#OneTermTony – back to basics

StartAs the dust settles on Abbott’s election victory, I can’t help but feel extremely optimistic about this country’s future. That might sound like an odd thing to say, having blogged for three years about the nightmare prospect of an Abbott government. Don’t get me wrong, I know as well as anybody that we’re in for some very scary policy shifts in the next three years. However, since Abbott, thankfully, doesn’t control the Senate, and Rupert Murdoch doesn’t control the Senate and Gina Rinehart doesn’t control the Senate, all the money in the world isn’t going to help any of these three people to strip back the progressive reforms that were successfully implemented by the Gillard/Rudd government, should the Senate majority choose not to support these changes.

Abbott is going to have to sell his new policies and Labor policy rollbacks to small independent parties who owe him nothing. He’s promised not to negotiate with independents and minor parties to win power. But what point is there being in power if he can’t get anything done? He’s promised every angry bogan in Australia that he’s going to ‘axe the Carbon Tax’, and presumably they expect him to now axe the Emissions Trading Scheme. He’s promised every angry bogan and Gina Rinehart that he will axe the Mining Tax, but will he be able to do this without a majority in the Senate? So I hope Abbott’s feeling pretty impotent right now. And worried. Come the next election, not even hot daughters and a Murdoch media campaign can hide the fact that the angry bogans haven’t been given what they’ve been promised.

But Abbott’s impotence isn’t the only reason for my optimism. I also think an Abbott government is going to give the Labor party, and all progressive voters, a golden opportunity to go back to basics, and to question what exactly it is that we want from a progressive government and how we can bring about change without hitting the same hurdles which have damaged progressive reform in the last decade. Here are the lessons we need to learn to get things back on track in time to comprehensively beat Abbott in 2016. Bring on the One Term Tony campaign!

Labor’s relationship with unions

The issue of industrial relations was practically absent from this year’s election, even though Abbott’s front bench will essentially mimic John Howard’s front bench, the creators of Work Choices. There is no doubt that Abbott, or his backers at least, have an industrial relations policy in the works, ready to spring on unsuspecting voters who seem completely comfortable voting for a party who refuse to tell them what they plan to do in government.

But my question for progressive voters is this – should we wait until Abbott threatens worker’s rights to rise up and fight like we did in 2007, or should we be shoring up worker’s rights constantly, with a Labor Party that works in alliance with the Labour Movement through strong, fair, effective unions?

The problem with a strong, successful union movement is that unions have become the victims of their own success. Workers no longer acknowledge they need union support, until the moment they need union support. Union membership is at an all time low, especially amongst a younger generation of voters who have benefited from and lived complacently with union negotiated rights from the very start of their working lives.

I think it’s time progressive voters start to have a frank discussion about the role of unions in Australia, the benefit of unions, the relationship between the Labour Movement and the Labor Party, and the importance of unions working with the Labor Party. I think we should talk about the role of unions in the executive branch of the party – is it possible for them to have a fair influence without controlling everything? This sounds like a huge can of worms, but what better time to open it than now?

Uniting to get what we want

Long time readers of my blog will have noticed my frustration throughout this election campaign with the failure of progressive Green voters to unite with Labor voters to defeat Abbott with a unified front. Many will no doubt argue that Labor had no intention of unifying with Greens either, which may be so. But when Greens are actively campaigning against Labor, it does make the prospect of a united front a little hard to envisage.

When I say that progressive voters need to go back to basics, I think it’s really important that Greens voters and Labor voters start to realise that we’re not each other’s enemy and that we should be able to work together to bring about progressive reform, to the benefit of all of us.

