefty stuff really. He also discussed the four pillars, but as I loathe anything related to numerical points or support beams, I will refer you to his website instead. (http://www.alboforleader.com)

First Question from the Floor: What type of PM would you be?

Albanese had a classic two pronged approach to this question. First, he decided to blatantly attack Abbott’s self appointed title as the Infrastructure minister.

According to Albo, the affectionately known Infrastructure Prime Minister has made significant cuts to the NBN, roads and public transport. In response, Albanese intends to wrestle for the title of Infrastructure Prime Minister,  provided he has the required fitness to catch Abbott during a triathlon. Albanese stated that he would invest in public transport, roads and the NBN to create the economy for the future.

Now, I appreciate the fact that these politicians are in the business of visions and big ideas, however even I had a niggling thought about how these big projects will be funded. But let’s not concern ourselves with the minor details, right?

The second tier to Albanese’s answer was that he didn’t really answer the question at all. On the onset, it was an attack response against the PM. This was spectacularly inefficient considering you’re already preaching to the converted. If you’re going to find a room filled with people who didn’t like Abbott, it would most likely be an ALP convention trying to work out who would be the most tenancious opposition leader. But I digress. I personally was disappointed he didn’t do a strong job at articulating his vision for the type of PM he wanted to be. But again, to be fair, Albo never anticipated to be leader of the ALP or Prime Minister for that matter. I do however hope that this is something he considers further in the future and will be able to better articulate the type of leader he wishes to become.

Shorten took a markedly different approach to Albo – he wants to be the Prime Minister for the Powerless and the Disenfranchised. I wonder if the faceless men in the ALP satisfy that particular definition? Potentially. Shorten also took an unexpected turn, saying that he wanted to give a voice to those who had suffered from domestic violence who are unquestionably one of the most powerless and disenfranchised in the community.

Overall, I though that Shorten was much more polished and eloquent than Albo in respect to this answer. I do wish to note however that Shorten’s political apsirations are one of Canberra’s worst kept secrets. That said, I felt that Shorten had a much more cogent response to the question which was well articulated. The audience seemed less than impressed and a great deal more cynical to Shorten’s vision and expressed greater warmth toward Albo.

Second Question from the Floor: What is your strategy for engaging with young people?

As someone who is a fairly hip and happening “young person” on the instabook and twatter, this question was particularly relevant to me. Both Shorten and Albo recognized that the interwebs were central to being relevant with the kids. If this means more selfies a la Rudd style, I politely decline all involvement with the ALP. Thankfully, both candidates seem fairly adept at using technology. Albo in particular has that whole “You used to be kinda cool and I was pretty impressed with your song choices on Rage” type vibe going for him. It’s almost like he’s the anti hipster in an electorate full of hipsters – he was cool before people knew what was meant to be cool.

Shorten and Albo touched on issues that were of particular relevance to young people such as education, the NBN, internet censorship and climate change. I was impressed with Shorten introducing the idea of further ALP reforms to make the party more accessible to young people, which is something I strongly support. I still vividly remember my first day at O-Week at the University of Sydney. My friends and I tentatively approached the Young Labor stand, expressing interest in joining. I was put off a week later after realizing that most people who were involved in uni politics were what I would call tossers. Considering that the ALP are a large part of the reason why I am here today, it was a bit heart breaking for an 18 year old ideologue.  But then upon further reflection, I realized that this sounded remarkably similar to what Albo had been advocating for not mere minutes, in Shorten’s case, but years. (Albo4Leader:2013)

If Shorten or Albo can do anything to make the ALP more relevant to  young Australia and get rid of the wanker element, they’re onto a good thing. Maybe they should have a chat to that Whitlam chap my dad keeps going on about. He had a few ideas about the youth of Australia and It’s Time we paid attention and re-engage with the kids.

