Nuance and nostalgia: Labor’s election review provides useful insights and inevitable harking back to Hawke


Frank Bongiorno, Australian National University

The media have been itching for a report that blamed Labor’s defeat on a dud leader. But the Review of Labor’s 2019 Federal Election Campaign, chaired by former Rudd and Gillard government minister Craig Emerson and former South Australian premier Jay Weatherill, is proportionate in the blame it sends Bill Shorten’s way. Shorten’s unpopularity contributed to Labor’s defeat, but there were wider problems that cannot be put down to leadership alone.

The review is a nuanced account of why Labor lost. Its brief explanation for that loss – a combination “of a weak strategy that could not adapt to the change in Liberal leadership, a cluttered policy agenda that looked risky and an unpopular leader” – belies the sophistication of the report as whole.




Read more:
Grattan on Friday: Labor’s post-mortem leaves the hard work still to be done


The document does better than most post-election analysis that has so far come from within the party. Some of this has been so tendentious and self-serving that its value in either explaining what went wrong or in pointing a way forward has been close to nil.

The review suggests that central to the party’s failure was that it did not reassess its approach adequately when Scott Morrison replaced Malcolm Turnbull. Rhetoric that might have made sense when the Liberal Party was being led by “Mr Harbourside Mansion”, as well as proposing business tax cuts, made rather less sense once the “daggy suburban dad” in the baseball cap was in charge.

Labor made too little of the chaos in the Coalition. Instead, the ALP made itself the issue at the election, a kind of government-in-waiting with a target on its back.

University-educated voters in the southern states, when they tuned in to Morrison, might have heard a sound something like the air escaping from a whoopee cushion. And such voters swung to the Labor Party in the election.

But voters in the suburbs and the regions, especially in Queensland, liked what they saw. So did professing Christians, who liked it even more when they saw photos of the devout believer at prayer, right arm pointing to heaven.

Christian voters swung behind the devout Scott Morrison in the 2019 election.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

On the other hand, many voters saw a danger to their already insecure lives in Labor’s multitude of expensive promises – and the taxation changes proposed to pay for them. They believed Morrison when he warned them of the risks of voting Labor.

Then there was coal. The authors of the report do seem to struggle with Adani. Like just about everyone else, they know it’s a financial and environmental mess. But in terms of electoral politics, Adani is radioactive.

Labor suffered in Queensland and the Hunter Valley as a result of its ambiguity, but the authors are silent on what the party could have done differently. If it had been less ambiguous about Adani, it would have needed to take a stand. But what should that stand have been?

The report is insistent that Labor should not alienate progressive and well-educated voters for whom climate change matters a lot and Adani is toxic. But how can it avoid their alienation while also pleasing economically insecure voters in Queensland? Is this simply a matter of finessing one’s language, or do the problems run deeper?

This is perhaps the report’s weakness. It is good at setting out the kinds of dilemmas Labor faces, which the party failed to grapple with at the 2019 election. It bemoans the party’s tendency to become the vehicle for various interests with diverse grievances, at the expense of serving the needs of economically insecure working-class voters. The habit of trying to serve too many masters multiplies policies and increases the complexity of campaign messaging, while undermining the party’s ability to craft a coherent story based on the party’s “core values”.

Yet the report has little to say on what such a narrative would look like or what those core values actually are. We are told the latter include:

improving the job opportunities, security and conditions of working Australians, fairness, non-discrimination on the basis of race, religion and gender, and care for the environment.

But there is nothing much here that would prompt an undecided voter to look to Labor rather than the Coalition, especially if they like the look of the Coalition’s leader better than Labor’s – as most did in 2019.

And then, when the review tries to set out what a “persuasive growth story” might look like, we are treated to the usual history lesson on the Hawke and Keating governments, whose “whole economic strategy” was about promoting “growth, and through it, jobs” (otherwise known as “jobs and growth”). For the Labor Party, it seems, it’s always 1983. We just need to find the winged keel to get us home.

Rather as the Hawke and Keating governments did, the review pushes any idea of redistribution, or of reducing inequality, to the very margins of Labor philosophy and policy. Indeed, the hosing down of such aspirations – modest as they were at the 2019 election – may well help to explain one of the strangest silences in the report: its failure to deal with the role of the Murdoch press.

The Murdoch media didn’t merely favour the government over the opposition. It campaigned vigorously for the return of the Coalition. And it is a vast empire, with a monopoly through much of regional Queensland, for instance. It is hard not to see in the review’s silence on this matter a clearing of the way for a future kissing of the ring of the familiar kind.

Still, there is much that is valuable in the review. There is its frank criticism of the deficiencies in the Labor Party’s strategising and the incoherence of its campaign organisation. There is the news that the party’s own internal data pointed to the possibility of the catastrophe that ultimately occurred – polling outside the party prompted a misreading of the readily available evidence.




Read more:
Why the 2019 election was more like 2004 than 1993 – and Labor has some reason to hope


The review is also particularly good on the damaging effects of Clive Palmer’s massive advertising splurge. And it makes a fair attempt to relate the Labor Party’s problems to wider international trends, such as the decline of trust, the insecurity of working life for many, the crisis of social democracy, and the search for convenient scapegoats – all of which have undermined the position of parties of reform.

Best of all, the review spares us a lot of rubbish about moving the party to the centre, or the right. It does make much of the need for Labor to reinvigorate its appeal to those groups who seem to have been most alienated at the 2019 election.

