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Where to now for the ALP?

By Syd Hickman - posted Tuesday, 22 September 2015

A choice of future direction must be made by the ALP leadership in the next few weeks.

It is not just a simple matter of changing the leader. It has been widely remarked that Australia has had four Prime Ministers in a bit over two years. But the ALP has had ten leaders in the last twenty years, starting with Paul Keating and counting Beazley and Rudd twice.

This merry-go-round has largely been a cop-out on confronting the need for real change. It's time they got serious.


If the Party is to do well the leadership should take PM Turnbull's advice.

The three question time sessions with Turnbull as PM have been very instructive. Ministerial answers have a new structure, and that will set the pattern of politics for the foreseeable future.

Under Abbott, Ministers would be asked by their own side, "What is the Government's policy on x and what other policies have been proposed?"

In response they would briefly outline the Government position and then spend most of their time attacking the ALP. Questions from the Opposition were treated in similar style.

Now they spend much more time explaining Government, and their own, actions and treating the ALP as a sad afterthought. This approach is great for Ministers, is much more impressive for the audience, and makes the Opposition fade away.

Abbott's obsession with fighting his opponents rather than actually governing helped keep the Opposition in the game. Now they will have to get noticed for their own efforts.


The PM helpfully told Bill Shorten over the dispatch boxes that he needed to lift his game. Turnbull explained to Shorten how he needed to phrase questions and that he should focus on policy rather than on silly game-playing in a pathetic attempt to score a few political points.

Shorten should take note, but he does have other options.

He could follow the lead of the British Labour Party and retreat to the comfy ground of the 1950s. That would play well with the party membership and unions and guarantee a survival of sorts even though it would make electoral failure inevitable.

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About the Author

Syd Hickman has worked as a school teacher, soldier, Commonwealth and State public servant, on the staff of a Premier, as chief of Staff to a Federal Minister and leader of the Opposition, and has survived for more than a decade in the small business world.

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