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ALP Campaign Review Submission

1. Notification has been received by email from the Victorian branch of the Labor Party (Wed, July 17, 2019) that the ALP National Executive has commenced a review of the party’s 2019 Federal election campaign with submissions from branch members, affiliated unions, campaign volunteers and other interested parties. This submission is made by Lev Lafayette (Victorian branch member of the ALP, 41508) on behalf of the Isocracy Network, a non-profit incorporated association based in Victoria (A0054881M), as an "interested party". The Isocracy Network is a political advocacy group which draws upon liberal, socialist, and anarchist traditions and whose current committee of management includes members from the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party of Australia, the Australian Greens, and the Socialist Alliance.

2. Rather than address all the areas requested by the National Executive, this submission will concentrate on the following:
* A statistical analysis of the result
* Policy
* Digital campaigning and Anti-Labor campaign methods

3. Evershed and Phillips have conducted demographic analysis of the swings to Labor and the Coalition on a per-electorate basis. Interpretations are drawn primarily from these factual studies.

3.1 Nick Evershed's analysis [1] published in The Guardian Australia (May 22, 2019), compares swings to either Labor or the Coalition by electorate. The summary version is as follows:

"Electorates that swung harder to the Liberal and National parties are more likely to have higher unemployment, lower income, lower levels of education and fewer migrants, according to a Guardian Australia analysis.

Conversely, electorates that swung to Labor are more likely to have higher levels of education, more young people, more people in work or study, and more people over the age of 80."

More specifically, the ordinal ranking an r values for relation between electorate demographic and swing to the Coalition was:

* completion of Year 12 or equivalent, r = -0.46
* being engaged in full-time work or study, r = -0.42
* income, r = -0.34
* percentage of recent migrants, r = -0.28
* percentage aged 18-34 was r = -0.23 (those aged 80+ also has a negative r value, but it is not stated).

That is, the strongest swings against the Coalition was where among the educated, those who were in full-time work or study, and those on higher incomes, and to a lesser extent, migrants and youth. Conversely, the less educated, those were underemployed, and on lower-incomes, swung against Labor. Evershed's analysis also notes: "There was a weak, negative correlation with both the franking credit and negative gearing figures with swing to the Coalition. That is, as the rate of people receiving franking credits goes up, and the rate of people negatively gearing properties goes up, so does the swing towards Labor."

3.2 The analysis conducted by Ben Phillips, associate Professor at ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods and director for the Centre for Economic Policy Research, has been widely reported in the media [2]. Six main demographics are compared to swings by electorate are compared, using correlation coefficient values with values 0 representing a swing to the Coalition. Again, with ordinal rankings.

* % bachelor degree, -58%
* % persons income $100k+, -47%
* % aged 60%, -2%
* % renting, 3%
* % families with children, 12%
* % Christian, 47%
* % blue-collar workers, 61%
(The charts are labelled r^2; this is an error as noted by the author,

These results broadly concur with that of Evershed; the educated and the wealthy electorates swung strongly in favour of Labor, electorates with a high percentage of blue-collar workers and Christians voted for the Coalition, and to a more moderate extent, as did electorates where there are families with children. Phillips also makes the observation that the correlation with blue-collar worker electorates and a swing to Coalition was even stronger in Queensland.

"Low income, low education and Christian religion were all features of electorates which swung to the Coalition," says Professor Ben Phillips.. "The share of blue-collar workers in the electorate was a particularly strong driver"
Inside Scott Morrison's Donald Trump-like election victory

3.3 Just prior to the election, Rob J Hyndman, Professor of Statistics, Monash University, and Dianne Cook, Professor of Business Analytics, Monash University, published demographic trends and voting in Australian electorates [3], consisting of compared election results from 2001 to 2016 with cenus data, using over 30 socio-demographic data. Unlike the Evershed and Phillips studies, this analysis was interested in results, rather than swings, and trends rather than the specific election.

Compared against "the average electorate", higher income electorates (top 10%) increasingly favoured the Coalition with an impact margin of 15.6% in 2016 up from 5.6% in 2001 (the 2019 results will be counter to this trend). Electorates with high levels of unemployment also favoured the Coalition, with a margin of 3.6% in 2016 up from -3.1% in 2001. However, educated electorates favoured Labor with a margin of 9.1% in 2016 (and increasing in 2019) whereas in 2001 they favoured the Coalition by 1.4%. According to industry, extractive industries (mining, electrcity) showed a slight improvement for the Coalition from 6.2% in 2001 to 9.5% in 2016, as did transformative industries (construction, manufacturing), from 4.1% in 2001 to 5.9% in 2016. In management and administration the trend was stronger; 2.6% in 2001 to 7.4% in 2016, although the 2019 result will witness a decline in that value, which peaked at 7.7% in 2007.

