Month: November 2014

Grassroots field campaign helps Labor win in Victoria

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I’ve been a bit busy with work (new job) and family over the past two months but will try and post more regularly in a couple of weeks after work starts winding down for the Christmas break. In the meantime here are a few interesting posts (listed below, with highlights) about last weekend’s incredible result in Victoria where a first-term government was ousted in a state election – a very unusual occurrence in Australian politics.

It has been particularly important for progressive campaigners in Australia’s largest three states, who have all recently suffered defeat at the state and federal level. There are now three Labor states/territories in Australia (Victoria, South Australia and the ACT) and renewed hope for Labor in the next federal election due in 2016. There are also important state elections due in Queensland and NSW over coming months and hope this momentum will produce better results in each of those states. The conservative majorities in both NSW and Queensland are very large and there are few signs at this stage that the swings expected in each of those states will be large enough to unseat those governments. However, lessons can be learnt from the Victorian result which can help Labor win back many marginal seats in each of those states.

One newspaper story I would recommend reading is by former Victorian ALP Secretary Nick Reece in this morning’s AGE newspaper. The article is available online here, and here are some interesting excerpts:

“The Napthine government thought the union movement would deliver it victory courtesy of an anti-union scare campaign. Instead, the unions were decisive in the Coalition’s defeat.”

The blow-back from the Liberal’s ineffective anti-union campaign was heart-warming for many progressives across Australia. At the same time that the Labor team was using “putting people first” as its slogan, the conservative Victorian Liberals seemed determined to repeatedly slander the unions and their volunteers. The Liberals refused to concede that the teachers, nurses, ambulance workers, firefighters and other workers campaigning against them actually had more in common with average Victorians than they did. The Liberal anti-union slander was confirming how out-of-touch the Liberals actually were.

Yesterday’s Guardian also had an article by Gay Alcorn with some very interesting quotes from Victorian Labor’s Assistant State Secretary Kosmos Samaras.

One of my favourite quotes from this article is “The slogan Putting People First came from the ground, that was something that was coming up, they wanted politicians to put people first. The term that continually was coming back to us.”

Kosmos also stated :“The Liberal party is not in the game. They don’t know how to run a field campaign. They lost because they refused to talk to people.”

I’ll return with more links and commentary in coming days. 😉

OK… later on Monday… I have to admit this article by Rick Wallace in the Australian (which I may buy today for the first time in an eternity 🙂 is my favourite so far…

THE secret weapon in Daniel And­rews’s campaign was made in the USA — in the Obama campaigns of 2008 and 2012 — and transplanted to the sprawling suburbs of Melbourne to snatch an improbable victory from a first-term government.

Revealed to The Australian through unprecedented access in the final week of the campaign, the secret weapon was rolled out in 25 marginal seats to unleash a phone call and doorknocking blitz.

Yesterday, Labor’s Community Action Network was credited with underpinning Andrews’s win and snatching a clutch of seats from the conservatives.

Along with a revamped advertising strategy, the so-called field program allowed Labor to outmanoeuvre the Coalition with a much smaller budget. It helped reinvent the way Labor campaigns.

The bad news for the Coalition is that the network is expected to become a permanent feature of ALP campaigns in Victoria and is likely to be deployed in NSW and Queensland next year.”


“Two weeks from the election, ALP assistant secretary Stephen Donnelly took The Australian behind the scenes to visit campaign operations in the battleground seats of Eltham and Monbulk.

En route to Eltham just days from the poll, Donnelly says that throughout this year, working largely in the shadows, the Victorian ALP built a network of more than 5500 volunteers and 250 volunteer leaders using a system honed by Barack Obama’s Democratic Party machine.

He says the party road-tested the system in last year’s federal campaign — without the support of then leader Kevin Rudd — and it helped sandbag the seats of Isaacs, Chisholm and McEwen amid Labor’s heavy defeat.

“Daniel Andrews saw it operate in the federal campaign for Isaacs and said, ‘Yeah I want it for next year. Let’s do this’,” Donnelly says.

Andrews was partly motivated by money, with Labor facing a cashed-up incumbent while its donation­s had largely dried up.”

“The fulcrum of the campaign was the 35 paid field staff. They were hired for their skills and experience running events or call centres or in similar roles, rather than for factional allegiance or party loyalty.