Question Three from the Floor: The  Refugee and Immigration Issue

I wish to offer a personal disclaimer at this point in time – I wasn’t able to hear the responses to this question as a certain girlfriend took a call from a certain best friend and proceeded to interrupt my viewing pleasure of the ALP leadership debate. Let’s just say that the responses from Albo and Shorten were fairly similar – again, they rehashed the notion that Refugees needed to be treated with humanity and that the ALP have traditionally been the great parties for immigration.  However, again they emphasized that it was perfectly acceptable to have a controlled migration policy

I personally hope they address the UK backpacker situation. It would be nice to be safe in the knowledge that I don’t have to walk through Coogee and Bondi being drunkenly cat called by those who have overstayed their tourist / 457 visas.

That’s right, I went there.

Both Albo and Shorten did do their best to appeal to the lefties of the ALP and the not so lefty members. They also may have attempted to bring back some of those who had shifted to the Greens while still holding onto their base. I’ll be interested to see what happens to the Greens as the issue of asylum seekers is a “unique selling point”. (See what I did there, Gruen Transfer? You’re not the only one who can use marketing lingo at inappropriate moments.) On the issue of asylum seekers, it was just a classic case of sitting on the fence, hoping to appease someone. The ALP aren’t quite as inhumane as the LNP when it comes to people lawfully seeking asylum, but there is this underlying prejudice and xenophobia that needs to be appealed to. So what you have is a policy that doesn’t stand for anything or really do anything aside from perpetuate an unfounded fear of “boat people”.

Hopefully, both the candiates can flesh out a more nuanced response to this issue. Or if they did and my girlfriend spoke over the top of their responses, please let me know.

Question Four and Five from the Floor– Aged Care and the NDIS

The following questions from the audience relate to the ALP positions on Aged Care and the NDIS. Again, both Shorten and Albo’s responses fell into line with the ALP’s ideology, however there were two things I wanted to discuss.

The first relates to Albo suggesting that we need to set up a Sovereign Wealth fund to bolster the savings of the next generation of retirees. This may link back into my question of how he proposed to be the next Infrasructure PM. If this is indeed the case, we may be onto something of a winner here – if the Sovereign Fund was used to fund infrastructure at a reasonable return on investment – eg 5%, you’ve simultaneously solved two problems namely the lack of capital and old people.

Again, Shorten was remarkably impassioned during the question on the NDIS which he attributed to such landmark reforms such as Medicare, Superannuation and the fair working wage, all of these being pillars of ALP policies.  The ALP, according to Shorten, are at its best when it’s able to communicate to the community. Bloody obvious thing to say there Shorten, isn’t politics just an intellectualized form of Public relations? Forget it- let’s skip the intellectualized portion of that sentence- just PR? If the past 6 years has taught me anything, it’s that the ALP need a serious image overall and a few classes in effective communication because they delivered substantial reform in a hostile parliament and Australians still hate them.

Albo opened up to this question with a touching story about his mother, who had severe arthristis. This related to the NDIS  -sometimes you simply don’t know who to ask for help and people should always be able to ask for help. The ALP should stand for the most vulnerable in society, and it’s a sentiment I strongly agree with. Consider the ALP for example – we have Albo, who grew up in Housing in Sydney’s South West with a single mother and now he’s vying to being leader of the opposition. We have Kevin Rudd, who spent parts of his childhood living in his mother’s car, to Gillard who came from proud Welsh immigrant parents. Even Keating, the uneducated boy from Bankstown became one of Australia’s greatest poltical visionaries and economic managers. Going back even further, Whitlam was the darling of Cabramatta and Chifley was the working class man who dared to dream.

The ALP have a proud tradition of representing the voiceless or the often ignored in Australian politics. However, times have changed. Some guy by the name of Howard became PM in 1996 and immeasurably changed the socio-economic and cultural climate of the country. People don’t want to view themselves as the under-privileged – there is no nobility in being poor in Australia. They want to be a part of something, they want to be included into broader Australia and be aspirational. That was the allure for much of middle Australians, who would be later known as “Howard’s battlers”. Middle Australia ceased being battlers or the “disadvantaged”, they wanted a piece of the economic pie – and if they couldn’t score a piece, they at least wanted to taste some of the crumbs.

