How Labor won Batman

Phillip Coorey, one of the better Canberra journalists, has laid out in plain terms how Labor won Batman. This post is based on his article but is not confined to it.

One reason, says Coorey, is that her campaign targetted voters who had been turned off Labor by her two predecessors, Labor machine men David Feeney and Martin Ferguson.

A ‘senior strategist’ told Coorey that the Greens took the bottom half of the electorate for granted.

    “In Batman south, they just banked that and didn’t do a lot of work there.”

Labor organised up to 15 house meetings where locals were invited to host their neighbours, regardless of whether they were Labor supporters, to meet Kearney.

Labor experienced swings of up to 10 per cent in some booths in the south, which they feel vindicated the tactic.

Kearney’s slogan was “Action, Integrity and Real Change”. Her message was that she would represent their views within the Labor Party, seeking ‘real change’, which included Labor asylum seeker policy. Policy within Labor is currently fluid, running up to a national conference. Campaign strategists believe this contrasted with Alex Bhathal and the Greens who were telling people what they should believe.


    Part of the strategy was to avoid negative advertising, even though there was pressure from the Victorian branch to go down this path.

    “These voters, they’re over politics as usual, they hate the combative stuff,” the strategist said.

    “If we dirtied up the Greens, it would have had a rebound effect on us.”

    He said the decision to stay positive “helped with Ged’s high approval rates”.

They believe the Greens erred by initially going hard on Adani:

    “Most voters saw it as bullshit because Bhathal would never be in a position to stop the mine.”

When The Greens realised they were preaching to the converted they changed the focus to asylum seekers. However:

    more mainstream voters with everyday concerns felt they were being lectured by the Greens.

    “The Greens told people what they should care about. We listened and responded, and talked about local issues, bread and butter issues,” the source said.

The final week was overshadowed by Shorten’s announcement to scrap cash payments for excess dividend imputation credits, sparking a backlash among some pensioners. Apparently Labor’s polling showed no adverse reaction from voters aged over 65 in the final week. It’s possible that the people affected were never Labor voters in the first place. However, the party is not taking this as a sign it is in the clear yet over the policy.

I’ve said before that Labor’s policy should not be finally judged until they reveal what they are going to spend the money on. Indications are that it will go to taxation relief for low and middle-income earners, plus restoring cuts made to school funding. Mention has been made of $250 million funding cuts to Catholic schools, which Labor promises to restore, and an intervention by Catholic Education Office urging people to vote Labor. On RN Drive, Antony Albanese told Patricia Karvelas that $250 million to Catholic schools only represented 12% of the cuts they would restore. The rest would be apportioned between 2% to independent schools and 86% to government schools.

That would bring the total figure to over $2 billion. A similar figure was mentioned by Paul Bongiorno on Breakfast.

I’m not sure what the ‘cutbacks’ refer to, but I suspect it is the shortfall in funding compared to Labor’s promised schedule under the original Gonski agreements. The LNP first gave lip-service to Gonski but Christopher Pyne lectured us about teacher quality being the real change point, then when they accepted the full Gonski they stretched their Gonski 2.0 implementation over a large number of years.

Richard Di Natali is blaming internal “sabotage” for the loss.

    The campaign was rocked in January by the release of a 101-page dossier of complaint against Ms Bhathal, as national infighting between the so-called socialist “watermelon” faction and the more centrist politics of its leader moved from the national to the local stage in Batman.

Di Natali upset the media when he:

    avoided a traditional election post-mortem press conference on Sunday, opting only to go on ABC TV at 9pm – after the major national TV news bulletins and newspaper print deadlines.

There is no real challenge for his leadership. There is questioning about the direction it takes, but I don’t think they should panic. Labor will not always have candidates as outstanding as Kearney.

One gripe – it has become received truth in the ABC that Shorten opposed Adani in Batman and hypocritically supported it in North Queensland. That is simply untrue. This is from AAP via The Australian on February 20:

    The promised 10,000 jobs at the Adani coal mine might be missing in action, but Bill Shorten is promising different blue-collar jobs for north Queensland.