Each was assigned to recruit at least 150 volunteers and select leaders from among them to run the operations.

Donnelly says he didn’t care if they were party members or not (45 per cent aren’t) and all that was needed was to share ALP “values” and have a commitment to unseating the government.”


this is the funniest part I think: “With a budget half the size of the Coalition’s, Labor’s ads had only three main messages and were tightly targeted in programs swinging voters watch. Direct mail, a fixture of past campaigning, was restricted to undecided voters discovered through the field program, and mail was tailored direct­ly to the issues they cited.

“The Liberal Party is running ads really heavily in the news, but we know from our research that our undecided voters don’t watch TV news. They watch Big Brother ,’’ Samaras says.

The other tactical error by the conservatives, Samaras says, is the focus on linking Andrews to the militant Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union.

“Most people in the focus groups say, ‘What’s the CFMEU?’, or that it doesn’t have any relevance to their lives,” he says.

That Samaras and Donnelly have been briefing The Australian several days out from the poll speaks volumes about the ALP’s confidence in its new campaigning — and they are proven right.”

Not sure if I want to start watching Big Brother though 🙂

I will come back to this post over the next few weeks. Might be worth also saying a few words about how Australian parties have evolved their campaigning techniques over the past century and also about old as well as recent American influences such as Marshall Ganz, OFA and Saul Alinsky.

Campaigning for beginners, a useful slideshow

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Came across this in my online travels this week. It’s a great (and usefully short) slideshow that can explain campaign basics to absolute beginners.

View Art of Campaigning Version 8.pptx and other presentations by josesosa.

Tanya Plibersek: Why I’m a feminist

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Tanya Plibersek is the Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party and also the Federal Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs. She’s also a great role model for aspiring political activists across Australia as well as in her home state of New South Wales. Her statement below about feminism was published in Australian newspapers on Thursday 13 November and I’m adding it here as a reference for future comments on this issue, and also to show my daughters as they each grow up and are old enough to read it and understand it.

Tanya Plibersek: Why I’m a feminist

I am a feminist. Not because I’m a whinger, or a victim, but because I understand how very fortunate I am. And I’m grateful to the women (and men) who’ve made that possible.

If a footballer runs onto the field to a barrage of racist abuse, should he ignore it?  Or should he call it out as unacceptable?  What is the braver thing to do?

Ignoring racism or sexism doesn’t make it go away.

Plibersek at Mckell

I am a feminist because I am grateful to be able to combine motherhood with a career that is intellectually and emotionally rewarding.

I am a feminist because I understand that the 18 per cent gender pay gap is not there because women are less competent at work than men.

I am a feminist because I know that the number of older women retiring with less superannuation than men is not because they are worse savers.

I am a feminist because I know it’s unacceptable that one in every five Australian women will experience sexual assault and one in every three Australian women will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes.

I am a feminist because I want my daughter to be safe walking home; because I want her to feel any profession is open to her, and that she is valuable for her intellect, her kindness, her sense of humour – not her looks.

I am a feminist because I want my sons to know the deep rewards of an equal relationship with their life partner, the satisfaction of being a hands-on father, and the limitless opportunity of rejecting unhealthy stereotypes.

I am a feminist because I recognise that it is the struggle of previous generations that have given me the opportunities I have.  Bella Guerin, who back in 1883 became the first woman to graduate from an Australian university; Edna Ryan who fought for equal pay for men and women; Vida Goldstein who fought for women to be allowed to vote and stand for Parliament; and Jeannette McHugh, the first Labor woman to be elected to the House of Representatives from NSW.

I am a feminist because I know that having so much joy and satisfaction and home and at work, it would be completely unacceptable to say to other women, the young women I meet, so full of potential,  “you’re on your own”.

If you don’t see the structural problems in society, you can’t fix them.

Tanya Plibersek is the Deputy Opposition Leader.


Shirtfronting, Rememberance Day, Political Speeches and other cultural learnings

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Haven’t had much time for blogging lately due to a new job but have given it a lot of thought with so much material to read and absorb. Will hopefully find more time over coming weeks for posts on the recent election in New Zealand, US mid-terms, by elections in NSW as well as current contests in Victoria and the ongoing saga of a federal budget whose passage seems to be the political equivalent of the 80s classic ‘Never-ending Story”.