The impact of overseas votes has a marginal benefit for Labor, at 0.7% in 2016 whereas in 2001 it was 2.8% for the Coalition; Labor's peak in this demographic was 8.8% in 2010, however the impact of speaking languages other than English has increasingly favoured the Coalition at 12.6% in 2016, whereas in 2001 it slightly favoured Labor at 0.6%.

4. The usual caveats apply to statistical data, but in general the facts speak for themselves, and indeed contribute significantly to variations from the general observations. This was an election where the educated, the well-off, and those in stable employment or study swung towards Labor, and where the poorly educated, the religious, and those in unstable and blue-collar employment swung towards the Coalition. The fact that this seems to be in opposition to the policies promoted the respective political groupings suggests that voters did not vote strongly according to the actual policies presented, but rather on the perception of policies, and especially in terms of what is perceived (often rightly) of policies that threaten already precarious livelihoods.

One interpretative argument that has some credit is that Labor suffered significantly due to minor party preferences. Overall the Coalition had a slight swing against it on primary votes (c.0.6%), and Labor more that twice that amount (1.4%). Minor parties from the last election also lost ground, with the Centre Alliance losing 1.5% of their 1.8% vote, the Christian Democrats losing 0.6% of their 1.3% vote and Rise Up Australia losing 0.4% of their 0.5% vote. Notable gains were made by the United Australia Party with 3.4% and One Nation picking up 1.8% to make 3.1%. In previous elections the results of minor parties have been somewhat equally distributed between Labor and the Coalition. In this election, the UAP and ON were strongly in favour of the return of the Morrison government, and their combined primary vote of 6.5% was crucial, especially in marginal outer-urban and regional electorates (in Queensland the UAP/ON vote was 12.4%). In terms of the cultural political economy, ON and UAP voters are in many ways disaffected working-class Labor voters, and where these parties gain their votes is in such electorates, a point well made by Kosmos Samaras [4].

5. The old adage that oppositions don't win elections, governments lose them, has led to suggestions that Labor should have adopted a "small target" approach in the 2019 election. The argument goes that Labor had too many policies ("Franking credits. Negative gearing. Top bracket tax. Climate change." [5]) that challenged too many interest groups and was too complex, whereas the Coalitions lack of policies, with the exception of tax-cuts, simplified their message. Whereas Labor had a policies, it lacked a narrative, whereas the the Coalition lacked policies, it had an narrative. It is rather extraordinary, given the circumstances, that Labor made such little issue of the utterly dire economic record of the sitting government.

Labor provided a comprehensive suite of policies, well-targeted to particular audiences, and made a number of bold proposals to curb the damaging effects of rent-seeking in the Australian economy, especially in regard to fully-franked dividend credits and negative gearing, and also with climate change policies. It would tempting to claim that the policies were wrong and therefore should be watered down in some manner. However, among those who understood them (and they were often complex), there is evidence that such demographic groups voted in their favour, and interestingly even when they would not benefit or even would lose income as a result.

A comparison could be made here with the election of the Hawke government in 1983. In this case, the Fraser government, calling a short, five-week election, offered more of the same (which, at the time, was rising unemployment and inflation) whereas Hawke did have a policy agenda and a policy narrative, built around the notion of "consensus" [6]. A contrast can be made with the election of the Rudd government in 2007 (the two elections representing the times that Labor has ousted as sitting Coalition government), where the Howard government's Workchoices Act proved to extremely unpopular, added with the popular leadership style of Kevin Rudd, with the positive campaign slogan "New Leadership". The Coalition's attempts to condemn opposition to Workchoices as being led by unions appealed only their most secure base, along with the government's failure to sign Kyoto Protocols, served as major points of electoral difference, with Rudd providing the impression of economic conservatism with a spending package of only $49.7 billion compared to the Coalitions $62.6 billion in promises [7].

Whilst there is an argument for Labor simplifying its policies, there is a stronger argument for Labor to gain a sense of economic narrative. This narrative should be clearly orientated towards winning back the disaffected Labor voters who have abandoned the party in favor of populist right-wing parties such as the United Australia Party and One Nation. This is not to suggest that Labor should switch from new economy and social liberal policies (such a climate change, marriage equality etc) but rather to adopt economic policies orientated towards providing job opportunity and economic security for those who are in economically precarious situations whilst providing a progressive liberalism which appeals to the educated professionals. An illustrative example of the successful combination of these two approaches can be seen in the Andrews government in Victoria which is leading the country in infrastructure expenditure [8].