It recognises – correctly in my view – that Labor’s position on Adani performed unfortunate symbolic work, suggesting to people especially in parts of Queensland “that Labor did not value them or the work they do”.

But when your primary vote in Queensland is tracking at about 25% and you hold fewer than a quarter of the lower-house seats in that state and Western Australia combined, you probably don’t need a review to tell you something has to change.The Conversation

Frank Bongiorno, Professor of History, ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Grattan on Friday: Labor’s post-mortem leaves the hard work still to be done



Bill Shorten may or may not have been able to beat Malcolm Turnbull, but the review makes it clear the ALP failed to adapt to a new, tactically-astute prime minister.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The messages for next time from Labor’s 2019 election post-mortem are clear. Have a better strategy. Have a stronger narrative, fewer policies, greater emphasis on economic growth. Have a better leader.

Obvious. Incontestable. Just, as a package, devilishly hard to achieve.

The review by Labor elders Jay Weatherill and Craig Emerson identifies the plethora of reasons for Labor’s unanticipated failure. It doesn’t pull punches and contains sensible recommendations.

But no prescribed remedies can guarantee success, in a game where how the other side operates is as important – and can be more so – than what your side does. And that’s apart from the general climate of the times, these days characterised by uncertainty and distrust.

Political success comes from judgement and planning, but there’s also the lottery element. We’ll never know whether Bill Shorten could have beaten Malcolm Turnbull if he’d still been the prime minister in May. Turnbull would say no. Many of the Liberals who ditched Turnbull would say yes. Everyone would agree with the review’s conclusion that Labor failed to adapt when it suddenly faced a new, tactically-astute Liberal PM.

The review’s release was much anticipated, as though it marks a watershed. It doesn’t. It’s sound, well and thoroughly prepared. But it was never going to say how policies should be recast. It leaves the hard work still to be done, and that will be painful and prolonged.

While there’s been much emphasis on Labor’s big taxing policies, the review stresses they were driven by the ALP opting for big spending.

It says “the size and complexity” of the ALP’s spending promises – more than $100 billion – “drove its tax policies and exposed Labor to a Coalition attack that fuelled anxieties among insecure, low-income couples in outer-urban and regional Australia that Labor would crash the economy and risk their jobs”.

Labor has long believed in both the policy desirability and the political attractiveness of large dollops of money for education and health in particular.

Beyond a certain point, however, the value of ever more dollars becomes questionable, on both policy and political grounds. Is the community, for example, getting the return it should for the funds put into schools over the past decade?

One can assume – and Anthony Albanese is signalling – Labor will throw around fewer dollars next time.

The review doesn’t target the controversial policies on negative gearing and franking credits. But they’ll be watered down or dumped.

Albanese, speaking to the National Press Club on Friday, said of the franking credits policy: “When you’ve got to explain dividend imputation and franking credits from opposition – tough ask”. He recounted talking to a pensioner worried about the policy – although pensioners would have been exempted and she’d never owned a share in her life.

The franking policy should have had a protection built in to avoid hitting genuinely low-income retirees while still catching wealthy people who’d rearranged their affairs to have little or no income. Shorten was advised to change it, but refused. On Thursday he said “were the universe to grant reruns” he would “take a different position on franking credits”.

It will be a lot easier for Labor to deal with these tax measures than with climate policy.

The review says: “A modern Labor Party cannot neglect human-induced climate change. To do so would be environmentally irresponsible and a clear electoral liability. Labor needs to increase public awareness of the costs of inaction on climate change, respect the role of workers in fossil-fuel industries and support job opportunities in emissions-reducing industries while taking the pressure off electricity prices.”

Indeed. The summary just highlights the complexities for Labor in working out its revised climate policy.

Anthony Albanese has already put the policy, whatever its detail, into a framework of its potential for job creation as the energy mix moves to renewables.

It’s part of his broader emphasis on jobs and growth (accompanied by his pursuit of improved relations with business, never again to be labelled “the big end of town”).

It’s possible increasing public worry about climate change could help Labor at the next election, if the government’s response is seen as inadequate. That won’t, however, make it any less imperative for the ALP to have a better pitched policy than its 2019 election one, which was too ambitious, lacked costings, and was conflicted on coal.

This segues into Labor’s problem juggling its “progressive” supporters with its working class suburban base, to say nothing of those in coal areas. Taking one line in the south and another in the north didn’t work. The unpalatable truth may be these constituencies are actually not reconcilable, but Labor has to find more effective ways to deal with the clash.

Notably, the review points to the risk of Labor “becoming a grievance-based organisation”. “Working people experiencing economic dislocation caused by technological change will lose faith in Labor if they do not believe the party is responding to their needs, instead being preoccupied with issues not concerning them or that are actively against their interests,” it says.

This is an important warning in an era of identity politics. But again, Labor is in a difficult position, because its commitment to rights, non-discrimination and similar values will mean it attracts certain groups and has to be concerned with their problems. It’s a matter of balance, and not letting itself become hostage.

Grievance politics, looked at through a positive lens, is a way of identifying wrongs and injustices and seeking to rectify them. But it is also in part a reflection of the wider negativity infecting contemporary politics, amplified by today’s media.

That culture can add to the problems of a centre left party trying to sell an alternative.

Labor frontbencher Mark Butler recently noted that on the three post-war occasions when Labor won from opposition, it had immensely popular leaders (Gough Whitlam, Bob Hawke and Kevin Rudd), visions for the nation and superior campaigns.

