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25 October 2011

Is Labor, once the preference of voters in the Australian states dead?

That question, as well as other perspectives examining the Labor party's role in public transport, its environmental credentials and plight of the Labor party interstate will be the focus of a Deakin University conference next month (Saturday 5 November).

Conference organiser and senior lecturer with the University's School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Dr Geoff Robinson, said the one-day conference - Hard Labor: the crisis of social democracy in the Australian States - was not just an academic concern.

"There is a synergy between academics who look at politics and people who work in politics as well as journalists who report on it," he said.

"It is for this reason our presenters will include Andrew Giles a former Chief of Staff for Labor, former State Labor member Carlo Carli, Sydney Morning Herald journalist Andrew West, and NSW Shadow Minister for Transport, Penny Sharpe.

"Andrew Giles' presentation will look at whether the defeat of Labor was inevitable or avoidable while Penny, Andrew and Carlo will participate in a roundtable looking at transport policy and how it has affected the fortunes of the Labor Party."

Dr Robinson said Andrew West would examine some of the myths and realities of the NSW election, while Sydney University doctoral student and commentator Trevor Cook would look at the relationship between the unions and Labor.

"My own paper considers whether Labor is in danger of becoming a political rump dependent on ethnic voters and public sector employees without an appeal to middle-ground suburban voters," Dr Robinson said.

Dr Robinson said the conference was being supported by the University's Alfred Deakin Research Institute which aimed to contribute to public policy by producing research which was informed by those working in the field.

Dr Robinson said Dr Brian Coffey a research fellow with Deakin's School of Humanities and Social Sciences would look at the Victorian Labor party's track record on the environment while Dr Troy Whitford from Charles Sturt University would examine Labor's failure to appeal to rural voters in his presentation Country Labor: A few sheep short in the top paddock all foam, no beer.

"It seems only yesterday that Steve Bracks in Victoria and Bob Carr in New South Wales looked invincible and they inspired Kevin Rudd's appeal to suburban voters but now Labor is out of government in both states, " Dr Robinson said.

"I argue state Labor's collapse has lessons for Julia Gillard: long-term government requires hard work on policy."

Dr Robinson said other presentations would consider Mike Rann's legacy in South Australia while Deakin University's Dr Hans Lofgren would add an international flavour with his paper looking at the fall of the left front in West Bengal.

Further information

The conference will be held at the Deakin University Melbourne City Centre, Level 3, 550 Bourke St, Melbourne.

For further information please contact Dr Geoff Robinson on 522 71452 or 0407 731 963 or email geoffrey.robinson@deakin.edu.au

Follow the conference on Twitter

News facts
  • Is Labor in danger of becoming a political rump dependent on ethnic voters and public sector employees without an appeal to middle-ground suburban voters?
  • State Labor's collapse has lessons for Julia Gillard: long-term government requires hard work on policy
  • Conference brings politicians, academics, journalists and staffers together

Media contact

Sandra Kingston
Deakin Media Relations
03 9246 8221/0422 005 485
sandra.kingston@deakin.edu.au

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25th October 2011