We asked Crikey subscribers why Labor lost the Federal election so badly and have been delulged with responses, the best of which we’ve published here.
Some election thoughts
Crikey just a few thoughts and observations from a 25yr plus ALP member;
- Howard’s result on Saturday is quite a remarkable one given that he’s been around for such a long time and is so on the nose with so many groups of Australians. My theory is that post 9/11 the western world has swung firmly to the right and conservative governments are the winners. The fact that Howard increased his majority and now has the upper house despite a quite concerted effort to topple him (“Not Happy John” et al) I think goes some way to proving this point. Also have a look at the US elections where there is very little policy differentiation between the Gop and Democrats.
- One of Labor’s big problems is the quality or lack thereof of its candidates. It seems that the prerequisite skill for candidacy these days is that you are a staffer for a politician preferably but not necessarily with a Uni degree. Can’t the ALP see that these type of candidates that are foisted on electorates are being overwhelmingly rejected by local communities? Watching the results on Saturday night I was struck by how many candidates were at least 2 time losers and some 3 time losers. David Bradbury who has now unsuccessfully challenged Jacky Kelly in Lindsay twice is a prime example. Regrettably there are examples all over the country.
- I agree with your subscriber who spoke of the ‘strange dynamic’ at the polling booths on Saturday. As I have since the Wran days I fronted up as a dutiful member to hand out HTV’s. Clearly the public is angry, frustrated and disillusioned with the policitical process. It’s no secret and they are very open about it on election days. Many of them fire up about the fact they are even forced to front up to vote. And who can blame them given that for most of the political term they are treated by contempt by the political parties.
- I hope Crikey focuses on the devastating result for the Democrats and is once again privy to the internal ructions that are sure to explode in the next few days. Should the Democrats not do something drastic in very quick time then they face the very real prospect of being wiped out as a parliamentary political party at the next election.
- Is this unfair or do you agree that Antony Green’s computer analysis never works accurately especially in the first few hours? The ABC’s performance and especially Green’s figures were so poor I was forced to switch to Channel 9 whose coverage at one stage included Reg Regan?
By the way your election wrap-up was excellent. More please on the Democrats and Labor as they tear themselves apart.
Latham a bold experiment
The leadership is an issue and needs to be addressed early to give any new leader the full three years before the next election. Mark Latham was probably worth a try in difficult circumstances but it was more a bold experiment rather than a rational choice. In spite of many advantages in taking on a worn out government with a new generation of leadership, Labor went backwards. An early change is required and it is to be hoped that Mark Latham will stand down.
Mark missed the big picture
Put simply, I believe Mark Latham too quickly slipped to the second tier concerns of the electorate ie. reading to children, home life/values etc. He should have stayed on the top concerns ie. the economy, security and education. The Libs simply wheeled out the same tired old bogus arguments and frightened the electorate.
I also believe, as a side issue, that the average worker in the west of Sydney (and I would guess around Australia) who is a sole trader tradesman e.g. electrician, carpenter etc, is was/is doing OK and has taken a little more interest in the reasons “why?”.
Interest rates are of vital importance to this group of voters as they have an immediate impact on their ability to pay the very essentials of life e.g. payments on the ute, insurance, mortgage etc. They also subscribe to the saying through their work that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
Keep up the good work,
Real voters don’t care
I said all along that the average voter doesn’t care about reffos or Iraq and why then wouldn’t you vote for Howard? Latham was too new and even labor voters I know just don’t like the man-too uncouth and a smart arse. Surely Faulkner and Smith won’t be running the next campaign after a bigger debacle than last time. Costello will be seen off and a year after the next election Abbott will take charge – Howard’s dream ending.
Some reasons why Labor lost
One of the main reasons I see why Labor lost was over the interest rates. A lot of middle class Australians have huge mortgages thanks to low interest rates and the federal Liberal government giving first home owners handouts. The last thing Jason and Kylie Middle-Class want are higher interest rates on their mortgage, especially when they find it tough to pay off even if it goes up half a percent. Of course as they drop out of private health to pay of the interest payment increases, they’ll find an under funded health system thanks to bickering between the Labor state Governments and the Federal Liberal Government.
Another reason is that the left can not show an united front. The Greens wont budge on some things, like free trade agreements, the Democrats are dead in lefties eyes from accepting the GST and righties eyes from the Andrew Bartlett assaulting the Liberal staffer. The union movement can’t even show an united front, splitting over the Tasmanian forests.
Plus what was Labor’s views on refugees? All quiet there on detention centres.
The left has to rebuild and rethink what they want to be. Whether they ant to be another Liberal-lite but with more social views or a true left with social issues as a main policy.
Selling Simon Crean
A lot of the media is saying that the Libs got up due to scare tactics on interest rates etc. Surely that means that Labor didn’t do enough on selling their economic credentials – either during and certainly not before the campaign. The Interest rate Guarantee and Latham bleeting on about his own huge mortgage just isn’t enough.