Both leaders would do well to re-articulate their view of the ALP being the party for the vulnerable. Humans are strangely aspirational creatures – they want something more for themselves, their family and their sprogs – I mean, kids. The emphasis should be a better Australia for all Australians, which is inclusive and truly representative. Hopefully they will work it out for themselves instead of listening to a lone blogger.

Question Five from the Floor – What is the role for Women in Leadership?

Albo reflected on the ALP’s history when it comes to promoting women to position of leadership. Women, he argued have a critical role to play and rattled off an impressive list of women including Gillard, Wong, Plibersek and Nash. Women will continue to have an important role to play within the ALP – because let’s face it, there are more women in the ALP caucus then there are in the LNP. Plus, the LNP aren’t exactly on the hunt for female talent at the moment, with one in cabinet and one parliamentary secretary. One of the success stories of the ALP is that 40% of women are now on Government boards, and Albo believes that they have contributed immeasurably to those organisations.

Shorten discussed the ongoing systemic discrimination that persists in Australian society. Big words there, smart guy. He argued that the ALP needed to be vigilent to ensure that the Abbott Government doesn’t turn back the clock on equal wages, just in case they get wages and boats muddled up. Shorten also returned to the subject of domestic violence and was actually getting quite riled up about the topic. I’m not sure why domestic violence is the central point of distinction with Shorten and Albo, but I kind of like the fact he’s passionate about something, other than being the ALP kingmaker. Shorten concluded that if he were to become leader of the opposition, he would make Plibersek deputy, which is something that Albo is unable to do. Two Sydney inner west lefties don’t make a right, but they do make a delicious soy latte. It’s a smart move by Shorten and may have some affect of drawing in a few more female supporters.

Either way, I for one am happy that the ALP will continue to stand for women in parliament and within the party. However, they kind of have to in this situation, in light of the LNP’s lackluster way they’re promoting “female representation” in parliament. Still, it’s a good step for the party that brought us our first Female Prime Minister and our first lesbian, Malaysian Senator.

Concluding Remarks

In conclusion, Albo surmised his debate to argue that it is only the ALP government that tackles the big problems. He wanted the ALP to use this time to defend their legacy over the past six years. They needed to be a strong opposition, but not so negative to draw on the strategic inferences of the “no-alition”.

(On a side note, any time Albo makes a funny he does this little smirk and it’s kind of cute … Oh god, what is wrong with me?)

Albo also stressed that they needed to continue to be committed to making a different to ordinary people. Australians want their kids to inherit better living standards and better opportunities than what was afforded to them. In addition, all of the ALPs policies and approaches need to be sustainable and therefore they need to defend a price on carbon. He wound up his speech by saying that he never envisioned he would be leader. At first, all he wanted was to make a contribution to the team and to his electorate. But after further contemplation, he felt he had a role to play. He has the vision, the unity required, the experience and strength to be leader.

Shorten however wants the ALP to reposition itself to make sure it continues to be relevant to Australians. As opposition leader, he will ensure that Abbott will not set the discourse. Again, he returned to his Whitlam quote – that it’s about the party, the policy and then the people. For the ALP, the period of the messiah is over – they need to be a party that is brave, which is focused on the future and delivering for the powerless. I nearly self combusted with pure joy when Shorten said that it is less than “I and more about We”. I wondered whether Rudd could feel the subtle burn of that remark. Perhaps he was too busy taking a selfie to notice.

Personal thoughts on the debate

For me, the winner in this debate was Albanese, but not by much to be completely honest. Albanese will need more time to construct policies and clearly articulate his view of what he wants Australia to become. In this debate, he seemed on the offensive, but not against his running mate, but rather against the LNP government. He had some fantastic zingers though – my personal favourite was where Albo declared that climate change was a non-issue now that Abbott is in power.  He also brought forward quality material critiquing the “noalition” and their failure to do anything other than deliver cuts and hiding the boats.

