This weekend's most bruising encounter won't be on the football field.

Nic Crowther
Fri 24 Jul

If you’re a policy wonk or an economics nerd, grab the popcorn and put your feet up for the next few days as the Labor Party comes together to tear itself apart in the way only the Labor Party can. With all the talk leading up to this weekend’s National Conference, this is looking like one of the biggest bloodbaths in years.

For those not familiar with the National Conference, it’s a meeting of delegates from all over Australia with the intent to decide on the policy platforms to be taken to the next election. Typically, a leader arrives from a position of strength, and many of the policies to be voted upon have already been decided through the branch processes. Essentially, the conference becomes three days of grandstanding where the focus is on the party and broader Australia is heavily exposed to the adopted policies.

This time, there is much more at stake. Three strong themes are slowly emerging.




Firstly, Labor Party leader Bill Shorten is not appearing from a position of strength.  The opinion polls show that, while the Labor Party itself is still preferred over the Government, that Mr Shorten’s approval rating is almost as low as the Prime Minister’s. There’s zero chance of him being rolled, but his decision to announce his support of ‘turning back’ boats on ABC’s 7.30 rather than at Conference has not gone down well. Plus, The Left hates it.

Asylum seeker issues aside, it will be interesting to see where the Labor Party pitches its economic tent for the next three days. With the last few days being absorbed by the meeting of State and Territory leaders that focussed heavily on taxation and revenue.



Over the last 12 months the Federal Government has largely walked away from any discussions on the issues, choosing instead to let the States work it out. This has left a large vacuum for Labor to occupy – especially given the Party’s stated aim of revealing policies well ahead of next year’s election. Member for Fraser, Andrew Leigh, has proved himself to be a capable Shadow Finance Spokesman, however whether this will be his time in the lights remains doubtful.




Finally, climate change is still, ahem, a hot issue. The Government has come out swinging against established, small-scale renewables in recent weeks, and the counter punch has been Labor’s announced policy of ensuring 50% of large-scale power generation comes from renewables by 2020. This is an ambitious target  - especially in light of the last two years of Government policy. However, the biggest climate conference since Copenhagen in 2010 looms on the horizon for Paris in December. The policy puts us in stead with China and the USA, but the challenge will be pushing through the mess of domestic sentiment that has been destroyed through successive parliaments.


So, there’s the Big Game Preview. With the Left and the Right so evenly balanced, it will be interesting to see who comes out on top. We predict that, not wanting to show too much disunity, that the Left will fall in behind the leader. However, this is the Labor Party… and nothing is impossible!