It’s been over 2 months since the 2019 federal election loss and Labor is still reeling from the shock, and to some extent, still ‘stuck in the headlights’ wondering where it goes next.
Anthony Albanese, the new federal Labor leader, continues to frustrate many within his own Left faction with his ‘softly, softly’ approach, which some critics have described as verging on shameful appeasement.
The perceived retreat from bold progressivism is perhaps a natural, knee jerk reaction borne out of the shock and disappointment of the election result. This is also not unexpected from those who have used the loss as a convenient excuse to jettison some landmark policy positions, instead preferring the false safety of the ‘small target’ approach.
However, veteran Victorian Senator, Kim Carr (pictured) has recently added to the growing chorus within the Party for Federal Labor to retain its commitment to a clear redistributive economic agenda and not be so quick to reject the core of its policies it took to the last election. His warning for Labor not to ‘run up the white flag’, is good advice, especially in the absence of any detailed analysis of where and why Labor fell short.
What Senator Carr contends is that the real problem for the ALP was its messaging, not its policies, which were, overall, some of the most progressive we have seen for a while. Add to this the external element of a well funded scare campaign aided by a hostile and complicit media, Labor was always facing a more difficult battle to win the Treasury benches.
Whilst I, personally, have been somewhat underwhelmed by the leadership of ‘Albo’ to date, I am still more than prepared to give him the space he needs to build his credentials and be the type of Labor leader we need. However, what he and the inner core of the Federal Caucus must understand is that Labor needs to assert its values. It needs to stand up for the reasons why so many join the ALP in the first place, which is to work towards a more inclusive, fairer society for everyone. If the 2019 loss ends up being a shameful surrender to the dishonesty and misery of neo-liberalism so strongly advocated by the Coalition, the decline of Labor as the major progressive force in this country will be assured.
Senator Carr has written some much needed words of wisdom in his essay in the John Curtin Research Centre’s journal. His timely advocacy for policies that truly differentiate the ALP from the Coalition and the need for the Party to improve it’s messaging and its understanding of the anxieties and insecurities of many in the electorate is an imperative that cannot be ignored.
Rod Beisel is secretary of the Annerley Branch