    The Labor leader was in Mackay on Tuesday promising to deliver road widenings, port expansions and new roads across the northern part of the state – which his party is targeting ahead of the next federal election.

He said he’d met no-one who believed the 10,000 Adani jobs promise, and that people in North Queensland needed to look elsewhere rather than mining for jobs growth. Labor would take plans to the election to boost regional growth.

49 thoughts on “How Labor won Batman”

  1. My take was that:
    1. Good candidates matter. The ALP put up a very strong, left wing female candidate who was clearly going to become an important member of the parliamentary party. Nothing I saw about the Green candidate hinted that she was all that outstanding. (Not sure what people in the electorate saw.)
    2. Shorten effectively answered the Adani question. He is obviously not impressed by Adani’s behaviour and has no intention of subsidizing the company. I am sure I am not the only voter who thinks sovereign risk is an important issue and that incoming governments should not be cancelling contracts or using sudden rule changes in a way that raises sovereign risk concerns.

  2. Farrah Tomazin in The Age online is scathing about a report just released on ALP rorting to help fund the last Victorian State election campaign. Andrews Govt tried to block the investigation of the rorting.


  3. John, I agree, good candidates matter. I think Labor picked some good people in the last batch elected in 2016.

    The Greens may be panicking a bit though. There’s an article in the New Daily Richard Di Natale defiant as data shows Greens vote on the slide pointing out that the Greens have lost about 3% since peaking in 2010. This graph shows Qld as the only place going forward:

    Di Natali took over in May 2015, when he said:

    he believed the party could hit a 20 per cent primary vote by 2025.

    The following year, he said the Greens could hold eight lower house seats in a decade, while in November last year, he unveiled a hit-list of 25 seats the party aimed to win as it sought to become a major party.

    Associate Professor Kate Crowley, a political expert at the University of Tasmania, said the Greens movement was in “real trouble” with the membership split:

    “Some are not quite ready to be a political party, and [care] more about advocacy and being a protest group while others are more pragmatic people, but are not so wedded to environmental issues.

    Di Natali certainly hyped expectation, but looks a bit stuck at present.

  4. Thanks for that analysis, Brian.

    If Kearney did distance herself from Labor’s (anti-worker) machine men and did keep her campaign free from vicious attacks, her election was almost inevitable.

    People used to vote for The Greens because of the lovely belief that they really did strive to protect the environment – instead, they have shown themselves to be committed solely to fashionable causes and to blazes with the environment.. Then there is the matter of trust which they smashed themselves in allowing themselves to appear “beloved by the people traffickers”..

    Post-election: di Natali showed real leadership by choosing yo speak only to the ABC, and that at 9pm Sunday. Not a dummy-spit but a clear demonstration that he was not a dancing, juggling, singing puppet of the news media.

    Bill Shorten kept referring to “Batman” as though he knew the name of a parliamentary seat but didn’t have a clue where he actually was – “You’re in Victoria, Bill; you know, that place a bit south of N.S.W. Ha-ha-ha” Not a good look. A minor point but voters themselves refer to geographical place names, even during elections, not parliamentary seat names. “Still, what else can you expect from a @@@@ politician who doesn’t give a %%%% about us?”.

  5. Brian: In 2010 the Greens didn’t have much competition in the protest vote race. Add the effort Abbott was putting into recruiting people for the Greens and it is hardly surprising that the Greens did well that year. Bob Brown as leader wasn’t a handicap either. Progress in renewable energy has taken some of the heat off green issues and it is a bit hard to say what could be done to save the reef and kelp forrests.
    At the moment the Greens haven’t got any competition on the Green side of politics so they will probably survive for some time. Good to see Qld surging ahead.

  6. John D:

    At the moment the Greens haven’t got any competition on the Green side of politics

    Don’t underestimate Labor, John. In Maiwar last state election Ali King ran hard on green issues and came within a hair’s breadth of winning.

