Six months on, let’s focus on the future

November 19 marked six months since Labor’s loss in the May federal election. There have been tough days and rough days. Tough seeing what the Liberals continue to do to our nation, and rough as our party digests, debates and dissects the reasons for that loss.

The release of the Weatherill/Emerson led review of Labor’s election loss is stark reading. It is one of the more honest and open assessments of political failure we have seen. That’s a credit to the review team, the party and its leadership – current and former – for allowing the necessary analysis to be properly written.

Conversations about the loss and the review have been important, and many excellent contributions have been made in the last six months. Now we need to figure out how to win the next election.

First step is to turn our focus on the Liberal Government’s failings. They have had six years in charge, every day there are more signs of trouble in our economy and it is impacting on people’s lives.

Here’s some key facts:

Jobs are being lost – last month there were 19,000 fewer people employed across Australia.

Wage growth is slow – wages have grown at just 2.2 per cent during the year, slower than previously recorded and well below forecasts.

People are spending less – recent figures show retail trade volumes are going backwards, and had their lowest annual growth in 30 years

Outlook is poor – the Reserve Bank of Australia recently lowered its expectations for economic growth for the third time in six months.

The reality is that neither Scott Morrison nor Josh Frydenberg can be taking any credit for the meagre signs of economic activity. Latest ABS figures show State Government spending on infrastructure and services is the main reason there is any growth in our national economy. Meanwhile the Morrison Government has spent only $2.2 million out of a $3.5 billion infrastructure fund that is supposed to connect transport hubs around Australia.

The Liberal Government’s inaction is hurting our economy and making life increasingly difficult for Australians.

Second step is for Labor is to get ourselves back on track and focus on the policies we need to win the next election.

Last weekend the Chifley Research Centre hosted a discussion on the fringe of the Victorian Labor Conference about what Federal Labor could learn from Victoria’s success.

From that discussion we heard that the most important lessons should be learned about winning from opposition – in either 2014 or 1999 – rather than winning the thumping re-election victories of 2018, 2006 or 2002.  Part of those victories was an unrelenting focus on the failings of the government. They also clear and straightforward plan about how Labor will make life better for the entire community.

Another lesson we heard from Victoria is that it is possible to connect an economic agenda focused on jobs – both protecting them and creating them – with a socially progressive stance that resonates because it is authentic, and heart felt. They are not irreconcilable concepts and have both been central to Labor’s cause for generations.

Next month, Chifley is hosting an important next step in the policy conversation. Our conference – Towards 2022: Ideas for Labor and Australia – will give Labor supporters a chance to connect and discuss issues that matter in developing a winning policy platform. Speakers from around country and around the world will bring their insights and experience in how we get the policy and politics right to bring us back to an election winning position.

Topics we will cover include:

  • The new industrial revolution and a green new deal
  • A Labor vision for regional Australia
  • Where will our future jobs come from
  • Talking with voters of faith
  • Inclusive patriotism
  • Social democracy around the world
  • Getting beyond the echo chamber

The conference will be addressed by Anthony Albanese delivering the next of his vision statements, as well as Sally McManus, and international guests including the NZ Finance Minister Grant Robertson, and former Obama campaign spokesperson Ben La Bolt.

Keep an eye out for the final agenda to be released soon, and get your tickets at

Most importantly bring your views with you to the conversation in Sydney on 7 & 8 December.

About Ryan Batchelor

Ryan Batchelor

Ryan Batchelor is a director of the Chifley Research Centre. During the last Labor Government he served as Policy Director to Prime Minister Gillard and as Chief of Staff and Senior Adviser to Jenny Macklin, and worked on the 2007, 2010 and 2013 national election campaigns.

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