Open Labor NSW: a winning strategy for Bill Shorten

This brief paper outlines a strategy for Bill to gain the upper hand on the Liberals by taking the debate away from the personalities and the media images of the leaders of each party and focusing it on the substance of what both parties envision as Australian Society (not just the economy) in the near and distant future.


It starts with 2 key propositions concerning the current political vulnerabilities of the Coalition and the Labor Party and then suggests strategies to remove these vulnerabilities from Labour and exploit the vulnerabilities of the Liberals.

Two propositions concerning current political vulnerabilities:

Proposition 1: The Coalition is currently vulnerable in two key areas (a) societal vision and (b) conflicting factions

(a) Societal Vision: The Coalition has not revealed and dare not speak the envisioned destination to which its philosophy and policy framework are taking Australian Society. The reason is that the destination is one of gross inequality that includes a majority of society that will live the experience of the working poor (the first Abbott budget partially gave the game away).

Any vision it does sprout in positive values will be meant to obfuscate and will not contain measures by which the Coalition can be held accountable for positive societal outcomes.

(b) Conflicting Factions: The right wing and the moderates of the Coalition are dancing with each other only because they needed the moderate band leader, and some of the music that the moderates supplied, to stay in the dance competition. There are signs that the right wing of the Coalition are hoping to change the music so their favorite dirges are replayed and after the next election replace the moderate band master or at least not allow him the selection of the music.

Proposition 2: The Labor Party is also currently vulnerable in the two key areas mentioned above i.e. (a) an unknown societal vision and (b) a legacy of conflicting factions

(a) Unknown societal vision: No one knows what it is that the Party proposes. The ‘small target’ approach treats the electorate like mushrooms.

Strategy to address Labor’s vulnerability and exploit Coalition’s vulnerability:

Outlining and articulating the party’s societal vision for the future would create a number of beneficial opportunities. For example, it allows it to win the battle for taxation reform based on costing this vision and agreeing on the revenue measures to achieve it, and it enables the establishment of measures for outcomes promised in the vision. Most of all, it provides an opportunity for a very strong positive emotional hook to counter the FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) mongering of the far right of the Coalition. It will be important to quickly consolidate all proposed policies around the vision. The policies should be announced in a campaign-style opening not later than 1 March 2016 to be followed by the sort of exposition of these policies a la Whitlam but with greater support from all shadow ministers.

(b) A legacy of conflicting factions: Factions are a source of ammunition for the Party’s opponents and for Party members who lament the consequent poor quality of some candidates, particularly in the upper houses of parliament. Other sources of ammunition detrimental to the interests of the Party are as follows. People are disturbed that the Royal Commission (as political and biased as it is) has shown that there is real corruption in pockets of the union movement. It is also clear to the broader Labor Party membership that at somewhat less than 8% of workers who are members of affiliated trade unions are a small voice compared to the slightly greater number of workers in unaffiliated trade unions (and the more than the 80% of workers not in trade unions). Affiliation to the Labor Party does not assist trade unions and it is clear that the most useful support for the Party in recent elections has come from unaffiliated trade unions.

Strategy to address Labor’s vulnerability and exploit Coalition’s vulnerability:

Call all MPs and factional leaders to discuss how to remove factions. Then call all leaders of affiliated unions to discuss the problems and possible solutions, including that all unions disaffiliate, but strongly encourage members to directly join and be active in the Labor Party.

A final note about encouragement

It should not be forgotten how the selection of the Leader galvanised support for the Party despite the recent election loss. It is now important to transform the anti-Abbott urge which brought many new members into the Party into a strong movement for real, clear political objectives that are required for a progressive Party to lead Australia as there are fundamental shifts in environment, climate, population, technology, etc, which are transforming our society.


– Peter Bartos and Phil Drew, Open Labor NSW