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Labor has won, so what now for the NFP and social purpose space?

Anthony Albanese is to be sworn in as Australia’s 31st Prime Minister, and Labor is on track for majority government. What does this mean for policy, advocacy, campaigning and engagement for the year ahead?

While much has and will be written over the policy initiatives, promises, and commitments of the incoming government, I wanted to reflect on three macro and higher-level issues which have yet to enter mainstream discussion as a result of the election.

Firstly, facts and evidence may start to return to political and government decision making. Secondly, faith in democracy and integrity may start to matter again, potentially restoring key democratic principles. Finally, if as a sector we value the things Labor is keen on (health, education, environment, integrity, gender etc), we are going to have to learn to not let the perfect get in the way of good – or else we may very quickly have a Conservative return in Australia. 


I do not think there is a person in the Labor Party who thinks climate change is a hoax, joke or conspiracy theory, because they appreciate and understand science and evidence. This will, I suspect extend to our new PM, who I very much doubt will say one thing to a camera, and then lie about saying it the very next week. This will have substantial repercussions for public policy as thought bubbles will hopefully be less common, and MPs and Ministers will not be able to freelance their way through policy initiatives without support from public servants, and evidence-based proposals.

For the social services sector, this will mean outcomes, impact and measurement will mean something again. We can collectively breathe a sigh of relief, and this will lead to better policy and decision making. 


The second point is on integrity, with the rise of the teals, and both Labor, teals and the Greens Party in lock step (largely) around an integrity commission, we will very shortly see many of the rorts of the former government potentially investigated in detail. This will also cause the new government to operate at a higher standard.

Things like the money drops to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, and charities with no history except of political favouritism will be less frequent. This will go some way to restoring faith in our systems.  Rorting to the scale we have seen for the past three or four years will hopefully reduce, which in turn means we will all have a bit more confidence in the spending our government is undertaking – whether submarines and the billions wasted there, or dodgy contracts across health, covid and defence to Liberal & National Party friends and donors, this rebalancing is well overdue. 


My final point is the most alarming. The social service and NFP space historically aspires for excellence and perfection, and we get greatly disheartened if things do not happen as we would like.

Sadly, democracy is the art of the possible and compromise, so we may need to be a bit forgiving of this new government, as division because they are not “perfect” will be exactly what conservatives will rely upon to get government back. If Labor does not go far enough, or fast enough, or is not perfect enough, remember that ranting over it will only help Conservatives. The government needs to take the population along with them. We are a country adverse to change, and for it is become embedded, we need to be patient.

It is this final point which also calls upon us to hark back to the history of the Liberal/National Party, and perhaps why the questions being asked about its future matter.

When Australia first became a Commonwealth, we had two main parties, the Protectionists and the Free-traders, and one swing party – the Australian Labor Party. In 1904 due to series of events, Labor under Chris Watson took government. At 37 years old, Watson became the first Labor head of government anywhere in the world, and while his government lasted just 9 months, it was enough to set off a substantial change. The free traders and protectionists, who are ideological opposite were worried about what Labor may do if it could hold government, and they united. Their common vision, despite their polar ideologies was simple: We are the “anti-Labor” party. The Liberal & National Party stem from this - they literally stand for not being Labor.

So, remember when we look back and critique Labor for not doing what we wanted fast enough, or far enough, that all that will happen is you hand ammunition to the “anti Labor” party. If we all share the aspirations of climate change, integrity, education, health and beyond, we need to make sure we don’t inadvertently help the return to “anti-Labor”.

Neil Pharaoh is a Specialist business member of The Xfactor Collective – an Australian-first community comprising highly experienced and pre-vetted specialist businesses across 300+ areas of specialisation.

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