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Does the ALP have a future?

By Syd Hickman - posted Thursday, 28 January 2016

Only two good things have happened to the ALP in the last twenty years; Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott. Both fizzled. Could another saviour appear?

Rudd was one of Australia's best actors. His sustained performance as a nice smiley guy amazed people who knew him and should have won a gold logie. He singlehandedly dragged the Party back into government, but then he had to actually govern and even Cate Blanchett couldn't help with that.

In 2010 Abbott managed to not quite win an election against a chaotic ALP and then mishandled negotiations with the independents so badly that he conceded government to Julia Gillard. Despite the ALP doing nothing with government except invent new spending programs Abbott managed to keep them in the game by being repellent to a large part of the electorate, especially women.


Even State ALP leaders were able to benefit from the Abbott effect. The three ALP State Premiers have much to thank him for.

Eventually the ALP became so hopeless even Abbott beat them, then, admittedly, he let the ALP down badly by losing the leadership.

Now Kevin is trying to take over the world and Tony is doing his bit for Malcolm by reminding us periodically of the great service Malcolm performed in removing him, leaving the ALP trying to save itself.

Bill Shorten shows no signs of attaining saviour status. He recently reshuffled his office and changed some personnel, which could see the end of the zinger witty reposts. But it is unlikely that becoming less of a joke will see him become more of a contender.

It will be interesting to see if he keeps appearing on TV wandering round supermarkets dropping things in other people's trollies. This looks like a copy of the deeply flawed 1998 Beazley campaign against the GST, and at that time there was a real tax to oppose rather than just a vague idea of a tax increase.

Anthony Albanese is apparently an option but he recently produced a truly horrible effort with his Chifley Light On The Hill Memorial Speech, as detailed in a blog at My favourite sentence from Albo is, "Tonight, I want to raise five points that encapsulate a plan for an approach that puts people first can drive the agenda of the future Labor Government."


If he had read the speech by Penny Wong from the previous year he could have corrected his most egregious error, and seen how to perform a vital leadership role, but obviously he didn't bother.

That leaves Tony Burke as the man most likely to succeed after the inevitable thrashing at the upcoming election. He does genuinely smile a lot, which is now considered essential to political success. But he is no Kevin Rudd, which is a good and a bad thing. More importantly, his conservative religious backers will work assiduously to ensure he does not permit any updating of social policies, particularly regarding euthanasia, thereby continuing to concede a lot of popular policy ground to The Greens.

Whoever takes over will have to confront the issue that has been ducked for two decades, what sort of future would the ALP create for us if given the chance?

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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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