As others have commented today, the Howard / Costello team is much stronger than the Latham / who??? I seem to recall that Crean’s media quotes ranking was quite poor. Surely, if there is any weak spot in the bench then Crean has to go. He was the one that failed to spruik their Economic credentials, and counter the coalitions interest scare argument.
Negatives for Labor
For what it’s worth, I think one of Labor’s mistakes was its almost “business as usual” approach to the election. Sure they had a new leader, a message of change, some good ideas, etc – but, in the end, it was all too… passionless.
What Labor needed to convey was (and is) a decent sense of righteous outrage. They need to take a smidgeon of Australian actor Peter Finch’s passion (when playing Howard Beale in Network) and shout: ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!’
The Howard government has given us so much to get ‘mad as hell’ about, finding material would not have been (and will not be) a problem.
The difficult part would (and will) be combining “righteous outrage” with a positive vision and plan for the future, and not letting the anger degenerate the message into negative whinging.
Another difficulty is that “righteous outrage” demands extremely high standards from Labor (lest they be accused of being, fundamentally, no different to the cynical and hypocritical coalition) and perhaps it this, rather than how to manage the communications, that will prevent Labor from pursuing this strategy.
Mad as hell, and ready to take it for another three years,
Nickie La Grange
You said…. “Labor lost the election fair and square because of the economy and the interest rate scare. It would have been remarkable had any government lost with an election this good, but Labor seemed to go out of its way at times to help Howard.”
If you want to get down to the guts of it, Aussies have been stuffed by authority dominance since the punitive GST has been brought in. If one runs a business that means that 4 times a year one has to think about GST reporting. Once a year one has to think about personal tax reporting. Once a year one has to think about company tax reporting. That is a total of 6 times a year one has to think about tax. compared with twice a year before.
Taxation should be a once a year thing. Twice a year at the most if you are in business. NO MORE. It is not good for humans to have to think about tax too often. It is too debilitating and it creates a peculiar sensitivity and vulnerability, on par with and linked up to sex, death, taboos, killing and wars. The GST and excess taxation accounting has created more black market economy, and people literally being forced into criminal avoidance of tax to survive. Such excess tax enforcement is not about making money for governments it is about abusing each person into submission to authorities.
Connected very much up in this terrible taxation rort stuff, is John Howard serving the whole of Australia with the money card. The same method a sleaze man will do a around stronger, or more independent woman. The “I am the man with the money” syndrome. This is just as low level as the downright abuse of boundaries in sending out that scam telemarketing. They all beget each other.
The whole of the taxation system needs overhauling. The person having to face off with the authorities has to be reduced to a minimum each year. Once on the personal level and once on the business level is suffice. No more!
Otherwise the masses are just too easy to scare!
Labor’s election campaign was an utter disaster, and they still don’t realise it.
In today’s Crikey (10/10/04), Hugo Kelly says “…there were many positives for Labor” and that “Latham, John Faulkner and Stephen Smith were an astute strategic team (leaving aside the Tasmanian forests disaster).”
Total rubbish. They were a completely hopeless strategic team. (Apparently Keating was an advisor too.) It’s pathetic the way that the Labor hacks try to claim that they had a great campaign.
The result is a disaster for Australia’s democracy. Far from a great campaign, it was so incompetent, complacent, misjudged and lacking in integrity that it was near criminal.
Crikey’s analysis of seven positives for Howard and negatives for Labor (10/10/04) is about right. Another negative for Labor was the occurrence of terrorist incidents, including the beheading just before the election.
But nearly all of Labor’s negatives were self-inflicted. Especially the lazy, tired deadwood on the front bench — Crean, Laurie Ferguson, etc, etc, and the “presidential” campaign.
Some of the Labor hack politicians only come to life during a leadership challenge. They were nearly asleep during the election campaign. They’ve achieved their ambition of getting into parliament in a safe seat, by treading on other people’s faces in the ALP. They don’t seem to care about trying to get into government.
Labor showed no integrity. Their “astute” strategy consisted of cynically targeting supposed “aspirational” voters in swinging electorates and throwing money at them. It was worse than one of Tim Shaw’s Demtel commercials, without the quality or the flair.
The tax policy was tripe – with so many families doing better on the weekly version but being worse off on an annual basis. What absolutely ridiculous garbage – textbook Orwellian nonsense. Meanwhile the poor would be worse off, with Latham attacking them along the way for not having lived the same life as him.
The attacks on Kings and Scotch College were madness – completely unnecessary, chip-on-the-shoulder stuff, repeated continually through the campaign. A hopeless and failed attempt at wedge politics.
Another hopeless try at wedge politics was the forests policy. Obviously they didn’t even consult the union. To have unionists literally embracing, cheering and publicly committing their votes to John Howard was a display that once again demonstrated the amazing ineptitude of Labor’s campaign strategists.