I felt that was slightly off topic for the debate – his role was to articulate what makes him different from Shorten and what makes him a capable leader. But as I’ve mentioned before, it’s because he’s never had slow burning ambitions to become the leader of the ALP. Albo is a committed team player, and he’s what the party needs – a leader to heal the wounds of the past few years. I will say this- he was genuine and I felt like I could trust him. Albo has remained steadfast in his political views and aspirations. He is not interested in becoming leader for personal gain, but rather for the betterment of the party. His story is the embodiment of the ALP narrative – the kid who grew up in housing commission, caring for his single mother who went onto to university and dedicated his life to serving his party, his electorate and Australia.

Call me an idealist, but I think those are fine qualities in any leader. He is the Every Man. Let’s face it, he’s appealing to the youth, the left faction and the disenfranchised – in other words, what should be the ALP’s base. He has a broad appeal and the Roy Morgan poll has found that he has strong support with rank and file (Roy Morgan).  Hell, even members of the Right caucus such as Swan and Emerson have hinted support (SMH:2013)

Some guy called Latham, who is better known as the former ALP leader and all round noise maker has vocally dismissed Albo as an intellectual lightweight with no substantial policies and poor political intuition ( AFR : 2013). I disagree with Latham’s assessment and not just because of the 2004 election which featured him as leader. Not only he is probably being a bit of a sook that people actually like Albo, but thr attributes he is critical of are things which can develop over time. To quote Shorten, first the party, then the policies and then the people. In Albo’s case, two out of three isn’t bad so early in the game.

It must be said however that I was impressed with Shorten’s performance and ability to articulate his vision for Australia. He has also been a policy powerhouse and he has been instrumental at getting Disability Care through the parliament. Shorten, throughout his speech quoted Whitlam’s three p’s. Shorten employed his own three Ps – he was polished, professional and persuasive.  Even though Shorten’s performance was much stronger than Albo’s, I still feel unsettled by what he said.  His involvement in the leadership spills and ongoing instability within the party means his candidacy is tainted and would give the Abbott Government renewed fodder to draw on.

The general public haven’t warmed to Shorten in the way the Caucus has. I suspect, like an article from the Australian stated, it’s because his words don’t correlate to his actions. His talk about improving the visibility of women in leadership roles within the ALP doesn’t reflect his prior actions. (The Australian: 2013) There have also been allegations that Shorten set up one of the debate questions relating to the type of PM he hopes to become.( The Guardian: 2013) I suspect that those who have followed the ALP will take Shorten’s words with a pinch of salt. Shorten’s ambition for leadership is also off-putting, there have been allegations that he expects to secure the caucus. ( The Australian: 2013 )

There have been two wins out of this debate though. The first is improved membership involvement – even I am noticing more people are being compelled to join the ALP. Should Albanese become leader, it is expected that further reforms will take place to improve membership participation, and unlike Shorten, this is a position he has held for years. But it was also a win for mutual respect – both have pledged to support whoever is to become leader, and if those words ring true, it will be a good day for the ALP.

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Australian Labor Party, Australian Politics, Election, leadership, Uncategorized

Week One – The Mark of a Leader

Kevin Rudd’s failure to bring about a resounding election victory and a concise concession speech has meant it’s time to think about who will lead the fractured ALP. How long that battle will rage on for is reliant on the political ambitions of Bill Shorten,  the ALP Caucus and some guy by the name of “Tony Abbott” (not to be mistaken with internet ego, Tone Abet) . The ALP, under Rudd, have also allegedly reformed their ballot process to incorporate the members. We’ll see how long that lasts for. I’m giving it a week, and then people will get bored and go back to watching the true political contest – The Bachelor.

There have been three candidates that stick out in my mind who may be poised to take the lead. We’ll start with the most aspirational candidates.    

Tanya Plibersek – Member for Sydney 

Tanya Plibersek is the dream candidate for many Australians, particularly her inner westie, feminist loving fangirls  who drink too much tea in cafes and lounge around Surry Hills lamenting about the state of politics. In other words, people like me.

