A picture of Ed Miliband appears on the wall in the Australian Labor party campaign headquarters. Above the sign reads “don’t be them”. United Kingdom Labour’s high expectations and crushing defeat in 2015 had huge implications for social democrats the world over. No more so for our older sister party down under. At the time they knew a general election was due within 18 months and that while they were up against an unpopular Tory party that had just suffered a big defeat. Yet the whole party had been entangled in a huge personality battle between the previous government’s biggest figures. Sound familiar?
So why have the ALP turned their fortunes around so quickly and brought themselves to the brink of government in less than three years of opposition? (more…)
First published in Anticipations, the Young Fabian journal | Volume 17, Issue 2 | Winter 2013
Just over six months ago my time working for Australian Labor party (ALP) began. The first week started with me leaving Progress annual conference in London and ended with a Eurovision event in Sydney. Both had a similar demographic in attendance, and the latter felt very much like a home away from home. The week in between featured many of the gems that were to unfold in an election where the party changed its candidate for prime minister half way through the campaign.
Having landed (late) I was picked up by my new colleague. Before the pleasantries were over we were dialling into the weekly conference call. I was introduced as the ‘fall guy’ for the campaign. My driver turned out to be the chair of Young Labor for some of the time I had held the same position in the UK. We exchanged battle stories and tales of Trots in student politics – nothing else would have put me at such ease. On arrival I was given the essentials – a phone and hotel room key.
Within 24 hours of landing I’m back in the air and heading to Canberra. It’s budget day. Australia’s twenty-second year of continuous economic growth (started under Labor) is in full swing and everyone is in town. The rest of the G20 might look on with envy but you wouldn’t know it from the chatter- it’s all about the government cutting ‘middle class welfare’ and John Howard’s use of public money to bribe the electorate for votes. (more…)
Changing leader was enough to save key bits of furniture. The much-predicted domino effect in western Sydney never happened. But neither did the great seat pick-up in Queensland.
Paradoxically, Kevin Rudd’s second stint as prime minister has secured the substantial achievements of Julia Gillard, both his successor and predecessor. The Liberals do not have a majority in the senate and will now struggle to get through key policies, and will find it harder still to undo Gillard’s reforms, including the Gonski ‘better schools’ plan and DisabilityCare Australia. They have even had to accept significant parts of these changes into their party platform. (more…)
Labor has suffered a terrible but long-predicted loss. As Tony Abbott hits the ground running Labor must get to work on building a more progressive future and getting the Liberals out of the government – ideally in one term.
In the last 48 hours both the new Australian prime minister, Kevin Rudd, and Ed Miliband have announced significant reforms to their parties. Both are extending new rights to their members and in turn to the wider public. Both are opening up their parties and inviting the public in, recognising that it is in partnership with the voters that we can clean up politics and restore it as an honourable pursuit for those who want to make changes for the better.
Two weeks ago few would have predicted that either of these men would be making speeches of this kind, let alone the speed of implementation being proposed. (more…)
From afar all looks well for our Australian cousins. A Labor government has delivered sustainable growth and ensured this is the only country in the G20 not to suffer recession following the global financial crisis. Domestically, it is making majoritarian, nation-building investments in public life that sit firmly in the centre-ground of politics but are undeniably Labor legacies. These include investments in schools, disability services and high-speed broadband which are, as Ed Miliband would say, ‘for the many’. It dominates a policy agenda that the unpopular opposition Liberals have to readily adopt in huge proportions, normally dragged kicking and screaming by their own state premiers, interest groups and the voters, but overall leaving small, yet important, areas to scrap over. (more…)