    More broadly, I find Di Natali’s notion that people ‘grow out of Labor’ by migrating to the Greens just a little offensive.

  7. Graham Bell, I’m not going to pick a fight with you if you have that opinion of Bill Shorten.

    I think it’s hard to imagine Shorten in the prime ministerial role, but his peers thought more highly of him than Albo.

    He has them working together well as a team, probably the best at that since Simon Crean. His overall commitment is to do something about inequality and to provide better opportunities for ordinary people. Under him some very interesting flowers are beginning to bloom within the Labor caucus.

    At the same time, I think if Tanya Plibersek was leader the TPP polling would be 60-40 in favour of Labor.

    And here’s stuff people might like to know about Chloe. She’s person, not a trophy.

  8. Adam Carr/Psephos is right when he talks about the Greens’ problem being the influx of ex-comms and ex-trots. Lee R. is certainly a blast from the past and political dinosaur.

  9. Thanks for that background on Chloe Shorten. My first impression on it: she’s not Heather Beattie’s sister is she? 🙂 She should make an accomplished and respected Spouse of the Prime Minister, should Bill Shorten be so selected by his Party, ( I hate the term “First Lady”, whether in the Philippines or in Trumpia – though I did like the Aussie term, “First Bloke” for Julia Gillard’s spouse).

    Please don’t shoot the messenger: I was simply quoting an EX-Labor voter; enough said . True, I don’t like Bill Shorten but my own personal opinion is somewhat different; Anthony Albanese would have been a better PM-in-the-wings. The best, of course, would be Tanya Plibersek who, i.m.h.o., not only looks as though she could be a good P.M. but actually be one. Fat chance of that, though, with the gladiatorial fan club running the Ministry Of Truth and the knuckle-walkers dominating the A.L.P.

    Now for The Greens: Heartily agree with your quote from Professor Kate Crowley, ““Some are not quite ready to be a political party, and [care] more about advocacy and being a protest group while others are more pragmatic people, but are not so wedded to environmental issues.””
    Add to that the undoubted presence of agents-provocateur, informers and saboteurs within their ranks (no need for conspiracy theory when common organizational behaviour can explain much what is happening with them) as well as The Greens’ utter dependence on the continuing voter loathing of the two main Parties, and it all looks like Richard di Natale has the Labours O Hercules, and more, ahead of him. I wish him lots of luck.

  10. Graham B, you’ve added an “h” to your moniker, which landed your comment in moderation as a first time commenter, as seen by the Askimet software.

    Sorry, your comment about Shorten is in quotes, but I didn’t read it as a quote. My bad. Bill S does have some baggage, and Turnbull thinks a Labor person has no right to get on with rich people like him at a private level. Offends his class sensibilities. Bill’s social abilities in this area allowed him to get inside the door of the capitalist class so that he could do deals for the workers. Turnbull dubs then dud deals, but the essence of deals is compromise.

    I would have voted for Albo if I’d been eligible, which I wasn’t.

    Chloe has worked as a corporate advisor. I found it interesting that she has attended Ironsides primary school and Indooroopilly State High School, both government schools with high reputations, and being near QU a diverse student population, lacking only the poor and unwashed.

  11. On Lee

    Some people modify their politucal stance and style. Not Lee.

    Stalinoid in the 70s, Stalinoid now. Dresses up her obstinacy and her hardest of hard comm views in “I must consult with the membership ” spoutings.

    When did Stalinoid leaders ever consult? The role of members was to obey the diktats and cop it sweet when punished.

    It’s amazing she ever reached the Senate. I agree with Bob Brown: she should resign.

    BTW my gripe is not with her parents. It is with her faithfull following of their leads.

  12. Brian: My first impression of Shorten had him as a shiny young man with three rows of teeth.
    After watching what he did in setting up the NDIS and other things he did despite being kept out of senior posts convinced me he has the potential of being an outstanding prime minister at a time when change is badly needed.

