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.