Labor's election review has placed Bill Shorten's personal unpopularity at the centre of the party's shock election loss, setting the stage for recriminations and anger from Mr Shorten and his supporters.
"Bill Shorten's unpopularity contributed to the election loss," the review said bluntly, also blaming cluttered policy agenda and a weak strategy that didn't adapt to Scott Morrison becoming Liberal leader.
Labor polling showed that Mr Shorten's popularity went backwards during the campaign. Forty-seven percent of people reported a negative view of Mr Shorten at the beginning, on April 9, and that figure didn't shift.
The number reporting a positive view fell from 31 per cent to 27 per cent - leaving him with a net rating of minus 20. That compared with Mr Morrison's rating of minus 4.
Mr Shorten didn't comment on the review, but before it was released on Thursday he posted a tweet, blaming his "tarnished public standing" on the relentless attacks from the Liberals and Clive Palmer.
While the criticism of Mr Shorten will cause internal upset, the review by Labor's Jay Weatherill and Craig Emerson, points to the bigger problem facing the party, saying its "failure to persuade disengaged voters to vote for it explains the election result".
The pair found the groups that swung most strongly against the party were:
- Voters aged 25 to 34 in outer-urban and regional areas.
- Christians, particularly devout, first-generation migrant Christians.
- Chinese Australians.
- Coal miners and people working in related industries.
- Seats with low numbers of university graduates (which swung 4.2 per cent against the party, compared with a 3.8 per cent swing to Labor in seats with high numbers of graduates).
While Adani was a factor in the poor performance in Queensland, it was not the whole story. Labor lost ground among its traditional base of low-income workers on the edges of cities and in regional and country areas, the group who became "Howard's battlers" and now Morrison's "quiet Australians".
It won only 20 per cent of seats in Queensland, and "clearly ... must find a way of reconnecting with Queenslanders", the review said.
Labor had become a natural home for gender equality, the LGBTQI+ community, racial equality and environmentalism. Progressive groups had "banked the win", adding to Labor's failure to register the warning signs.
The review said Labor must acknowledge the dilemma between its traditional working class base and the city voters and find a way to build common ground without choosing one group over the other.
The review did not blame Labor's plan to scrap refunds for franking credits. While many party members had since argued against the policy, the people most affected by the proposal actually swung to Labor.
Instead, it suggested Labor had painted itself into a corner with a big spend, promising $100 billion more in spending than the Coalition. That left it with no choice but to find the money to cover it either through savings or extra revenue.
Labor's leadership group wanted to find the money through revenue initiatives but the party was already proposing an increase in the top personal tax rate to 49 per cent and opposing tax cuts for high income earners, so the only alternative source of money was low and middle-income earners, leaving the party with no room to move.
The review rejected the suggestion that Labor should backpedal on climate change, a charge being led by Joel Fitzgibbon who has now called for Labor to adopt the Coalition's emissions target.
But the review said such a move would not only be wrong, it would cause enormous internal instability and be a massive electoral liability.
The sheer number of spending announcements had created "a sense of risk" in the minds of the most economically insecure, low-income voters about Labor's economic management, the review found.
The absence of an economic growth story which made Labor's policies "appear entirely redistributive".
"For every winner there was a loser, and a loss weighs more heavily on a voter's decision than a gain," it said. "Constant attacks on "the big end of town" ignored the reality that big businesses employ lots of workers. These attacks amplified perceptions Labor was a risk to the economy and jobs."
The review said there was no overall strategy, and instead, the leader and a leadership group had made decisions on new policies, even taking the national secretary by surprise with the sheer number and complexity of policies announced.
While anti-Labor feelings were picked up by people campaigning at the local level, those warnings were dismissed by the campaign team. The party had also failed to adjust for Scott Morrison's leadership. It continued its attack on "the big end of town" despite that message being developed for Malcolm Turnbull's leadership, rather than Morrison's "suburban dad".
"There is no evidence of any serious evaluation of the threat the shift to Morrison posed or any awareness of the importance of Morrison's publicly announced reframing of the election as being a showdown between himself and Shorten."
Labor lost the digital campaign, its email lists shrank since the last election and it raised less money from fewer donors.