Labor review says Scott Morrison’s unpopularity ‘single most significant factor’ behind election win

by Katharine Murphy
Election campaign review also warns party risks losing outer suburban seats in Melbourne to independents unless lessons learned

Labor’s election campaign review has concluded Scott Morrison’s unpopularity was the “single most significant factor” behind Anthony Albanese’s victory in May while identifying weaknesses that need to be addressed by 2025.

The review – undertaken by former cabinet minister Greg Combet and strategist Lenda Oshalem – praises the fundamentals of the campaign that delivered Labor majority government for the first time since 2007 but states the ALP could not be complacent.

Released on Monday, the review notes Labor’s primary vote in May of 32.6% was the lowest result since 1934.

It states the party went backwards in Queensland – gaining no electoral ground and losing a seat to the Greens in Brisbane – while suffering negative swings in Tasmania and losing the western Sydney seat of Fowler for the first time since its creation in 1984.

The review also delivers a sharp warning about the significant backlash against Labor in outer suburban electorates in Melbourne – negative swings that were repeated during the recent Victorian election contest.

“In outer-suburban Melbourne, it is vital that research is undertaken to thoroughly understand the causes of the large anti-Labor swings where they occurred, and that remediation strategies are developed and implemented,” the review says.

“Labor cannot assume that these seats will not be vulnerable to well-resourced, locally focused campaigns by independents should Labor fail to heed the message of the significant swings experienced.”

The review notes while the path back to government for the Coalition “appears difficult at present, there is no room for Labor complacency”.

“It is reasonable to expect that the Coalition will target Labor-held outer-suburban and regional electorates – a strategy that Labor must anticipate and counter.”

The reviewers say Labor must focus on holding on to the electoral gains the party made in Western Australia while delivering “demonstrable improvements for communities in areas of long-standing support for Labor”.

“These communities must not be taken for granted,” the review says.

The review says Chinese Australians swung towards Labor in 2022 but Vietnamese Australians swung away from the party. It notes the trend “might partially be explained by the result in Fowler – however, the correlation is still evident when Fowler is excluded from the overall results”.

Labor’s decision to zero in on the character of the former prime minister was “highly effective”, the review concludes, saying voters who switched to Labor “cited Albanese’s style of leadership as a reason they opted for change”.

While noting that positive, the review also makes clear that Labor bled votes to minor parties and independents in part because of a “lack of awareness of Labor’s policies or agenda”.

The reviewers say Labor has an opportunity in the current parliament to consolidate its electoral position and establish “a long term Labor government” – but they warn the Albanese government not to blow the opportunity.

The assessment notes longer-term declining support for the major parties and the willingness of Labor supporters to vote tactically in support of “high-profile and well-resourced independents”.

It emphasises the importance of Labor governing competently and keeping election promises.

“Respect for the trust voters have placed in prime minister Albanese and Labor, delivering election commitments, providing stable government, and restoring decency in politics, should be regarded as guiding principles of the government and as central to re-election,” the review says.