She comes from a background of student politics, so she’ll be well positioned to deal with the immaturity of the LNP.  I thought she was a fine health minister and she’s a consistent performer in parliament. She’s also a great supporter of women’s rights and she receives vocal support from some whacky group called “Women’s Agenda”, in addition to her raving fangirls.  I  suspect that her commitment to the feminist cause is something of a perplexing riddle to the LNP, who are secretly wondering why she isn’t in the kitchen and making more children for the good of the nation. She also apparently likes the gays and has worked consistently to eliminate discrimination. As a full time lesbian, this pleases me greatly.

This comes from a place of love and concern, but I just don’t think Plibersek has the stomach for it. But give her time. I think of her like a fine red wine – with time, she’ll develop into something really special. Perhaps I need to stop watching Q&A with a glass of wine while appreciating the fine form that is Tanya (and potentially stop being such a creep).

Bill Shorten – Member for Maribyrong

Bill Shorten is a policy powerhouse and is not only a heavyweight within the party, but also its kingmaker. But can the King Maker become King?  He has the backing of the right factions and the AWU, which makes him a formidable candidate however he has lacklustre support amongst the members. Despite his ability to articulate ALP policy effectively and not shying away from a fight, he represents the old order of Rudd v Gillard v Rudd. Whether he can become leader will depend on whether he can wash those bloodstains out. If I recall correctly, it worked really well for Lady MacBeth.

Shorten has officially thrown his hat into the ring (I wonder if Katter let him borrow his?). However, if he has any aspirations to becoming PM, becoming the opposition leader may cause him to become the next Brendan Nelson. And hey, whatever happened to that guy?

I couldn’t support a party who would elect Shorten as the leader. There are several reasons for this. To misquote Craig Emerson, who is famously the lead singer of Emo and the Wipeouts, the years of instability has broken the ALP. He’s absolutely right. Now is the time give Dr Phil a call and exorcise those nasty demons. Making Shorten leader is like taking several steps back – he will completely lack legitimacy and the support of future ALP voters. It will also give the right factions a bit too much influence within the party. I also think that it is remarkably hypocritical for people to call on the resignation of Rudd and then permit Shorten to become leader. I suspect it’s time for Shorten to take a sabbatical, and come back into the political front when people’s memories have faded a bit.

Anthony Albanese – Member for Graylnder

Anthony “You Can’t Spell Labor without Albo” Albanese is the frontrunner for the grassroots members of the ALP.  Albanese is part of the left faction of the ALP and was not only the Deputy Prime Minister for a few minutes but the Minister for Broadband, Communication and the Digital Economy despite having much in the way of a tech background. (Having  twitter or an Iphone doesn’t count, ok?) However, his previous portfolio would represent a stark contrast to Abbott, who is apparently content to stay in the 1950s where the women were in the kitchen, the gays were in the closet and the climate was doing sweet heck all.  He has apparently given notice to Shorten that he was intending to run for leader, but there may have been a game of Chinese whispers afoot. From what I can gather, he hasn’t make a public declaration.

I moved from the electorate of North Sydney to Graylnder, where Albo rules with a fair and steady hand, about a year ago. I have to say, I wasn’t particularly sold on him. But a good friend of mine told me that I had misunderstood him and that he represented the narrative of the ALP movement.  The more I saw him in the media, the more that I couldn’t help but agree with him. Albanese is well and truly loved in his electorate, which is impressive considering Graylnder is one of the most left leaning seats in Australia. In this election, there was a solid swing towards Albo and there are no signs that it will swing over to the Greens in the future. I firmly believe that Albo may be able to bring in the disillusioned believers who strayed into The Greens, provided he can articulate a well thought out, progressive vision for the country.  This remains to be seen, but I am hopeful.

