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Labor's 2013 election loss 'self-inflicted', internal review finds

Chaotic style: Former prime minister Kevin Rudd with adviser Bruce Hawker on the campaign trail during the 2013 federal election.

Chaotic style: Former prime minister Kevin Rudd with adviser Bruce Hawker on the campaign trail during the 2013 federal election. Photo: Andrew Meares

The chaotic and disjointed style of Kevin Rudd and his close circle during the 2013 election led to ''one of the most disappointing'' campaigns in Labor's long history, an internal review has found.

The 25-page post mortem has identified ''serious difficulties'' in lines of communication between Mr Rudd's travelling party, headed by political adviser and confidant Bruce Hawker, and campaign headquarters in Melbourne, led by campaign director and ALP national secretary George Wright.

The review, conducted by Victorian MP Jane Garrett and former ALP Queensland boss Milton Dick, has urged that in future campaigns the campaign director be given the final say on all messaging and strategy.

They found the Rudd travelling party had a narrow focus on ''low-level campaign decisions at the expense of more significant decisions, which were subsequently left too long to be
resolved''.

''This fundamentally resulted in the reduced effectiveness of the campaign materials, announcements and overall media strategy,'' the review states.

Media reports emerged during the middle of the campaign about a breakdown between the members of the team surrounding Mr Rudd and the campaign team which had been weakened by the upheaval in the parliamentary ranks when ministers loyal to former prime minister Julia Gillard quit en masse.

The reviewers highlighted the decision of Mr Rudd to parachute a group of American advisers who had spearheaded the digital campaigning for US President Barack Obama in his storming 2008 election victory.

''In May 2013, the Labor Party held a two-day trial in campaign headquarters with the campaign team. The technology held up, processes predictably needed refining, but there was a large and committed team who were ready to fight despite the well understood odds Labor was up against,'' Ms Garrett and Mr Dick wrote.

''A month later the campaign lost about half of that team as a result of the leadership change. The campaign director had to pull together a new team immediately. At the same time the new prime minister's office had to fill its staffing positions and ministers were finding their feet in new portfolios.

''More than half of campaign headquarters staff turned over weeks before the election.

''It is important to note that the new prime minister's office sought to make a number of specific changes to the campaign staffing and structure, including late involvement by overseas consultants. This created some significant disruptions, confusion and inefficiencies within the campaign.

''All of these experiences confirm the opinion of the reviewers that final decisions in a campaign must rest with the campaign director.''

They said unit directors within campaign headquarters did not feel confident that decisions they made within their area of responsibility would not be overturned by the travelling party.

The review received 550 submissions from MPs and ALP members, most of which had a ''remarkably similar structure''.

''They began by despairing at the Rudd/Gillard government's leadership woes,'' the review found.

The authors have advised that Labor pursue its primary vote at the expense of any appeasement or partnership with the Greens, identifying an ''extremely unfortunate and very counterproductive trend of minor progressive parties and organisations focusing their criticism, energies and political activity almost entirely on the Labor Party and its policies and approach in order to maximise their own electoral successes''.

''The raison d'etre for the Greens Party over the last decade has been to attack, undermine and/or colonise the Labor Party's policies with an increasing ferocity, in an attempt to win one or two inner city seats in Melbourne and Sydney,'' the review found.

''The effect has been that these policy objectives have themselves been undermined, attacked and turned into political footballs driven by insular and often circular debate that has proved alienating to the mainstream community.''

The review praised ''smaller victories'' in the overall ''self-inflicted'' defeat of 2013, including come from behind wins in the Parramatta, Greenway, McEwen, Kingsford Smith, Adelaide, Moreton, Blair, Lilley and Fowler.

''Labor's defeat in 2013 is a tragedy for the party, largely because it was self-inflicted but a greater tragedy because of the harm being caused to Australians under an Abbott government,'' it found.

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