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The Modern ALP Paradox: Why fight so hard for power, only to do so little with it?

14 June 2023

The debate in the Federal Parliament on the Housing Future Fund shows an interesting insight into Labor’s approach to comms and policy-making – one in which the substance of policymaking too often loses out to spin.

As Peter Martin said in The Conversation of the Housing Future Fund: “The (political) genius of these sorts of funds is they make it look as if you are spending a lot, without the need to spend much at all.”

Not only won’t the Housing Future Fund spend much money but it won’t even spend any money at all on housing until 2025.

Such an approach in a the middle of housing crisis is troubling but it is sadly not isolated.

A similar approach to policy is being played out in WA in key announcements by the Labor Government from housing to climate action. Both are funded in ways more to create the impression of doing something than actually doing it. Too often it’s kicking the can down the road on substantive action or at best spending far less than the amount published.

Take the WA Climate Action Fund as an example: while spending over $1.25 billion sounds impressive, when we drill down it can be seen that most of this money is in the out years and is largely going to projects like softwood plantations, beach sand replenishment, and like which are tangential to climate action or only marginal in reducing carbon emissions.

As climate scientist Bill Hare recently wrote: “There is an increasingly serious risk that the government’s actions are mainly performative, and may not achieve significant real reductions.”

This is a part of modern Labor that I struggle to understand. Why are they more interested in looking like they are doing things, than they are in actually doing them? Why fight so hard for power, only to do so little with it?

We have real problems, lets fix them with real solutions.

Parliament of Western Australia Legislative Council


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