On a personal note, I also owe a debt of gratitude to Albanese. He was part of a troupe of students at the University of Sydney who decided to barricade themselves in the Quad Clock tower to protect the Political Economy faculty. Twenty years on, I was able to study Political Economy, where Frank Stillwell would regale us with stories of certain political figures getting up to their usual hi-jinks. So, thanks Albanese. You’re alright.

There have been other candidate names that have been floating around. An honourable mention goes out to former QC Mark Dreyfus, who I think would also make an excellent candidate (apparently so does Mark Latham, which may be the kiss of death for Dreyfus’ political ambitions. Lolz.). Greg Combet also gets a mention, but I don’t think he’ll toss his hat into the ring. Chris Bowen fortunately bowed out a few days ago, causing a collective sigh of relief from pretty much everyone. Besides, he’s well suited to the position of Shadow Treasury. He seems to be okay with the numbers and stuff. There have also been a lot of speculation about trying to find a way to get Penny Wong to come into the lower house and take over as Leader. I personally would love to see that happen, just in case Abbott’s head explodes. But I don’t see the utility in speculating in hypotheticals.

The one thing I know for certain is that it could be a while until the ALP have a leader with the voting reforms. Some guy called “Conroy” thought it would be cute to publicly diss the the reforms. I don’t think he realises how attractive the idea is to potential ALP members who want to stop the backroom antics and have a say. To be fair though, I don’t think Conroy realises his head wasn’t quite screwed on correctly, so I’m quite comfortable in dismissing his opinion entirely. I think getting the members of the party to select the leader is a good move – so long as you don’t go the way The Democrats went and try to get membership participation into every facet of the party. People have lives you know.

In other news, the LNP have found a solution to the fiscal crisis and economic downturn – they were elected to office. So apparently we can now have a serious conversation about our strong economic credentials, steady employment growth and triple A credit ratings.

On behalf of all Australians, thanks Joe. Until next time,  if you can’t love yourself, love your local member

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Australian Labor Party, Australian Politics, Election, Kevin Rudd, Social Media

Week One – A few thoughts on the 2013 Election

Like many left leaning progressives, I’ve been living under a self imposed rock about the results of the Australian 2013 election. Last Saturday, the LNP managed a convincing electoral win, with Tony Abbott becoming the Prime Minster. Kevin Rudd successfully managed to bore our collective brains out with his concession speech (prompting the question “Does this guy ever shut up” to be answered with a resounding no). But now it’s time for the ALP to lick its wounds, the newly elected senators to read “Australian Parliament for Dummies” and the LNP to … govern I guess?
I am just a curious observer of the theatre of the absurd known as Australian Politics. But may I present my four pillar explanation of the election result. Or was it a six point plan? I know it had something to do with stopping the boats. Where’s Jaymes Diaz when you need him?

1. The Lackluster ALP Campaign –

I will admit it’s difficult to create an inspiring campaign when you consider the internal conflicts that ravaged the ALP for many years. You don’t need a politics degree to know that the byline “Vote for us, and this time, we might actually keep our leader for the full term! (subject to Bill Shorten’s temperament)” on political posters isn’t exactly a vote winner. Worse still, many of the accomplishments under Gillard couldn’t be referenced at all because, well, it’s Kevin’s party now.
The lackluster campaign also lacked a cohesive message for the country. There was something about a national broadband network, “jobs, jobs, jobs” and school kids getting an education. There was also some vague form of support for marriage equality, but not really. It had a strong vibe of “we’ll just introduce a bill into parliament and see what happens, lol”. It’s even more difficult to run an effective campaign when all the opposition needed to do was show up and disagree with anything the ALP were standing for.
The ALP made a considerable misstep in emphasizing the LNP costing issue.  Guess who finds the budget interesting? Unfortunate eople like me.  People with Arts / Economic / Law Degrees who watch so much ABC it constitutes a health hazard. The average punter is generally disinterested. It’s ok, I understand. Numbers really are hard.  The ALP weren’t as effective as driving the message of potential cuts home, as they were under the Keating campaign of ’93, where many swinging voters made the last minute switch to the ALP due to concerns of cuts to medicare.
And guess what – the cuts weren’t even bad. I mean, sure there were cuts to the Aid budget and other minor sources, but they weren’t as horrific as what Kevin Rudd, I mean, the ALP hinged their political hopes on. Plus, who really cares about aid anyway? Or the budget surplus for that matter?
Oh, and in case you didn’t get the memo, we’re no longer in a budget emergency. That’s another win for the LNP! Hurray!

