ALP scare tactics worked at the last election — by scaring off its own voters

ALP scare tactics worked at the last election — by scaring off its own voters, by Chris Kenny.

Illegal immigration:

Labor had created a humanitarian, political and financial disaster with its weakening of the border regime in 2008, and the party’s pragmatists knew they had to show they could be trusted to maintain the integrity of the immigration system the next time the ALP formed government. Yet all along, right up until the cusp of the campaign, Labor’s left reminded voters of its deep ambivalence on strong border protection. Early on, Labor declared the Coalition could not turn boats back; then, when it worked, the ALP put itself through years of internal debate about whether it would ever support turnbacks. …

As the Coalition’s policies worked, detention centres emptied and our refugee intake increased, Labor couldn’t bring itself to praise and footprint the Coali­tion’s successful formula, deciding instead to nitpick and chastise the government. Inexplicably, just weeks out from this year’s election campaign, Labor then undercut its own carefully constructed position by voting with the Greens and independents to support the medevac bill, which could only risk undermining offshore processing.

Yet Labor believed voters would then trust it on this issue? Delusional. …

Climate:

While much of the media won’t touch these questions, mainstream Australians know that with our cuts being dwarfed by the growth of emissions in countries such as China, global emissions would continue to rise and all our efforts would deliver no environmental benefit — all pain and no gain. We know no other comparable country is inflicting this amount of economic pain on itself in the name of climate action. Except for appeasing the Socialist Left and renewable energy investors, Labor’s climate policies provided no environmental or political benefit. …

Tax:

The other inconceivable policy mistake was Labor’s raft of tax increases. From the top personal income tax rate, to the working family investment option of negative gearing and the franking credits of self-funded retirees, Labor was determined to soak up an extra $400bn in taxes to fund extravagant spending, primarily in areas where the public sector unions are strong — health, education and public broadcasting.

Yet Labor had little to say about how health, education or public broadcasting would be improved; it would just spend more.  …

The campaign:

On borders, climate and taxes Labor made itself unelect­able. Many have blamed the leader’s unpopularity, but I give you Keating, John Howard and Tony Abbott. Substance matters more than personal appeal. …

But the bottom line is that many voters would have been inclined to punish the Coalition for an extended period of leadership and policy delinquency.

If Labor had presented itself as a reliable, risk-free option, it probably would have walked into government. Instead of providing that safe pathway, it erected barriers and scared voters away. The medium-term worry for Labor is that in 2022 it could face a Coalition that voters are not inclined to admonish. Still, the recipe must remain the same, oppositions need to formulate policies that reassure voters rather than frighten them.