Party Animals: The Secret History of a Labor Fiasco by Samantha Maiden

‘Consider the evidence of federal elections in Australia’s recent history – the winner is frequently the party that can paint its opponent as more risky and radical.’

A lifetime ago, back in 2019, we had a federal election. It seemed like almost everyone thought that the Labor Party would win. But Labor did not win, and in this book Ms Maiden examines some of the reasons why.

‘High expectations of a Labor victory led to little consideration being given to querying Labor’s strategy and policy agenda.’

What went wrong? It is easy to blame the Murdoch tabloids and the Clive Palmer effect. It is easy, as well, to point at the franking credits policy that was poorly explained and easily used by the government to scare self-funded retirees and pensioners. And what about Bill Shorten’s unpopularity? But there were internal factors as well: a disorganised party believing polls, and keen to make big-spending promises. The irony: A Labor party, keen to push an agenda that suited some voters (mostly white-collar, well-educated, and living in urban areas) at the expense of other traditional Labor voters (including the blue-collar workers who have been watching their employment prospects diminish for years). This is not the Labor Party that many members of my family have supported for over 100 years. I am torn between wanting to see some of Labor’s progressive policies enacted and wanting Labor (once again) to listen to, understand and represent the needs of the voters they seem to have lost in Queensland and Tasmania.

I agree with this quote:

‘What Labor is left with as rusted-on supporters are inner-city, university-educated, middle class voters.  People that look a lot like most Labor MPs and the staffers that work for them.’

And I wonder what Labor intends to do to address this before the next federal election.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

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