Whitlam sold a sweeping new program in tune with the changing times. Hawke promoted “reconciliation, recovery and reconstruction”. Rudd was welcomed as a fresh face embracing concern about climate change. Albanese has boldly dubbed a series of his speeches (the first already delivered) “vision statements”. But “vision” is an elusive elixir, apparently harder than ever to come by.

Winning from opposition is a struggle for Labor. This makes it crucial to have a leader who can both reassure and inspire swinging voters. Unfortunately out-of-the box leaders don’t come often; in reality, a party has to work with what it has got.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Labor’s election post-mortem warns against ‘becoming a grievance-based organisation’



Former minister Craig Emerson and former South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill have pinpointed key weaknesses in Labor’s 2019 election strategy.
AAP/Julian Smith

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The long-awaited ALP campaign review says Labor lost “because of a weak strategy that could not adapt to the change in Liberal leadership, a cluttered policy agenda that looked risky and an unpopular leader”.

“No one of these shortcomings was decisive but in combination they explain the result,” says the report from former South Australian premier Jay Weatherill and former federal minister Craig Emerson.

While it says Labor’s big tax policies didn’t cause the defeat, the size and complexity of its spending plans “drove its tax policies” exposing it “to a Coalition attack that fuelled anxieties among insecure, low-income couples in outer-urban and regional Australia that Labor would crash the economy and risk their jobs”.

Labor failed to “craft a simple narrative” bringing together its policies, the reviews says.

Its analysis is damning while seeking to be positive for the future, at a time when the ALP remains in shock at its unexpected loss and divided and uncertain about the way forward.

Looking ahead, the report says “policies can be bold but should form part of a coherent Labor story, be limited in number and be easily explainable, making them less capable of misrepresentation”.

“Labor should position itself as a party of economic growth and job creation. Labor should adopt the language of inclusion, recognising the contribution of small and large businesses to economic prosperity, and abandon derogatory references to ‘the big end of town’.”

The report’s emphasis on the importance of Labor tapping into economic growth and being attuned to business reflects the direction in which Anthony Albanese has been seeking to take the party since becoming leader.

The criticism of the “top end of town” language is a direct slap at the rhetoric of Bill Shorten.



The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Just ahead of the report’s release, Shorten said in a Thursday statement that “were the universe to grant reruns” he would have fewer campaign messages, put more emphasis on the opportunities provided by renewable energies, and take a different position on franking credits.

He also said he should have promised bigger immediate tax cuts for working people.

Shorten reiterated his intention to remain in politics for the next 20 years.

The report warns that “care needs to be taken to avoid Labor becoming a grievance-based organisation,” saying it “has been increasingly mobilised to address the political grievances of a vast and disparate constituency”.

“Working people experiencing economic dislocation caused by technological change will lose faith in Labor if they do not believe the party is responding to their needs, instead being preoccupied with issues not concerning them or that are actively against their interests.

“A grievance-based approach can create a culture of moving from one issue to the next, formulating myriad policies in response to a broad range of concerns.”

Addressing the swing against the ALP by low-income workers, the report says the party’s “ambiguous language on Adani, combined with some anti-coal rhetoric, devastated its support in the coal mining communities of regional Queensland and the Hunter Valley.”

In contrast, higher-income urban voters worried about climate change moved to Labor, despite the potential impact on them of the opposition’s tax policies.

Labor lost some Christian voters, “particularly devout, first-generation migrant Christians”, but the review does not find that people of faith in general deserted Labor.

The review does not believe Labor’s values – “improving the job opportunities, security and conditions of working Australians, fairness, non-discrimination on the basis of race, religion and gender, and care for the environment – were the problem at the election, and says Labor should retain its commitment to these values.

“Labor’s policy formulation should be guided by the national interest, avoiding any perception of capture by special interest groups.”

As a debate has raged within the ALP on how Labor should reshape its climate change policy, and notably its targets, the report says: “A modern Labor Party cannot neglect human-induced climate change. To do so would be environmentally irresponsible and a clear electoral liability.

“Labor needs to increase public awareness of the costs of inaction on climate change, respect the role of workers in fossil fuel industries and support job opportunities in emissions-reducing industries while taking the pressure off electricity prices.”

The report says that high expectations of victory caused Labor incorrectly to assume it had a stronger campaign machine and better digital capacity than the Coalition. It also led to “little consideration being given to querying Labor’s strategy and policy agenda”.

Following Clive Palmer’s huge advertising blitz, the review urges caps on spending by high wealth individuals. Also, influenced by the scare campaign that wrongly asserted Labor had in mind a death tax, the review said the issue of truth in advertising should be looked at.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Labor’s reset on climate and jobs is a political mirage



Labor leader Anthony Albanese, pictured at a cabinet meeting this month, says coal has a future under the renewables expansion.
Richard Wainwright/AAP

Peter Christoff, University of Melbourne

Anthony Albanese’s “Jobs and the Future of Work” speech delivered on Tuesday was, in some ways, a beacon in a dark landscape short on policy ambition. It illuminates the right issues. Technological change and artificial intelligence. The potential for smart manufacturing and domestic economic development. New directions for Australia’s resource sector. A clean energy economy. But the torch shines unevenly.

As an agenda-setting speech coming early in the new electoral cycle, it is weak on ideas, facts and proposals. It spins on about technology and innovation, a hollow chant reminiscent of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s mantra “jobs and growth, jobs and growth”. Maybe Labor is keeping its powder dry. Or it has been scarred and silenced by its election loss, blamed by some on a big target, policy-heavy campaign.