For instance, using the policy of the Mining Tax as an example, it would be helpful if Greens supporters could at least acknowledge that Labor was forced to engage in a huge battle with rich mining companies over this policy.  In a perfect world, Labor would have preferred a mining tax that more resembled the one outlined in the Henry Review, however progressive reform is not implemented by flicking a switch. You can’t just say ‘here it is’ and expect the policy to succeed. So when the Greens base their entire policy platform and costings on the assumption that if they were in power, they would instantly be able to introduce a much higher rate of tax for mining companies, it does make Labor supporters a little wary of these ‘perfect world’ scenarios, which would, from Labor’s experience, not be possible without a huge fight by some of the most powerful, influential industries in the country. Whether it’s right or not that mining companies influence policies affecting them, it’s reality. Labor has to work within this reality. And so would Greens if they ever had a chance.

It should be obvious, but it obviously needs to be said, that it would be much more productive for all progressive voters to fight on the same side. It would be much more productive for us all if the Greens didn’t spend their entire lives bagging Labor as ‘not being left-wing enough’, while also ignoring the political reality of the battle required to pass progressive policy. Rather than the Greens leaving all the battles to Labor, I think we all need to go back to basics, and battle this out together. We need to acknowledge who the real enemy is, which is anything getting in the way of progressive policy, surely?

I acknowledge that there will always be times where Greens don’t agree with Labor about various policies. But if a Green is judging Labor against an unobtainable utopian outcome which would never be possible in Australia’s political reality, I don’t think Greens are either being fair to Labor, or helpful in furthering progressive reform. I think Greens need to grow up and learn that some progress is better than no progress, whether a policy is perfect or not. We all also need to learn that the only way we’ll get anywhere is fighting for progressive reform together. If that means Greens have to compromise and negotiate, they have three years to work out how to do this.

Communicating the right message

The mainstream media’s political reportage has been in a downward spiral from low quality, low integrity, to downright unethical and immoral in the last few years. Following Murdoch’s lead, it now appears to be completely acceptable for political journalists from a range of media organisations to be completely devoid of the ability to be balanced, fair, and objective in their scrutiny of the political choices faced by voters.

Abbott not only had a free pass throughout the entire election campaign by avoiding examination altogether, he was also able to get away with hiding his costings and policy details from voters until the very last days of election. Even when they were released, they were barely reported.

This isn’t just disappointing. This is a travesty and a huge embarrassment for Australia’s mainstream media. For Murdoch to gloat on Twitter after Abbott’s victory speech that other countries will follow Australia’s lead in moving to the right, just shows what a scary, megalomaniac, wannabe dictator we have controlling the vast majority of newspapers in Australia. Progressive voters should be incredibly concerned about this situation.

So what do we do? The first thing we should acknowledge is that angry bogans who have delivered Abbott his victory are not reading this blog post. They are much more likely to be Daily Telegraph readers than they are Twitter users. So how do we reach them? Labor needs to improve their communication skills. This means the communication carried out centrally by the party, and the communication skills of the individuals within the party. Labor members know exactly what the ALP stands for, but do angry bogans?

Since we know swing voters are not going to learn anything good about Labor by reading the newspaper or watching the nightly news, we need to find ways to communicate without relying on the mainstream media. When Labor has a chance to communicate with voters, whether it be individual MPs in interviews or via political advertising, Labor’s message needs to be strong and clear. And all the leadership infighting has to end right now. The party needs to go back to basics and remind voters why they need and rely on progressive reform to improve their lives. If Labor has learnt anything from the last 6 years it is that the electorate won’t automatically give them credit for popular policies – they need to learn how to sell these policies to get the political success they deserve for their hard work.

Progressive voters need to go back to basics to beat Abbott in 2016. I think we can do it. Who is up for the challenge?


  1. Very perceptive, Victoria. Reaching the ‘angry bogans’ is an impossible task in today’s Australia. Social media will, I believe, one day save Australia from future Tony Abbotts but that doesn’t help us right now. Thinking caps on everybody!

  2. Nice work Victoria. I have been thinking the same things since yesterday.

    Did anyone else think Abbott looked like a mildly retarded child at his victory speech? At one point after his speech he looking down at the crowd with an idiotic grin that said, ‘oh wow, they are all looking at me’. Quite terrifying to observe.

