Labor eyes election race after conference

·2-min read

If a Labor national conference happens online, does it make a sound?

The ALP wrapped up a two-day meeting on Wednesday with applause breaks muted, presumably to avoid feedback, during Anthony Albanese's final rev-up speech.

"We've begun the policy rollout and we're now in the home straight," he told delegates.

The big-ticket announcements were a $15 billion manufacturing investment fund, electric car tax breaks and community batteries.

Stage-managed Labor conferences with policy fights settled behind closed doors aren't unique to pandemics.

But the online gathering found a new level of sterility despite the Brisbane coronavirus outbreak proving the format was probably the right call.

There was little fire and brimstone from even the more militant players of the labour movement.

The Health Workers Union - angry with the federal executive about delegate numbers - was crushed in its bid to stop a Labor government from handing contracts to private providers.

A mooted battle on free trade agreements fell flat with a similar thumping majority backing changes allowing MPs to vote against enabling legislation for deals that undermine local jobs.

Factional forces met in the middle on delicate foreign policy questions like China's human rights abuses and the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Even the divisive area of energy policy gave ground to both sides in recognising coal and gas as part of the same platform that declares a climate change emergency.

The political context of this unity is hard to ignore with Scott Morrison looking beatable for the first time in a long time.

Scandals centred on rape allegations and the treatment of women have hurt the prime minister even if pandemic incumbency still leaves him favourite to be re-elected.

Despite Morrison's woes, there appears to be no wavering in the ALP small-target strategy it vowed to adopt after 2019's poll disaster.

It remains to be seen if Labor's "on your side" mantra from a quieter national conference will cut through.