"$107 billion of state capital projects are commencing or underway. Now remarkably, we are currently investing more in Victoria than the Commonwealth intends to spend across the entire nation over the next decade."
-- Tim Pallas

6. The final item of consideration refers to the digital campaign and the anti-Labor tactics. In this case, much of the unexpected component ofthe election result was due to what was fundamentally the most deceitful election campaign in living memory, which effected - as the statistical analysis shows - those who had the least educational resources to differentiate between factual policies and "fake news". Much of this was led by the Coalition treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, who claimed that Labor planning $387bn in new taxes which was demonstrably untrue [9]. Whilst the Coalition claimed that the Labor's policies on negative gearing would be destructive to the housing market, Treasury had to remind them that this was "not consistent" with their advice [10]. Naturally enough, the Coalition continued with these campaigns because (a) they were effective, and (b) there was no means to prevent them. In the digital space such deceptions would further promoted by various far-right organisations linked to Frase Anning's staff and the United Australia Party, which "produced fake news, racist memes and messages against voting for Labor or the Greens, which were liked or shared more than a million times during the election campaign" [11].

A functioning democracy requires an informed electorate. Where the electorate has been misinformed, erroneous choices will be made, to the detriment of good public policy. In the pursuit of power (or the prevention of Labor attaining power), this is exactly what occurred in the 2019 election. Bill Shorten is absolutely correct in this assessment [12]:

"We were up against corporate leviathans, spending hundreds of millions of dollars telling lies, spreading fear. Powerful vested interests campaigned against us through sections of the media itself, and they got what they wanted"
-- Bill Shorten

The time has therefore come that political campaigns in Australia should be subject to the same criteria of honesty that is required for other goods and services and to end false and misleading claims. This is not such a radical proposal and state at least, South Australia, has it on their statute books (section 113, Electoral Act, 1985). Penalties include fines for statements that are "inaccurate or misleading" with the requirements of withdrawing and retraction of such claims. It is recommended that Labor support the introduction of "truth in advertising" in political campaigns, and it may find non-partisan allies in such an endeavour [13]

"We definitely need rules in political advertising to make sure that people are not misleading the voters when it comes to making a decision about who to vote for," Mr Falinski [Liberal, MHR] said.

"We have truth in advertising across the board. It just doesn't apply to political campaigns."


[1] Evershed, N., "The eight charts that help explain why the Coalition won the 2019 Australian election", The Guardian, May 22, 2019

[2] e.g., Seo, B., "ScoMo wins the 'Trump Australians'", The Australian Financial Review, May 21, 2019
Long, S., "Inside Scott Morrison's Donald Trump-like election victory", ABC News, May 24, 2019

[3] Hyndman, R.J., Cook, D., "You are what you vote: the social and demographic factors that influence your vote", The Conversation, May 17, 2019

[4] Samaras, K., "Labor Culture Wars", June 10, 2019

[5] Molloy, S., "Federal election 2019: Where it all went wrong for Labor and Bill Shorten, leading to Scott Morrison’s victory", The Australian, May 19, 2019

[6] Hughes, A.S., "The Federal Election of March 1983", Journal for Students of HSC Politics, April 1984

[7] Williams, P.D., "The 2007 Australian Federal Election: The Story of Labor’s Return from the Electoral Wilderness", Australian Journal of Politics and History: Volume 54, Number 1, 2008, pp. 104-125.

[8] Ziffer, D., "Victorian budget may make other state treasurers curdle with envy", ABC News, 28 May, 2019

[9] Karp, P., Murphy, K., "Josh Frydenberg says Labor plans $387bn in new taxes, but facts say otherwise", 12 Apr 2019

[10] Dean, L., "Treasury told Liberals to stop lying about Labor’s negative gearing policy", Yahoo Finance, 6 March 2019

[11] Gladstone, N., Koslowski, M., "Alt-right Facebook memes pushed anti-Labor message", The Age, May 26, 2019

[12] "Shorten blames ‘powerful vested interests’ for Labor election loss", The New Daily, May 30, 2019

[13] Quoted in "Federal election 2019: Tony Abbott says Warringah campaign 'pretty personal' in secret recording"

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Copy of the report here:

Too much navel-gazing, overlooks the Tory campaign of deliberate falsehoods.

"It was kind of an 'act fast, break things, move on' [attitude] that was obvious," Murphy recalled.