ALP review finds poll agenda 'cluttered'

Katina Curtis, AAP Senior Political Writer
1 / 3

LABOR FEDERAL ELECTION REPORT RELEASE

Craig Emerson and Jay Weatherill made 60 findings and 26 recommendations in Labor's election review

Labor's federal election loss has been put down to a combination of Bill Shorten's unpopularity, a cluttered policy agenda and failure to adapt to the ascension of Scott Morrison as prime minister.

"Labor lost the election because of a weak strategy that could not adapt to the change in Liberal leadership, a cluttered policy agenda that looked risky and an unpopular leader," a review of the campaign released on Thursday finds.

"Not one of these shortcomings was decisive but in combination, they explain the result."

The review, led by party elders Craig Emerson and Jay Weatherill, makes 60 findings and 26 recommendations for change to put the party on track to win at the next election.

They said the highly complex agenda - encompassing 250 costed policies - ended up frightening off the very people it was trying to help.

Mr Weatherill said that strategy was put together in an attempt to build trust with voters and avoid the "Tony Abbott effect" of taking one set of policies to an election then doing something else.

"The great irony is the attempt to actually build trust was actually the thing which created great fear," he told reporters in Melbourne.

"There's something quite tragic about that."

The sheer number of policy announcements drowned each other out, were tricky for candidates to sell and didn't leave any room for actively campaigning against the coalition.

But Dr Emerson said the party must never walk away from its values.

"We strongly support the retention of bold policy, we're simply saying that perhaps not so many policies so that it becomes confusing," he told reporters.

Their review calls for policies that "form part of a coherent Labor story" and are easily explainable.

And Labor must stand by support for strong action on climate change.

But they say the party must refocus on the jobs that can be created by renewable energy and the cost of inaction.

"If the coalition feels that they can go to the next election basically saying climate change isn't such a big deal well that would actually be a good thing for Labor," Dr Emerson said.

The review paints a picture of a campaign machine that was underprepared, lacked a persuasive strategy to win, had no reason for people not to vote for the coalition, and lacked an advertising and agile digital campaign strategy.

High expectations of victory - fuelled by public opinion polls and betting markets - led the party to assume it had a better apparatus than its opponents and it gave little consideration to people questioning Labor's strategy and agenda.

The party's resources were stretched as it targeted too many seats.

The reviewers say the party must set up a formal campaign committee early and make sure robust local campaign organisations are in place.

And it should take care to be more inclusive, developing a strategy to engage multicultural voters and abandoning derogatory mentions of the "big end of town".

The review bluntly states "Bill Shorten's unpopularity contributed to the election loss", but also says none of its conclusions should be taken as a personal reflection on the former leader.

Earlier, Mr Shorten posted a statement on Twitter saying the report should generate much debate and discussion within the party.

"There are many players on a team but as captain of that team I accept full responsibility for the policies taken to the election," he said.

"And while the review has not considered or reviewed the merit of those policies it is important that the party does."