Read more:
Low carbon economy can spur Australian “manufacturing boom”: Albanese


The “vision statement” nevertheless opens impressively by looking at clean energy technology and the Australian possibilities for a new manufacturing boom in a decarbonising world. About the Morrison government, Albanese says its policy settings barely acknowledge climate change, yet “in the century before us, the nations that will transform into manufacturing powerhouses are those that can harness the cheapest renewable energy resources”.

Workers at AGL’s Liddell coal-fired power station.
AAP

Albanese pumps up the potential for Australia’s cheap wind, wave and solar power to grow domestic manufacturing jobs and energy-intensive industries. He sings about clean energy jobs based around mineral resources such as lithium.

And as another round of state and federal parliamentary inquiries probe the feasibility of nuclear power in Australia, Albanese slams the door on this tired debate, declaring: “we don’t need nuclear power when every day we can harness the power (of the sun)”.




Read more:
Coal miners and urban greenies have one thing in common, and Labor must use it


But for all its talk of the need to “innovate, adapt and adjust”, the speech is blind to the harder questions of decarbonisation. On this issue, Albanese tried to walk both sides of the highway by wandering down the middle.

Australia is a major domestic producer of greenhouse gas emissions, making it about the world’s 14th biggest emitter. In recent years our domestic emissions have risen, largely thanks to fugitive emissions released as we extract increasing volumes of coal and natural gas for export.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese in Melbourne this year.
AAP

Australia is among the world’s largest fossil fuel exporters. These exported fossil fuels are responsible for an estimated 3.6% of the global emissions total. If we add these emissions – for which we are morally responsible and from which we benefit financially – to our domestic pollutant load, this places Australia among the planet’s worst emitters.

While bickering about domestic emissions targets, neither Labor nor the Coalition have tackled Australia’s parallel carbon economy – our growing exported contribution to global warming. It’s a big, dirty, lucrative, open secret. It involves jobs in marginal seats. It can determine the fate of governments.

And so Albanese’s vision statement, while extolling the virtues of a hydrogen export sector, also pumps up our fossil fuel trade. He nods at jobs from liquified natural gas exports from northern Australia, and at how traditional industries might benefit from a low-carbon future, such as by providing metallurgical coal to produce wind turbines. (Metallurgical coal is used in steel production. But environmental advocates argue Australia’s continued expansion of these exports is preventing the global uptake of cleaner steel-making alternatives).

Coal being loaded onto ships at a Newcastle port.
AAP

One wonders who his intended audience is. Labor fools no-one by supporting both a clean energy revolution and a business-as-usual future for fossil fuels. It’s akin to the party’s evasive and self-harming position on Adani, which left workers in regional Queensland feeling patronised, dispensable, anxious, hostile and disaffected — and the growing majority of Australians who are deeply concerned about climate change, furious.




Read more:
How to transition from coal: 4 lessons for Australia from around the world


Those who have been following the climate issue closely – resource sector workers, unionists, parents, children and activists alike – know what is required now are tough but fair policies, and a strong commitment to future jobs that are not dependent on the whims of export markets in a decarbonising world, or on policy shocks at home when weak emissions targets suddenly have to be toughened dramatically.

A truck hauling coal at a West Australian mine.
Wesfarmers

To achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement — to hold global average warming to well below 2℃ and as close as possible to 1.5℃ — requires “negative emissions” – removing existing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. To propose a low-carbon future with continued fossil fuel exports is fakery in the extreme.

Many researchers and others, here and overseas, are working with regional communities on ways to generate investment and enduring jobs, enabling a rapid transition from economic dependence on coal and gas. It is slow and sometimes hard work. In this vision statement, Labor fails to recognise the need for a concerted, innovative national program along these lines. It is here that fresh policy is needed, and trust and consensus must be built, carefully, over the coming years.


Clarification: this article has been amended to clarify the author’s view that Australia is morally, if not legally, responsible for emissions created by its fossil fuel exports.


Update: following publication, Labor’s shadow minister for climate change, Pat Conroy contacted The Conversation with the following statement:

The moral and legal responsibility for carbon emissions lies with the nation that burns the coal, not the nation that digs it up.

This principle was enshrined in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris climate treaty and previous international agreements for reducing global emissions.

Holding Australia responsible for burning Australian coal overseas is equivalent to holding Japan responsible for pollution emitted by Japanese cars in Australia.

Activists who want to hold Australia responsible for emissions from coal burned overseas are arguing for the destruction of global climate conventions established 27 years ago, and the only practical approach to addressing climate change as a global challenge.

Under the approach argued in the article, responsibility for transport emissions in Australia would shift to Japan, Germany and Thailand, because the cars are made there, and to Singapore which exports the fuel.

Not only is this completely impractical and unimplementable globally – it gives the Morrison Government leave to do even less. It distracts from the main game – meeting our legal obligations and transitioning Australia to a clean economy – and it says Labor is no different from the Liberals.

In campaigning on coal exports, activists are acting as if we have already secured strong emissions reduction mechanisms in Australia, and making it harder to do the real work to build community support needed to achieve real action.The Conversation


Peter Christoff, Associate Professor, School of Geography, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Gareth Evans: how to be a successful political leader



What are the attributes, self-belief apart, we should reasonably look for in choosing political leaders?
AAP/Dean Lewins

Gareth Evans, Australian National University

This is an edited extract from a presentation to Leon Mann Leadership Forum, co-sponsored by Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, ANU and University of Melbourne.


Not only in Australia but right around the world’s democracies, the quality of political leadership is as low as I can ever remember it – ranging, with only a handful of exceptions, from the underwhelming to the desolate to the appalling.