2.     Kevin Rudd

I understand that blaming the leader of the ALP for the election result is something of a cop out. But, as a well renowned cop out,  I’m going to venture down that path anyway.
Kevin Rudd took the helm, it ceased to be the Australian Labor Party. Instead, it turned into the Australian’s for More Kevin Rudd Party. Let’s just say I wasn’t exactly rushing out to get a membership form. I will generally consider myself to be a Gillard supporter. She had won me over with her dazzling red locks, her ability to negotiate a hostile parliament and a certain speech she made about sexism and misogyny. Julia Gillard, to me at least, seemed like a person of substance and embodied what the ALP could be. It was a shame the circumstances in which she ascended to power, but for those three years, I was still proud to call her my Prime Minister.
Everyone was triumphant when Rudd returned. He was the comeback king, the John Farnham of Australian politics. But our jubilation quickly morphed into cynicism – it was clear he hadn’t learnt from his previous time in office. The damage was done and the honeymoon was over. In the hearts and minds of the Australian people, the ALP were not only a risky bet, but so unstable you wouldn’t leave a schooey of Carlton Draught resting on it.

3.     Social Media

Believe it or not, most of Australia’s population are older than 40. At my age, being over 40 means you might as well fade away in a home somewhere to drink Earl Grey tea and crochet. But apparently these remarkable people find the inner strength to carry on. As people over the age of 40 generally aren’t the latte sipping, instagramming, hashtaging hipsters I affiliate with, social media is something of a lost cause for a large section of this demographic.
Rudd’s campaign was heavy on the social medial. He did an AMA or “Ask me anything” session on reddit a week ago, pledged to swing last minute undecided voters on twitter and instagram images of a certain razor cut I’m still trying to forget. Personally, while he was out kissing hip babies and taking #selfies with the “kidz”, his message seemed lost on those who were still committed to traditional media. He was preaching to the more or less converted.
Which brings me to another point. The reliance on social media by the ALP was primarily underpinned by the rampant editorializing in the mainstream stream media. But the topic of the media is too complex to deconstruct in my under-caffeinated state.

4.     It’s not the Economy, Stupid

When considering the defeat of the ALP, it’s quite remarkable to look at the economic conditions of the past year. Our economy, despite international volatility, has still be growing at a steady pace and has done so for a remarkable 21 years.
That’s right. 21 years. There are people in this country who have never lived through a recession.  Or VHS, cassettes and the Backstreet boys. Good God.
Contrary to popular opinion, our economy is relatively strong. This is despite the Global Financial Crisis, reconciliation, Industrial Relations reform, pink bats,  the school hall project, the lies and the carbon tax. We also have relatively strong employment growth, low interests rates and a triple A credit rating. The ALP also received broad sweeping support for the economic policies – even The Economist gave them the thumbs up as economic managers. The moral of the story is that Governments loose elections, even when said government has left a legacy of strong economic credentials.
Let’s not continual to swim in the perilous tide that is the collective failures of the ALP in the recent election. The ALP clearly need time to pick itself up, dust itself off, put the king maker aka Shorten, as leader, Albo as deputy and work out who they’re going to represent. Meanwhile, the next three years will be interesting under a Conservative, but not necessarily a Liberal Prime Minister with a micro-party lead senate.
Oh dear. In unrelated news, the stock value of various alcohol manufacturers has been on the up, with analysts predicting dramatic increases in alcohol consumption. Political satirists are also expecting strong economic growth, with the lowest rate of unemployment since the Howard years.
We’ll just have to wait and see what happens I guess.
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