  13. I think we need to keep the Greens and the Batman result in context:
    1. The threat of the Greens in places like Batman is putting pressure on Labor to change. For example the Green threat meant that an electorate that used to be owned by the ALP right now require left wing progressives and leftish/green changes to overall policies and mix of MP’s if Labor is to have any chance. (Would Shorten have moved on Adani if he had thought Batman was safe.)
    2. The Greens are the political arm of a much broader Green movement. Political success in the form of holding the senate balance of power helps progress green policies. Ditto other parts of the Green movement. “Stop Adani” tactics convinced Qld Labor to block subsidies to Adani. (Which was probably the kiss of death for the project.) Other greenish groups have wins on the particular issues/locations they are concerned with.
    3. Australia is much more concerned about environmental issues and the environmental laws much tougher than they were in the past.
    4. Members of the Greens party have concerns outside of strictly environmental issues. Party policies and campaigns reflect this.
    5. I am not the only Green that thinks we would have a better life and the planet would be less threatened if we did something smarter than assume that those nice capitalists can be trusted to produce the best outcomes.

  14. John: the influx of ex-comms and ex-trots means the Greens will never appeal to the working class that they so crave. Also the Greens will *not* push Labor leftward. To the contrary, they are weakening the Labor L-eft and pushing the ALP further to the R-ight

  15. Scott: What happened in Batman is that Labor replaced a right wing, not very impressive man with a left wing impressive woman thus strengthening the left faction in the Labor party party room.
    Can’t say that I have noticed an influx of ex trots and comms from where I sit in Qld.
    My understanding is that Greens started nationally as a union of environmental state greens from Tas and Qld and more state socialist greens from NSW and WA. It is worth noting that Rhian Lees is no longer at the top of the NSW ticket. She seems to be fighting against the tide, not driving it.

  16. John
    It seams to me that you and I have a very different view on what ” right wing ” is.

    If you think David Feeney is on the ” right wing ” side of Australian politics, you probably believe Rudd was a fiscal conservative too.

    Your in too deep Dude!

  17. If you think David Feeney is on the ” right wing ” side of Australian politics

    I’m pretty sure John doesn’t.
    I understood him to be referring to the right wing of the ALP.

  18. Jumpy: In terms of the Greens I am on the practical side. More interested in solving problems than emoting. If asked I would describe myself as a climate action Green or Green Green. (Actually love the wilderness and spend a lot of time in the bush.)

  19. Well, by that standard, The United Socialist Party of Venezuela has a ” right wing faction ” too.
    We have very different standards on political divide you and I, but that’s ok, we can chat about it whilst we’re still allowed.

    I also love the bush ( mangrove forests ) and spend as much time as I can hunting in them whilst it’s still allowed.
    Don’t know what that makes me on the green spectrum, not good I suspect.

  20. Well, by that standard, The United Socialist Party of Venezuela has a ” right wing faction ” too.

    Probably – just as the Tory party (in the UK and Australia) had “wets” and “drys” and the current Libs in Australia (JW Howard’s so-called “broad church”) have their lunar right faction (Dutton, Abetz, Abbott etc).
    Is every grouping monolithic in your universe? Do all Libertarians think as one? Is there no spread of opinion?

    (Disclosure: there are issues where I disagree with John Davidson.)

  21. Zoot
    John and I are just finding the centre, no need for you to butt in.
    Although, you have the right to do so, but I feel John and I don’t need your help.

  22. Then again, maybe you could be of help, who would be in the ” left wing faction ” of the National Party?

  23. I’ll have a go at that one Jumpy.

    Do you regard the Greens as Left?

    Then I would say a National-voting farmer whose main efforts have been to increase biodiversity on her farm, plant windbreaks that act as wildlife corridors, decrease her use of artificial fertilisers, reduce farm run-off, conserve water, use solar energy (on a dairy for example) etc. while maintaining profitable production, could be regarded as on the left part of the Nationals spectrum.

    She might be active in Landcare too.

