Nobody will talk about it — the government reckons it can win the next election after all — but in these dying months the issue of Labor’s legacy will come to the fore.

For Labor, despite its many troubles, it’s not a bad list. And there will be few more important than the one added today: most of Australia’s troops will be home from Afghanistan not long after Labor is thrown out. In announcing the multinational base at Tarin Kot will be closed before Christmas, handing authority to local forces and bringing at least 1000 Defence Force personnel home, Defence Minister Stephen Smith acknowledged today Australian forces had been in the strife-torn country “far too long”.

There’s no question about that. And the toll has been heartbreaking — 39 dead, 249 physically injured and, as Crikey has been detailing in its Battle Scars series, the psychological wounds for some may never heal. Labor supported John Howard’s initial commitment and backed the virtually unwinnable campaign for longer than it probably should have — but it’s also accelerated an exit over the past two years as public opinion strengthened against our involvement. Labor can be proud to bring them home — hopefully all that are left.

After the failure in reforming media regulation, there’s another issue — which you won’t find on any list of achievements but is fundamental to democratic freedom of speech — Julia Gillard could leave a lasting legacy on. Whistleblower laws are an historic step in protecting brave sources who expose wrongdoing — but as Crikey reports there are too many holes in the draft legislation to be effective. Academic Suelette Dreyfus tells us:

“There is always serious wrongdoing peppered throughout governments over time. Good whistleblowing legislation ensures that is caught before it becomes a catastrophe … If Labor gets this right it will leave an admirable legacy for Mark Dreyfus and the Parliament even if nothing  else gets passed by then.”

There’s that word again. Labor has some work to do.