Just about everywhere one looks, at least one – and often many more than one – of what I would regard as the essential attributes of responsive and effective political leadership have gone missing.

In many ways, this is not surprising. Politics has always been a bloody and dangerous trade, and it has become significantly more so in an age of instant communication, relentless 24/7 news cycles, social media and dramatically reduced personal privacy. And more exposed than anyone else in politics are those who aspire to leadership positions – as Francis Bacon put it four centuries ago,

He doth like the ape, that the higher he clymbes the more he shows his ars.

To both aspire to and acquire political leadership has always required a degree of self-belief that defies normal human inhibition. But what seems to be required nowadays is an almost pathological ability to stay unmoved by what people think and say about you.

Despite the personal risks involved, there never seems to be a shortage of candidates for these positions. So what are the attributes, self-belief apart, we should reasonably look for in choosing between them? Based on my own direct observations of both Australian and foreign leaders over several decades, I would identify the following ten as mattering most.

  • Serious intellectual ability should go without saying, even if there are an army of electors in the US and elsewhere currently in denial. But while intellectual firepower may be a necessary condition (Ronald Reagan being the only exception I can readily think of), this is by no means a sufficient condition. History has repeatedly demonstrated the truth of the observation attributed to Walter Lippman nearly a century ago that the supreme qualification for high office is not so much intellect as temperament.

  • Empathy: the ability to connect, to understand where others are coming from (though not necessarily to sympathise with their positions) and to see how they are seeing you, is probably the important temperamental attribute a leader could have. Not least, this is because a lack of empathy is often (going to the next three attributes on my list) what lies behind poor judgment about people and situations, administrative dysfunctionality and poor communication skills.

  • Sound judgment is obviously indispensable, although making the right call is often much easier with hindsight than in the heat of the moment. It’s a matter of acting, and being seen to act, in a way which weighs the available evidence, listens to competing arguments, knows who is most worth listening to, is measured rather than impulsive, and learns from experience and the mistakes that inevitably will be made. None of this means avoiding all risks – that way lies total inertia – but it does mean calculating those that are taken.

  • Basic organisational and time management skills are much more important than is usually recognised, given the number of the balls that every leader has to keep in the air simultaneously, the number of advisers and supplicants pressing for access, and the necessity to constantly prioritise and re-prioritise activity.

Leaders who lack those skills, and don’t compensate by accepting the discipline of those around them who do have them, are ones who (as Kevin Rudd found despite his stellar intellect and other attributes) quickly wear out their welcome with colleagues and other stakeholders.

  • Communication skills, the ability to connect and persuade – in the parliament, in the media, on the election hustings, in internal party forums, with potential financial supporters – are self-evidently critical. Paul Keating has been the supreme Australian exemplar of those skills in recent times, across multiple forums. Others have been stronger in some forums than others – Bob Hawke was surprisingly unpersuasive in Parliament – but no successful leader I can think of anywhere has lacked them entirely.

  • A clear sense of strategic direction, combined with the ability to craft and communicate a clear narrative of what the government is trying to achieve overall, has not been a universally evident characteristic of successful leaders. Some have got by just bobbing along with the waves, with their grandest aspiration being to make the country feel “relaxed and comfortable”.

But it has certainly characterised the very best of them, perhaps nowhere more obviously than Hawke and Keating, with their very sophisticated narrative – crafted early in the life of their Labor Governments and sustained over 13 years – built around the themes of very dry, productivity and competitiveness-focused economic policy; very warm, moist and highly compensatory social policy; and strongly liberal internationalist (both globalist and patriotic!) foreign policy.

  • Unimpeachable personal integrity is hard to argue against. It is not necessary for a good political leader to be a paragon of every domestic virtue, as Bob Hawke amply demonstrated, though the times are clearly becoming more demanding in that respect. But being, and being seen to be, personally honest and incorruptible is a universally accepted baseline.

  • A work ethic, and associated physical stamina, well above the prevailing norm also matters. Some highly effective leaders have spent less time visibly grinding away at their desks than others – with Paul Keating famously a much later starter and often earlier finisher than Bob Hawke, who maintained almost monastic discipline during his years in office. (And Ronald Reagan, again, not being known to trouble his desk much at all.) But it’s hard to identify a successful leader whose capacity or willingness to be fully briefed and informed across the whole range of their responsibilities has been of Trumpian or Johnsonian proportions.

  • Resilience is an often under-recognised component of political effectiveness at all levels – the ability to recover ground after the defeats, set-backs and outright humiliations which are, except in fairy-tales, part of every politician’s and political leader’s experience. Those who survive for the long haul are those who bounce back.

The final item on my top-ten list is what I would describe simply as “spark” – the capacity, through sheer force of personality, to ignite enthusiasm, and on occasion real excitement, in one’s colleagues and the wider community. Dunstan, Whitlam, Keating, Hawke, Thatcher, Blair, Clinton, Obama all had – at least at their peak – that infectious quality.

It’s not a sufficient requirement for successful leadership overall – that requires ticking a lot of my other boxes as well – but it’s certainly a mark of distinction, separating run of the mill leaders from those whose reputations grow and last.

There are other candidates for this checklist, one of them arguably – particularly after the last Australian federal election – being “likeability”. But while this does obviously matter for electability, I am not sure that it is crucial when it comes to the long-term assessment of leadership success. While I wouldn’t go all the way with Machiavelli – that it is better for a leader to be feared than loved – there is a lot to be said for respect ultimately mattering more than affection.