Today I feel compelled to put some thoughts on paper (or keyboard?) following two recent culturally significant events that had some personal meaning: Remembrance Day and the funeral of Gough Whitlam.

I’ve previously mentioned the importance of cultural context in campaigning techniques. Last night I noticed our PM was copping a bit of flak on twitter (nothing unusual there) regarding his recent threat to “shirtfront” Vladimir Putin as well as his recent commitment to send Australian troops back into the Iraq. Yes, that same quagmire created by Bush/Blair/Howard when they invaded and destroyed a largely functioning nation in 2003. I recalled Mr Abbott was also recently found guilty by the Insiders panel of conflating crimes in Western Sydney and the threat of  Terrorism from “ISIS’, or “Daesh” as they are called by their local enemies. So following the twitter ruckus I was keen to see what recent statements he may or may not have made that were embarrassing to him or the nation. Disappointingly there didn’t seem to be any recent zingers or clangers. In fact the video statement he released for Remembrance Day was well-written and relatively-speaking, well-delivered.

It was a big improvement on his last video about past wars when he inexplicably conflated the anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy with his economic fight “to cut tax” and “open Australia for business” on big projects (obviously ignoring recent raises in petrol tax, the implementation of a new tax on the sick, and decisions to prevent foreign investment in Australian business).

There’s a good write up including some of the more memorable tweets here.

It’s also a shame the Remembrance Day statement seemed to be overshadowed by his recent decision to cut wage increases for the Australian armed forces. Tasmanian PUP Senator Jacqui Lambie even botched together a meme of sorts (presumably using powerpoint?). Despite the poor layout, it conveyed an effective message about the PM’s attitude to the wages and conditions of the service men and women that were often tasked to join him in Putin-like photo opportunities.


There were also no shortage of anti-Abbott memes quick to take the opportunities presented by numerous public photos of the often media-shy PM. Just google (images) Abbott+Putin+meme for big laughs, especially if you’re a Trekky.

What is most disappointing though is that there have been more memorable Remembrance Day speeches made in the recent past. PM Abbott is yet to capture the vision for our nation or pride in the Australian people that is expected from a national leader. Compare and contrast Keating’s speech from the 2013 Remembrance Day about Australians who have lost their lives in war. Sadly the video has been removed on this website.

My favourite parts include:

“By 1915 we had no need to re-affirm our European heritage at the price of being dragged to a European holocaust. We had escaped that mire, both sociologically and geographically. But out of loyalty to imperial Britain, we returned to Europe’s killing fields to decide the status of Germany, a question which should earlier have been settled by foresight and statecraft.’ and
“One thing is certain: young Australians, like the young Europeans I mentioned earlier, can no longer be dragooned en masse into military enterprises of the former imperial variety on the whim of so-called statesmen. They are fortunately too wise to the world to be cannon fodder of the kind their young forebears became: young innocents who had little or no choice. Commemorating these events should make us even more wary of grand ambitions and grand alliances of the kind that fractured Europe and darkened the twentieth century. In the long shadow of these upheavals, we gather to ponder their meaning and to commemorate the values that shone in their wake: courage under pressure, ingenuity in adversity, bonds of mateship and above all, loyalty to Australia.”

Keating’s 2013 speech was similar to his 1993 speech as PM, the audio of which is available here.

Speaking of great speeches, there was an amazing one last week by Noel Pearson at Gough Whitlam’s funeral service. Much has been written about it already.

Here’s the full text of Noel’s eulogy to Gough. And here’s the video:

Anyone interesting in politics and political craft appreciates a great speech. But what makes a great political speech? It’s worth looking at a couple more to try and see what’s in a great speech, and its often art as much as science. A favourite example is Keating’s famous Redfern Speech from 20 years ago. Here is a full transcript of the speech.

And here is some analysis that helps put it into context and explain the significance of its parts.

And here is some video to relive the moment:

Another favourite worth dissecting is Barack Obama’s famous speech at the 2004 American Democratic National Convention when he retold, eloquently, the story of his personal journey (which is described in much greater detail in his best-selling books).

The transcript of that speech can be read here along with some detailed and interesting analysis about its contents.

And here’s another favourite (sadly without analysis).

and just to get back to the original point about cultural context here’s a local favourite that every Australian child should read, listen to and learn! My Country Read by Dorothea McKellar.