Why we lost: Labor nails campaign snags

Labor has reflected on its election day blues. (Photo: David Morgan-Mar, Flickr)

Labor’s internal report on its shock federal election defeat in May has blamed policy complexity for the party losing a contest many considered an unlosable election.

The former South Australian Labor premier Jay Weatherill, who co-authored the report, said the review laid out the lessons the party needed to heed from the loss, which has been blamed in part on a complex, confusing and overly detailed campaign message.

“Because there was such extraordinary expectation of a Labor victory, [we] decided to set out a comprehensive program … to address this sense of lack of trust in politics and politicians,” Mr Weatherill said on the Radio National Breakfast program on Friday.

“But it was able to be characterised as a large and risky program, creating fear, rather than trust.”

WHAT WENT WRONG: Read the full Labor report here

The complexity of the policy program played right into the hands of the Coalition, which was able to easily misrepresent it as too costly. The number of messages stopped effective communication to voters, he said.

“A lot of our announcements crashed into one another, and it made it very difficult for a lot of our candidates to communicate them out in the doorstops,” he said.

Mr Weatherill also used the term “banking the win” in relation to social activist groups – meaning such groups had  assumed a Labor victory and campaigned as if the party had already won. This pushed the national debate further to the left and widened the breadth of the debate Labor had to have.

This was in contrast to the strategy of the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, with his simpler campaign message of a strong economy and warnings of Labor’s economy-wrecking taxes.

Mr Weatherill said the report did not spell the end of bold and progressive policies, but that simple comprehensive messaging was the answer.

“It’s much easier on the other side of politics, they just bang the nationalist drum, they frighten people and people become scared about change,” he said.

“It’s always more difficult for the party of social reform, and we have to accept that responsibility. And accept that and craft a more persuasive agenda.”

Similar reasons around complexity and effectiveness of messaging have been associated with US President Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory over popular favourite Hillary Clinton. The Australian election result also reflects a growing trend of results proving traditional pollsters, analysts and commentators wrong, following the Trump win in the US and the Brexit result in Britain.