Flat White

Labor said ‘if you don’t like our policies, don’t vote for us’, yet still needed an election review?

13 November 2019

11:54 AM

13 November 2019

11:54 AM

Labor really didn’t need an army of strategists to find out why it lost the widely touted unlosable May election.

It’s not rocket science.

When you have been involved in knifing not just one sitting prime minister but two — in just a few short years — your future ambitions to assume the top job will always take a bit of a battering, no matter which way you slice and dice it.

Bill Shorten was the faceless man that ended Kevin Rudd’s rule. He installed Julia Gillard as prime minister but then withdrew his support three years later when he backed Rudd’s return.

Those analysing any party’s defeat are also savvy spin doctors who love to trot out those generic predictable phrases such as it was due to lack of strategic direction, a lack of adaptability and the unpopularity of the party’s chosen leader.

However, while no one really wants to remember that era — or people deny it was as bad as it was (and truly it was bad) — it remains in the psyche of all Aussies.

When Game of Thrones was little more than a cult series of books, we all had a daily dose in our suburban lives


The Rudd/Gillard/Rudd fiasco changed the course of Australian politics. Nothing like this had ever happened before in Australia. The merry-go-round of changing a country’s leader or government was something that happened in Italy, the Pacific Nations or South East Asia.

The Howard-Costello era had given Australia stability for 11 great years. There was ongoing leadership rivalry but it was put aside to ensure good government for Australia; government that we all benefitted from.

And so when Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd sat side-by-side at Labor’s 2019 election launch, the strategists patted themselves on the back thinking they had pulled off the biggest coup in Labor’s recent history.

The problem was that normal Aussies were not talking about how united Labor now was. They were being reminded of Labor once again showing its arrogance and assumptions.

Coincidentally, the then Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen fired the first arrogant shot in the 2019 campaign flippantly telling people, “if you don’t like our policies, don’t vote for us.”

Normal Aussies were simply saying how stupid did these Labor people think they were, given they had all lived through and suffered the saga fuelled relationship of those chaotic Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years.

For Australia’s 26th and 27th and 26th Prime Ministers to be then sitting there at the Federal Labor election campaign launch actually helping their executioner was a bridge too far.

Why? Because we could all fill in a cartoonist’s caption as to what they were really thinking having to sit through that cringeworthy caper.

Having suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune at the hands of the man who now wanted to be Australia’s 30th prime minister, uniting Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd to help their executioner Bill Shorten sell a united Labor for the Federal Election provides the real answer for where Labor went so drastically wrong.

The strategists have done their job of doing the trendy thing, ticking those boxes of looking at gender balance, polling, social media, strategy, fundraising but in this case all Labor needed to remember was the Famous Five.

And that Famous Five? Where are they now?

Factional leaders Mark Arbib and Paul Howes have re-invented themselves in the multi-million dollar corporate world. The age of chivalry is not dead, as South Australian veteran Don Farrell stepped aside to let Kristina Keneally take over as Labor’s deputy Senate Leader, while former one-time warlord David Feeney is believed to be studying for a PhD. These four are no longer famous.

But the fifth, Bill Shorten, the man who believed that Australia would believe what he wanted us to believe, but only when it suited him to tell us. He will remain forever in infamy.

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