    What think you Jumpy?

  24. Mr A, I would consider those as doing what they think is best for them and theirs.
    I’m asking of the National Party representatives, switching to constituents is evading the question given the context of the discussion.
    Perhaps name a National Party MP that is part of the ” left wing faction ” of that Party, just one ?

  25. Jumpy: The Nationals are the closest thing Aus has to a socialist party. So i guess they are all left wing. Barnaby was particularly left wing when he moved public servants to Tamworth.

  26. John
    You truely believe the National Party is the most left wing party in Australia?

    If so, you’re in deeper than I thought.

    Name a socialist National Party MP and explain why.

    We’re talking about representatives because of the terms of your MARCH 23, 2018 AT 8:56 PM comment.

  27. Well that’s a crash and burn, Jumpy, and from the mouth of “the Great Leader” himself.

  28. Jumpy

    I think you may be focussing too much on Left/Right.

    An agrarian socialist can be “socially conservative”, as current terminology demands we write. He might oppose same sex marriage. (He might, in point of fact, seek out different sex.)

    Agrarian socialism in my very limited understanding, involves supporting all kinds of subsidies for farming businesses (cheaper diesel for instance), full provision by the State of export and transport infrastructure, favourable tax treatment (income averaging for instance), dams and irrigation set up by all taxpayers; why, even getting CSIRO to spend millions of dollars trying to increase rainfall by “cloud seeding”.

    Don’t get me wrong: I support many of those policies.

    But they amount to agrarian socialism.
    In the old days, I think the Russians sometimes rendered “Country Party” into their language and political terms as “Farmers and Peasants Party”.

    Very specific, sectional interests.
    A kind of rural populism.

    You said that the hypothetical Landcare farmer was just looking after her family and land. That’s pretty much what an agrarian socialist aims to do. With State assistance.

  29. BilB

    The Great Leader has resigned and has been replaced.
    Can we expect him to Hold High the Banner of Agrarian Socialism, in a militant socialist faction within the great National Party?

    And frequently intervene in public statements, attempting to hold his Party to its true socialist principles?

    Much like Mr Abbott and his struggle to Hold High His Own Banner over in the great Coalition partner Party??

    Nothing dearer than a former Dear Leader.
    Costly for the Party, anyway.

  30. Mr A, I didn’t put the focus on the left/right issue originally.

    But fine, the National Party are the closest thing Australia has to a socialist leftist party while also being far right wing, tea party nut jobs, dragging the Libs to the lunar right at the same time.

  31. Sorry i took so long to respond.

    You observed, “…. Turnbull thinks a Labor person has no right to get on with rich people like him at a private level. Offends his class sensibilities. ”

    That could well account for attitudes to people like Joe Hockey too. Yes, he made a lot of money. Yes, he did reach high office. And yes, we will chat with him on social, business and political occasions – but he’s not really one of us.

    The A.L.P. has some bad history but Turnbull and his mob had better realize that the A.L.P. also has some damn fine history. There was a wealthy family we knew years ago , in the progressive European tradition, who took an active part in political and community life, not as members of their own class but as early members of the A.L.P. They embodied the spirit of a Fair Go for all – it would be so nice if today’s Liberals really tried to absorbed that spirit too.

  32. Jumpy: Some rude people say that business people want to privatize their profit and socialize their losses. Not completely unreasonable for many farmers who have to deal with droughts, floods and boom years.
    What I do find unreasonable that things like income averaging and the ability to split income between spouses aren’t available to PAYE employees even though too many PAYE employees, like farmers, don’t have steady incomes these days.

  33. Some rude people say that business people want to privatize their profit and socialize their losses.

    But for many small businesses the reality is socialised profits and privatised losses, so private that they lose everything.

    Try having a client go bust owing you $70k and see who suffers. Not the employees, they’ve been payed.

    As for the tax system, in July the lot gets averaged on an annual basis for everyone anyway. I believe most PAYG get a refund because they were over taxed.

