Whilst there were many issues that influenced voters in the New South Wales election, there was perhaps no greater contributor to the result than Labor’s scare campaign.
Political commentators are scratching their heads at the Liberals’ surprisingly comfortable state election victory and it seems as though Foley’s decision to embark on a Shorten-style opposition campaign has backfired on the party.
Instead of outlining a clear alternative to the current government’s policies, Foley decided instead to demonise his competitor and attempt to frighten voters about the premier’s plans to lease electricity assets. Many others within the party also adopted this strategy, criticizing their Liberal counterparts without offering adequate policy alternatives.
This is consistent with Bill Shorten’s approach in his role as opposition leader. There are countless interviews and TV appearances where he proudly asserts that he is not Tony Abbott. But this is hardly enough to sway voters to vote for the opposition, as Foley discovered on the weekend. You need to offer people something to strive for and get excited about. Australians are by nature positive people and are just as interested in being ‘pro’ policy as ‘anti’ policy.
Will Shorten change his ways and start to offer Australians more policy ideas to get excited about? I don’t think so, because that would require making some tough decisions about the strategic direction of the party.
Until Bill Shorten and his colleagues decide what the party specifically stands for in relation to the economic and social challenges Australia faces in the 21st century, Labor representatives will continue to define themselves as being ‘not the Liberal Party’. It may be enough for loyal party members, but not for many swing voters who pay close attention to policy in campaign discussions, and a Shorten-style negative campaign strategy certainly failed to inspire in New South Wales.
IMAGE: Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten. (Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images)