Described by the party as “one of the most disappointing in our electoral history”, Labor’s 2013 federal election defeat was one for the Australian political history books.
The leadership battle between Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard reflected the party’s internal acrimony and instability, and ultimately killed voter confidence.
In an internal review, conducted by Victorian MP Jane Garrett and former ALP Queensland boss Milton Dick, the ALP has attempted to define its mistakes in order to improve future campaigns.
The result is a damning review of how Labor lost sight of its party’s values: “We know the single biggest reason voters turned away from Labor was internal Party disunity.”
Despite blaming Kevin Rudd and his advisors for much of the campaign chaos the review reveals the party was facing a swing against it of 18% under Julia Gillard’s leadership, which could have left the Opposition with as few as 40 seats. But the last-minute switch to Rudd saw the party hold 55 seats.
“As the results rolled in on Election night we did find ourselves holding seats we fully expected to lose, and even received swings toward us in some seats. In the end Labor
held 55 seats – 15 more than our research in May had predicted,” the review reads.
Here are the best excerpts Business Insider has pulled from the review. It points to huge problems between campaign headquarters and the “Travelling Party” which included Rudd and his strategist Bruce Hawker. You can also view it in full here.
It is clear on any assessment that campaign decision-making processes in the 2013 Campaign were poor and suffered from the changes in personnel and operating procedures that came with the change in leader so close to the Election date.
More than half of Campaign Headquarters staff turned over weeks before the Election.
There were serious difficulties managing the liaison between the Travelling
Party and Campaign Headquarters.
Unit Directors within Campaign Headquarters did not feel confident that decisions they made within their area of responsibility would not be overturned by the Travelling Party. People with responsibility for different areas lacked the authority to make decisions with the confidence that the Travelling Party would not over-rule them.
The change in leadership so close to the Election also severely frustrated and
derailed the important policy and messaging work that is normally done well in advance of a campaign. This work is critical in minimising the risk of poorly considered announcements.
The malicious leaking of internal research which has occurred in recent years has
been unforgivable. This leaking has been motivated not by a desire to advance the
Party as a whole, but rather to advance the political interests of particular individuals.
Any behaviour which compromises the ability of the Labor Party to deliver for the
Australian community is the most heinous activity a member or representative of the
Party could ever engage in and it should be dealt with firmly and thoroughly.
The use of overseas consultants did not add significant value and in some cases was disruptive. The Labor Party has highly skilled and experienced campaigners that resources should actively be invested in to accelerate the development of their skills and experience. Our most effective campaigners should be formally identified, kept in the movement and provided with ongoing support and training and experience to further develop their skills.
Labor’s defeat in 2013 is a tragedy for the Party, largely because it was self-inflicted but a greater tragedy because of the harm being caused to Australians under an Abbott
government. The defeat was a tragedy for action on climate change, urgent justice for people living with a disability, universal healthcare, needs-based education funding, world class broadband, properly funded retirement incomes, equitable access to university, fair workplace rights and for striking the balance between demands of jobs and the environment.
Nevertheless, this is a defeat from which the Party can and will rise again. And these reforms; set back and delayed by the current government will not be stopped forever.
Labor is in a good position to return to government in 2016.
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