Of the ten boxes I have described, not many political leaders would tick every one of them all of the time. And I fear that most of are essentially innate – you either have them or you don’t – rather than capable of being readily learned, in preparation for or on the job.

But if many more of our leaders, both at home and abroad, came closer to consistently displaying all those attributes than is the case at the moment, the world would be a lot safer, saner and happier than it presently is.The Conversation

Gareth Evans, Chancellor, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Define the boundaries in new phase of Australia-China relationship: Wong


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Shadow foreign minister Penny Wong says Australia needs to “define the boundaries” of its engagement with China now the relationship between the two countries is in a new phase.

Focusing on China policy in a Monday address – released ahead of delivery – Wong acknowledges the “substantial and growing differences” in the bilateral relationship.

“It is inevitable that Australia will make more decisions that China doesn’t like. This means that the way the relationship is handled will become even more important,” she says in the speech, to the Australian Institute of International Affairs.

“Although there continues to be convergence of interests, the divergences have become more apparent and acute – due to both Beijing’s increasing assertiveness and greater awareness in Australia as to the implications of the [Chinese Communist Party’s] behaviour and ambitions. We must look at how best to engage effectively with China while always standing up for our values, our sovereignty and our democratic system.”

Wong says where limitations around engagement are needed, the “boundaries should be as restricted as possible and as robust as necessary,” with opportunities and risks identified.

Boundaries and terms of engagement would differ between issues and between sectors.

Thus on research collaboration, engagement shouldn’t be ruled out across entire fields, but export controls and visa checks could be used for “a narrow set of the most sensitive defence oriented technology”.




Read more:
‘Developing’ rift points to growing divisions between Coalition and Labor on China


Wong says while the government has to provide the leadership all stakeholders, including the opposition, foreign policy community and business, “need to work together to identify those opportunities for deeper engagement where our interests coincide and to manage differences constructively”.

She puts the onus on the media “not only to hold the government of the day to account but to ensure they themselves don’t unthinkingly or inadvertently reinforce China’s tactics or narrative”, including by amplifying CCP claims.

Wong says Labor wants to engage in a bipartisan way on China policy, but the government isn’t willing to do so and Scott Morrison “has no plan for dealing with this new phase in Australia’s relations with China”.

“There’s no doubt Scott Morrison is the best political tactician in Australia right now… Is it enough to be a clever political tactician, when key relationships with our nearest neighbours are at stake? Is it enough to play short term political tactics on something so profoundly important as the integrity of our political system or the assertion of our national interests?

“Australia’s Prime Minister needs to look beyond the next manoeuvre, stop undermining his foreign minister and trade minister, and develop a serious long-term plan for Australia’s engagement in the region and the world.

“A serious and long-term plan that can proactively navigate us through the strategic competition between the US and China, and manage this new phase in our relationship with a more assertive China.”




Read more:
View from The Hill: To go to China you have to be invited: Morrison


In a series of sharp criticisms of Morrison’s handling of the government’s policy towards China and foreign policy more generally, Wong includes as examples the PM’s claim Labor was using racism in its attack on Liberal MP Gladys Liu, his labelling of China a developed economy, and his attack on globalism.

Wong’s speech follows the blunt words on China on Friday from Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton, who said the government had a very important relationship with China, but it was going to “call out” instances where the wrong thing was done.

“We have a very important trading relationship with China, incredibly important, but we’re not going to allow university students to be unduly influenced. We’re not going to allow theft of intellectual property and we’re not going to allow our government bodies or non-government bodies to be hacked into,”he said.

Dutton stressed the issue was not with the Chinese people or the local Chinese community in Australia, but with the Chinese Communist Party.

The Chinese embassy reacted with an angry statement, saying that Dutton’s “irrational accusations” were “shocking and baseless”, and a “malicious slur on the Communist Party of China” and “outright provocation to the Chinese people”.

“Such ridiculous rhetoric severely harms the mutual trust between China and Australia and betrays the common interests of the two peoples,” the statement said.

Morrison at the weekend sought to play down the Dutton comments. “What Peter was talking about was the fact that there are differences between Australia and the People’s Republic of China. Of course there are,” he said. Australia was a liberal western democracy; China was a Communist Party state. “I would warn against any sort of over-analysis or over-reaction to those comments. Because I think they just simply reflect the fact that we’re two different countries”.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

‘Developing’ rift points to growing divisions between Coalition and Labor on China


Tony Walker, La Trobe University

At last, a healthy divergence of views between the Coalition and Labor about how Australia might manage its relations with its cornerstone trading partner and rising power in its own region.

It is a debate that is long overdue.

We now have contrasting narratives between the Coalition government and the Labor opposition.

That contrast was given sharp expression at the weekend by deputy Labor leader Richard Marles in an interview on the ABC’s Insiders program.

Marles accused the government of mismanaging a “complex” relationship. After visiting Beijing last week for conversations with a range of Chinese opinion-leaders, he described relations as “terrible”.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, he said, had engaged in megaphone diplomacy on his visit to the United States, insisting China be regarded as a “developed” country for trade and other purposes. This includes its climate change obligations.

What we saw was the prime minister in the United States in the context of there being trade tensions between the US and China, and from there, taking pot shots against largest trading partner. The context in which he has engaged in this megaphone diplomacy is absolutely the issue, and it’s not the way in which this issue should be dealt with in a respectful way.

These observations might be taken with a pinch of salt from an opposition spokesman. But it is true that relations are now at a low ebb for a variety of reasons, some of the government’s making, some not.