  34. are the closest thing Australia has to a socialist leftist party while also being far right wing, tea party nut jobs, dragging the Libs to the lunar right at the same time.

    Thank you Mr J.
    I agree with you. And I think that most Parties include a mixture of viewpoints and policies.

    A while back, zoot was saying the same, albeit much more concisely. As is his wont.

  35. Jumpy: A lot of employees lose badly when companies collapse. Employees in some of the high profile collapses get assistance but this is less likely to get help when small businesses get into trouble.
    PAYG employees get tax refunds because they pay too much tax during the year. More likely to happen when their pay varies over the year.
    You have my sympathy in cases where company collapses mean you don’t get paid.

  36. Coming in a bit late but re your comments about Alex Bhathal (Greens candidate in Batman) – I’ve worked with Alex, she is a terrific person and has done very well as a candidate for the Greens in the past.

    What was done to her in the campaign was absolute bastardry – utterly appalling behaviour. Appears to be a small disaffected group, possibly supporters of a male Greens local Councillor, who thought he should have been preselected for the state seat of Northcote, which was won for the Greens by Lidia Thorpe, the first Indigenous woman in the Vic Parliament, in a landslide last November. Alex supported Lidia against this other candidate, which seems to be what the leakers had against her. (Im in a neighbouring electorate so don’t know the full story)

    Words fail me when I try to express my disgust with these people. Alex was a trouper, standing when the Greens got a tiny vote, and when she finally got within sight of victory they sabotaged her (possibly her whole political career, because people outside the Greens have got the idea she was no good)

    John D, I don’t know what the Greens are like in Qld, but in Victoria the emphasis on consensus has unfortunately given small groups of people the idea that their views are sancrosant. I’ve had the same problem in my local branch – a small group of people, particularly I believe influenced by a grumpy old man who hates me (so much that he once had a go at my 19 year old daughter who was talking to him about an entirely unrelated topic), are adamantly opposed to me. I used to be the Greens national health policy conveyor once but I’ve given up any involvement now. The party does need some reform, but I think it’s about processes (particularly that consensus doesn’t mean you have the right to be an absolute bastard if you don’t get your own way) rather than left-right factions.

  37. Ironic that an emphasis on consensus should lead to such bitter feuds isn’t it? But that’s human beings for you – we will never be perfect and trying to act as if we can just encourages the self righteous as far as I can see.

  38. Another thing – sorry for string of posts – the ALP says they ran a positive campaign, and I’m sure Ged did locally. However there was a negative campaign on twitter, and it was not just rank and file, but included several Labor MPs and the Guardian columnist Van Badham.

  39. That sort of activity gives democracy a bad name, Val. I went to the Labour campaign launch at Penrith last weekend, and it was really good fun. I got to speak to a lot of people that we generally just hear about, including Wayne Swan.

    Val, please have a look at the website and I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts. Your can use the bill@ address on the site if you would like to discuss any aspects of the subject matter.

  40. Val: The Qld Greens try hard to reach consensus but go through the following process to avoid consensus stopping progress:
    1. Try and each consensus.
    2. If consensus is not reached people who disagree are asked if they want to “block”. (People who don’t agree with the majority often don’t feel strongly enough to block.)
    3. If someone decides to block there may be more discussion but, if progress is not made the block is recorded and a vote held to make the final decision.
    Seems to work well.
    Interested in what you had to say about Alex. The behaviour of other Green members during the campaign was not impressive.

  41. I must stress John that the great majority of branch members (260 or something) supported Alex as candidate, vs 18 who opposed, and of those 18 I suppose only one or two might have done the leaking (leaking to the Australian, which as you will know hates the Greens, was a particularly low move). The councillor they were supporting has disavowed this and said he supports Alex, but I don’t know how convincing that is. Guy Rundle in Crikey seems to know a lot. Lord knows how the branch will ever get this sorted.

    BilB thanks! I’ll try to look soon. Believe it or not I’m still wrestling with the thesis. Finished soon I hope

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