Beazley would definitely have done much better. At least he can speak with authority, not like some excited and arrogant schoolboy in a high school debate.
Latham is so clinically narcissistic that he’s based all his policies on his own life experiences, especially having a young family – as though everyone in Australia is in a family with young kids. He can’t lead and will never be able to. He has to go. Nothing else will do.
They should clearly go for someone like Kevin Rudd.
A decent government in a democratic country requires a strong and viable opposition.
Rather than congratulating themselves, Labor’s national office should definitely hold an independent inquiry into their failure of a federal leader and Labor’s disastrous, inept and disgraceful election campaign.
The unknown quantity
1. Latham was seen as an unknown quantity – “inexperienced”. The undecideds who saved Keating in 1993 voted to a voter for Howard.
2. Howard has made an art form of cynically getting people used to the idea that politicians lie – “so what!” So the issue that people like me see as so important – ethical government – didn’t
bite at all.
3. Never has the hip pocket nerve twitched so violently. People are obviously overextended and scared. The lies about interest rates bit – they will go up anyway but nobody really read what the
“experts” said. Labor should have had some wordsmith use what the economists said early on and destroyed the myth.
4. Howard wasn’t going to give Latham a sniff: Latham said gracious things about Howard but Howard refused to say more than one word – “inexperienced” about Latham. Talk about ungracious!
5. In summary, Howard has cleverly and cynically marshalled the big battalions – it will be even more so next time as the ABC gets emasculated and the media laws allow even more dedicated
anti-Labor media across the board.
How Latham lost it
Almost every Labor seat in the country swung against Latham. The suburbs didn’t like being told to work harder by Latham, especially while the other guy is handing out cold hard cash.
At Easter, Latham was PM. Howard was playing copycat. George Meg and most others had concluded that Howard’s time was up. Apparently the families in the marginals had changed their minds. They blamed Howard for their family debt crisis.
Then Latham went away to cook up clever policies with the wonks and rendies.
Howard cut through in the budget with enough money to pay back debts and he foreshadowed another payment, which came in September plus more family tax benefits for parents at home which arrives with the tax return.
He must have planned an Oct 9 election from the beginning.
In contrast, battling families are the only losers in Latham’s tax package. Latham told Lateline that the Howard money wasn’t real and the message to kids in welfare families was to work harder. He must have meant to say the parents should work harder, but last Tues he answered “Yes” to “Is your message to the kids in those families that they should worker harder?”
He’d already given up and switched to cruise control.
Previously he’d insisted under fire from Tony Jones that his package of 70,000 work for the dole and training placements was better “for them” than including “them” in the handouts from the surplus. He didn’t talk about job creation. The ladder of opportunity became punitive at the bottom.
Howard almost apologised on the whole debt thing, gave away money to fix it up and said it’s good to stay home and look after kids.
In October young families drove to the polling booth in their new 96 Commodore that John Howard bought for them and voted for more.
On the night Latham didn’t seem to care that much anyway.
PS: Not everyone got it wrong: I sent this to the Shaun Carney last week:
You like most other observers think that voters have forgotten the $600 per child they were given by John Howard, not once but twice, the second payment being made in September.
Many of these low income parents might not tell Newspoll they want Howard back but when the govt hands out money and Latham says its not real and go and work harder – who do you think they’re going to vote for.
That is a vote decider for the 30s and 40s that overrides all those issues you talk about.
The interest rate impact
My thoughts on the election result are:
- The interest rate campaign made a very strong impact – it affects everybody, regardless of political leanings and makes them think in a non-political way i.e. if there is a risk interest rates could sky rocket under Labor, then my home is under threat. This goes to the core of everybody’s self-worth and even more so if they are paying a mortage to give their family a roof over their heads.
- Labor had policies that provided great media coverage, but people weren’t scared or outraged enough to change teams. I was surprised they didn’t use the “Trust” issue and get aggressive about it e.g. here is a list of things Howard has lied about … “can you risk voting for a liar again?” Howard claimed the election was about Trust, so he opened the door to be attacked on it.
- The economy is in good shape and there has been a lot of comment that Australia’s economy performed better than others during downturns over the past few years. So changing teams is risky to over overall prosperity.
- The Greens emerged because a segment of Labor voters are not happy with Labor’s stance on green issues. To get a higher primary vote, they are going to have to deal with that.
How Labor could have campaigned
My campaign against Howard would have started with the “I want to be PM” quote and photo from JH’s lawyer days, then I would have pointed out the lies with images including economic lies such as the never ever GST (even if it is a sensible tax). I then would have argued that you can’t trust a man who has always wanted to be Prime Minister (although Latham probably has to) as it leads to a willingness to risk the lives of Australian soldiers and tourists for the sake of his own standing in the world – a picture of John and George being matey – “This is why we went to Iraq.” I also would have thrown in the interest rate thing under Fraser, because it was Howard’s beat up over this, that I reckon won him the election