Australia did not initiate a trade war, but fractious relations with China are collateral damage.

Significantly, what is emerging in Australian domestic politics is an erosion of what has been a bipartisan consensus on how to relate to China in what are very challenging circumstances.




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Morrison needs to take control of China policy – but leave room for dissent


This is, potentially, a watershed moment in the evolution of the Australian policy towards China. This policy has, more or less, been settled business since Gough Whitlam normalised relations in 1972 as one of his first acts as prime minister.

Morrison’s embrace of American calls for China to be declared a developed country under World Trade Organisation rules means there is now a sharp point of difference between the government and opposition.

This is the nub of what the prime minister had to say on the issue to The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

China’s economic growth is welcomed by Australia and we recognise the economic maturity that it has now realised as a newly developed economy… The world’s global institutions must adjust their settings for China in recognition of this new status. That means more will be expected, of course, as has always been the case for nations like the United States who’ve always had this standing.

Labor does not regard China as a “developed” country under World Trade Organisation auspices, nor, for that matter, does most of the rest of the world. This is an American preoccupation, now signed onto by Canberra.

Why it should have been necessary for Morrison to take sides in this debate is not clear. On the face of it, his interventions have been unwise.

What should be understood about emerging differences over China’s “developed” country status, is that it represents, in an Australian context, a wider divergence of views between the government and opposition on how to manage China’s rise.

The government believes China should be pulled into line. Labor is more circumspect while acknowledging that Beijing’s behaviour is exerting considerable – and unwelcome – stress on an international rules-based order.

Whether he pretends otherwise or not, Morrison has aligned Australia with the Donald Trump White House view of China as a mercantilist power seeking ruthlessly to extend its power and influence in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.

In its mirroring of the US position, the government is indicating it believes China needs to have its wings clipped.

Morrison’s visit to the United States may come to be regarded, therefore, as a watershed moment in Australian foreign policy in which a choice was made.

Whether the government pretends otherwise or not, Morrison’s interventions on his US visit have been interpreted in Beijing as hostile.

Enter the Labor Party into this debate in a way that represents its boldest intervention in a foreign policy question since then Labor leader Simon Crean detached his party in 2003 from supporting the ill-fated rush to war in Iraq.

The difference between then and now is that getting policy settings right in the great US versus China debate is far more important to Australia’s well-being than an ill-conceived decision two decades ago that turned the Middle East upside down and empowered Iran.




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Yang Hengjun case a pivotal moment in increasingly tense Australia-China relationship


The view promulgated by former Prime Minister John Howard that Australia did not need to choose between its historical alignment with America and its geographical proximity to China is no longer sustainable.

The question now is how Australia positions itself between the elephants in the jungle to avoid getting crushed. Conspicuously siding with one of the elephants, unless necessary, would not seem to be the wisest course.

In all of this, one might spare a thought for Trade Minister Simon Birmingham, whose role has been to try to ensure Australia’s trade in merchandise and services is not harmed by a trade war between China and the United States.

Birmingham has been doing his best. He has not been helped by his leader’s injudicious remarks to The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.The Conversation

Tony Walker, Adjunct Professor, School of Communications, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Albanese slams Morrison for using a “loud hailer” to talk to China from US


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Anthony Albanese has attacked Scott Morrison for sending a message to Beijing while in the United States, and also split with him over the economic status of China.

Albanese accused Morrison of using “a loud hailer” to talk to China during a visit in which he was seen to be very close to the American President, including “being a partner in what would appear to be some of Donald Trump’s re-election campaign there in Ohio”. This was a reference to their joint appearance at billionaire Anthony Pratt’s new paper recycling factory.

The opposition leader’s comments open a partisan rift at a time when Australia-China relations are at a low point.

In his address on foreign policy in Chicago, Morrison described China “as a newly developed economy”, and said it needed to reflect this new status in its trade arrangements and meeting environmental challenges.

But Albanese told the ABC China quite clearly was “still developing”.

“It is still an emerging economy”, he said, pointing to the disparity between China’s per capita income and that of advanced economies such as the US and Australia.

Albanese, who made a series of comments, suggested it was not constructive “to send a message to China from the US in the way that it has occurred”.




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Highly touted UN climate summit failed to deliver – and Scott Morrison failed to show up


While there was a legitimate debate around the World Trade Organisation system, “the conflict between China and the United States [over trade] is one that is not in Australia’s interests. We want that to be resolved rather than be overly partisan about it,” he said.

“Of course our alliance with the United States is our most important relationship. That won’t change. But we need to, I think, be very measured in our comments particularly comments from the United States in the context in which they’ve been given.”

If Morrison was sending a message to China “it would have been better sent from Australia so that there was no confusion that the Prime Minister was advancing Australia’s national interests.”

Morrison had changed “the characterisation of the entire Chinese economy from Chicago,” Albanese said. “Does he think that will be well received and will reduce tension between China and the United States over trade?”

In fact, while Morrison’s language on China’s economic status went further than before, he had gone a considerable way down this path previously. In a major address in June he said: “China’s rise has now reached a threshold level of economic maturity”, with its most successful provinces sometimes exceeding the economic sophistication of global competitors. Yet they enjoyed concessions on trade and environmental obligations not available to other developed economies, he said.

In his Chicago speech Morrison said there was a need to reduce trade tensions that had developed in recent years.

“China’s economic growth is welcomed by Australia and we recognise the economic maturity that it has now realised as a newly developed economy,” he said.