  3. Thank you Victoria we shall regroup and re-arm ourselves for war again.

    Abbott takes control of the 44th Federal Government, his troubles have only started to begin as if he has just fallen off his bike. While Abbott has obtained a large popularity shift in the House of Representatives may seem a huge victorious political gain for his government elect. Abbott is now faced with a hostile Senate, where the Greens look like to improve their numbers to 12 Senators thus the Greens still holding the Balance of Power. Or The other scenario is that Abbott will have to deal with a bag of mixed Right Wing enthusiast with their own agendas that will not appeal to Abbott at all. So what does Abbott do when comfronted by this delimar especially with the likes of Clive Palmar, Abbott will call a double dissolution and back to the Polls we go.

    So us loyal supporters of a fair go is that we must be ready to attack Abbott for the big payback for all his lies and crap he and his mate Rupert stupid have delivered to the dumb and blind Australian electors who sucked in all that one sided crap.

    So we keep on blogging cheers

  4. Victoria
    do you really think that a tired and devastated ALP will really oppose the legislation in the senate to enact the mandate that Abbott has just won?
    Especially for nonsense like the carbon tax? They won’t do it because they know that they would not win the DD election that it will precipitate and they would be hated even more by those you call “Bogan voters” which would ensure that Labor spends even more time in the wilderness.
    Face it the Labor scare campaign has been a huge exaggeration for rhetorical effect and those who have fallen hardest for that line of twaddle are the true believers like yourself. More sensible heads realise that Abbott’s government is more likely to be boring than at all as radical as you are imagining here. There will be no wild cavorts in IR, nothing that will betray the undertakings that Abbott has made to get elected.

    The future for the ALP will be very bleak indeed if it does not learn the lesson of the last six years about keeping faith with those who put it into office, no matter what excuses are made the voters hate and detest those who take them for granted and Labor did that from day one .

      • What they say before an election can not be relied upon as a model for their behaviour after the drubbing that they have received. While I accept that the Greens opposing Abbott’s mandate is likely with them trying to drop back into that “protest” mode the ALP is another Kettle of fish. In the first instance they will not want to create a precedent of disrespect for a thumping great mandate and secondly they will want to move on from the disastrous Rudd/Gillard/Rudd years and there is no better way that letting Abbott do as he promised.

      • Mr Hall you have just said it. And I say the same about your mate Tony. What he said he will do before the elections means nothing to what he and his bandits will do to rob the poor of Australia to give to their rich mates.

  5. Thanks Victoria – you’ve pointed a plausible way forward while acknowledging the difficulties.

    Just on the ALP-Greens schism you’ve explored – in my electorate, Melbourne, the Green how-to-vote card seemed to have logically placed the other candidates on how close to (or how far from!) Greens positions they were. The ALP was placed 2nd. I noticed on the ALP how-to-vote card that both the Sex Party and the Secular Party candidates were placed at 2 and 3 ahead of the Greens.

    I understand that the ALP can’t afford to be seen to be too close to the Greens if they want to attract swinging voters who opt for the Coalition more often than not, but at the same time, the Greens can’t endorse ALP policies that are direct pastes from the Coalition. Therein lies the problem. I fear it might be an insurmountable one.

  6. Let’s hope that Labor starts to cooperate with the Greens, rather than treating them as the enemy, slagging them off as untrustworthy, etc etc. Let’s hope that Labor gets its act together, and never ever gives Rudd another go at wrecking the party. Let’s hope that Abbott hasn’t the ticker to force a double dissolution, because I think Australians are stupid enough to give him the Senate as well.

  7. The issue of a ‘mandate’ is a nonsense. Labor also has a mandate given to them by the 34% who voted for them. Just remember LP 31%, Nationals 12 % of the vote. JG also had a mandate, I didn’t see Abbott allowing her to get on with it. Blocked at every opportunity and she had to rely on the Greens and Independents. So he can go jump and Labor will not go back on its climate change policy. We need to have some intelligent and level headed people in parliament not a bunch of black hearts who want do favours for the privileged and elite.

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