Opinion - Labor Election Review is a line in the sand

First published as "Roadmap clear on path to trust" in the Weekend West 9 November 2019

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory is hard to take. Just ask John Hewson, who nearly 30 years later is still asked how his GST would have applied to a cake. Following defeat in the May Federal Election, so Labor now also stands.

It is fair to say that Labor caucus members have progressed through the stages of grief in different ways and at different rates. Now that the Review of Labor’s 2019 Federal Election Campaign has been handed down, we can stop looking in the rear view mirror and begin facing forwards. What’s important now is the way we pick ourselves up off the mat, dust ourselves off and head forward, as our Australian democracy needs us to do. It is a line in the sand.

The Review finds there was no single cause for Labor’s defeat and that is true. In my view too, there is little point in dwelling on the shortcomings of past parliamentary and administrative leaders because they have all moved on anyway. The real value of the Review is it brings together actual research and analysis, in many ways confirming in its findings what a lot of us were already thinking, and provides a roadmap forward for better campaigning and hopefully election victory in its recommendations. Without this learning, we are doomed to repeat past mistakes.

Queensland is referred to 66 times in the Review, which is unsurprising given Labor needs to win many more seats in that State just to be competitive at the next election. Of concern, however, is the lesser focus on the other State where Labor must win seats to be successful at the next election, with Western Australia receiving only 10 references.

It is undoubtedly the case that Labor has a lot of ground to make up here in WA federally. It caused me no end of frustration that in the same breath as concerns from voters about the impact of Labor’s policies at the last election, came their memory of Labor being the party of the mining tax.

It is also undoubtedly the case that now having multiple Western Australians in the shadow ministry will improve the WA voice within Labor’s leadership and therefore Labor’s electability in Western Australia. This will need to be partnered, however, with a campaign that effectively targets what Western Australian’s are looking for come 2022.

If there is one message I feel Labor must make abundantly clear, not just to industry but to all Australians and particularly Western Australians, it is that Labor is a pro-resources, pro-manufacturing, pro-growth, pro-jobs and pro-aspiration Party. Quite frankly, it’s in the name - we are the Party for those that work, want to work or have retired from work and that includes employees, small business and the self-employed. And to be clear, this is not an anti-environment stance either, as we should never see the two as mutually exclusive.

Alas, this was lost at the last election, as there was no consistent overarching alignment of our broad – and in some ways disparate – policy proposals in answering the fundamental question as to why people should throw out the Morrison Government and why they should elect a Labor one.

Some have been concerned that multiple contributions from many different Labor frontbenchers and backbenchers on the future direction of the Party and causes of election defeat has looked messy. While messy it might be, it has been necessary and frankly, having unexpectedly lost the election, I don’t believe any Australians would take us seriously if we had all just got up on Sunday, 19 May and said let’s just do the same thing again in 2022.

Bob Hawke said that you should never underestimate the common sense of the Australian people. He listened to the Australian people and that’s why he was so successful.

Under Albo’s leadership, Labor’s task now is to build the trust of the electorate by ensuring our people, our approach and our policies are for all Australians; not divisive or pitting one group against another but being open, listening, reflective and bold in our hopes and dreams for Australia and Australians.

No one aspires to welfare or poverty and nobody wants government to get in their way. We can lift up those at the bottom but we shouldn’t constrain the opportunities of others in the process. We need to be the Party for those who feel the powerful don’t listen to or speak for them but we shouldn’t dismiss those who succeed. It’s not just about those that “have a go” getting a go but also ensuring that all Australians have the chance to have a go in the first place.

With the Review in hand we can move forward in a united way behind Anthony Albanese. This unity of purpose cannot come at a more important time, as economic growth slows and global economic headwinds increase. It is becoming increasingly apparent to all Australians that having won the election, the Morrison Government doesn’t actually have any plan to help Australians deal with their low wage growth and ever increasing costs of living.

They are the proverbial dog that caught the car.

Labor cannot succeed trying to re-prosecute the 2019 Federal Election, we must be prepared for the fight in 2022. This is the review Labor had to have and now we can all go forward together, recalibrating our efforts in alignment to where all Australians need Labor to be – focused on them, not ourselves.

Matt Keogh MP is the Labor Shadow Minister for Defence Industry, WA Resources and Assisting on Small & Family Business, and the Federal Member for Burt.

First published in the Weekend West, Saturday 9 November 2019


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