It was important this was reflected in its trade arrangements, participation in addressing important global environmental challenges, transparency in its partnerships and support for developing nations.

“All of this needs to reflect this new status and the responsibilities that go with it as a very major world power,” Morrison said.

He also said: “The world’s global institutions must adjust their settings for China, in recognition of this new status. That means more will be expected of course, as has always been the case for nations like the United States who’ve always had this standing.”

Asked at a news conference what he wanted China to do that it was not doing now, Morrison said the objective was that “similar rules will apply to countries of similar capabilities”.




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Meanwhile in a speech in Beijing this week Richard Marles, Labor’s deputy leader and defence spokesman, urged a deepening of Australia’s relations with China, including even at the defence level.

“I firmly believe it is possible for Australia to maintain our strong alliance with the United States while also deepening our engagement with China. In fact, not only is this possible, it is vital,” Marles said.

“And that must be obvious. Because from the perspective of Australia, the world looks a lot safer when the United States and China are talking to each other and improving their relations.

“And if this is our view, then it stands to reason that Australia’s interest lies in having the best possible relations we can with both the United States and China.

“And from the perspective of Australia the world also looks a lot more prosperous when China and the United States trade with each other.”

“Our starting point has to be that we respect China and deeply value our relationship with China. We must seek to build it. And not just in economic terms, but also through exploring political co-operation and even defence co-operation.

“To define China as an enemy is a profound mistake. To talk of a new Cold War is silly and ignorant,” Marles said.

Asked about the defence reference, Albanese played it down.




Read more:
View from The Hill: To go to China you have to be invited: Morrison


In a Tuesday speech in Jakarta, Labor’s shadow minister on foreign affairs Penny Wong said: “It is clear that the United States and China now treat each other as strategic competitors.

“The strategic competition in our region means we need to think carefully and engage actively to avoid becoming collateral. Great powers will do what great powers do – assert their interests. But the rest of us are not without our own agency,” she said.

“What our region is looking for is less a contest about who should be or will be number one, than how we foster partnerships of enduring connection and relevance”.

Wong said the US should “present a positive narrative and vision about the future, by articulating and presenting what it offers not only what it is against.”

“A greater focus on the likely settling point will enable the United States to recognise – and embrace – the fact that multi-polarity in the region is likely to get stronger.

“And in the context of Beijing’s ambitions, this growing multi-polarity – with countries like Indonesia, India and Japan playing increasingly important leadership roles in the region – is beneficial to Washington’s interests.

“Defining a realistic settling point will also help the United States recognise and accept that decisions relating to China will vary depending on the issues and interests at stake.”

Albanese also criticised Morrison for not attending the United Nations leaders summit on climate.

Morrison said that when he addresses the UN General Assembly this week: “I’ll be focusing very much on Australia’s response to the global environmental challenges. Which isn’t just climate change … it’s about plastics, it’s about oceans, it’s about recycling”.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Albanese says Voice must be in the Constitution


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese says an Indigenous “Voice” to parliament must be enshrined in the Constitution.

His position, spelled out in a speech to be given on Saturday to the Garma Festival, makes it difficult to see how he and Prime Minister Scott Morrison will be able to agree on a referendum question.

Albanese says in his address, released ahead of delivery:

With a Voice in place, there can be truth-telling, and there can be Makaratta. […] It is clear to me that enshrining that Voice in the Constitution is what must come first.




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Morrison has been adamant there should be no reference to a Voice in what is inserted in the Constitution to recognise Australia’s First Peoples.

Without bipartisan support, a referendum would not have a chance of success and, indeed, would not be put.

Indigenous leaders in the Uluru Statement from the Heart called for “the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution”.

Albanese says:

I want a Voice and Truth then Treaty to be part of our nation’s journey, part of our national life. It’s not just about respect and redress. It’s about progress and change. It’s about moving out of the darkness

Although there is a gulf between Albanese and Morrison over what should go into the constitution, Albanese says he still hopes for bipartisanship.

“We have not yet had true reconciliation, and a country that is not truly reconciled is not truly whole. And until we are whole, we will never reach our truest potential as a nation – and we have so very much potential,” he says.

But how can we have reconciliation when one side has no voice?

The Voice is the bedrock upon which we must build.

I will take the fight to the government on so many things; never have any doubt about that. But on this we must work together. We must be together. My hope we can have bipartisanship on this remains alive.




Read more:
Politics with Michelle Grattan: Ken Wyatt on constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians


Albanese says he is encouraged by “the tentative moves towards constitutional change” by the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt. “I hope he gets the support he needs and deserves from his colleagues.”

He says he is also encouraged by “the epiphany experienced by Barnaby Joyce.

“After being part of the chorus pushing the myth that a Voice would amount to a third chamber in parliament, Mr Joyce did something unusual. He stopped. He listened. He asked questions from people with knowledge. […]

“Mr Joyce then went on television to own up to his mistake, and to explain why he’d been wrong. And he encouraged others who’d made the same mistake to follow his example.”

At Tuesday’s caucus meeting Pat Dodson, the opposition spokesman on Indigenous recognition, said constitutional recognition had now been decoupled from everything that was in the Uluru statement. Uluru had now shifted to “co-design with select individuals”, he said.

Dodson said there was no structure for formal consultations with First Nations. “Apparently the minister has a plan for consultation with the Coalition backbench and apparently with Pauline Hanson”, he said.

The challenge now was to “assist the minister without walking away with all the fleas and ticks that would undermine a principled position”, Dodson said.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.