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A New Way Forward for NSW Labor

The third Labor speaker at CMPM2014 is Kaila Murmain, NSW Labor's Assistant General Secretary. She begins by outlining the current political environment in NSW, which has been difficult for Labor following the 2011 landslide towards the Liberals; at the next election Labor would need to regain some 27 seats to win. There has been a need to rebuild with the help of strong local candidates.

One focus of this rebuilding is to attract strong small local donors for the Labor campaign. This is difficult given the considerable lack of trust Australians have in politics and politicians, and the lack of attention now being paid to political messaging in the mainstream media. Volunteers are therefore now the party's biggest asset, and the branch structure has become a crucial tool again.

Well-performing Labor candidates in the last NSW election did a great deal of doorknocking and other local campaigning; this balanced out some of the negative perceptions about the Labor party overall. Experiments with more direct member involvement in preselections and leadership choices are also designed to change how Labor is perceived.

Campaigns in NSW Labor are run through the Sussex St head office, from where volunteers are working in an organising centre to run the phones and engage in other forms of outreach. In fact, in recent months, Kaila says, hundreds of non-Labor members have come to Sussex St to volunteer their services. And Labor branding is also being recovered and unified to generate a new sense of unity.

The party dipped below 11,000 registered members in 2011, and the new mechanism for directly electing the federal Labor leader helped reverse that trend; community preselection processes in local electorates also helped. Letters and leaflets were especially useful in informing Labor voters about this new opportunity. And this may also help in finding more appeals candidates, with whom voters connect.

Kaila also notes the increased trend towards voting ahead of the actual Election Day. All parties are now engaging with this trend, which must force a change in campaigning: what's the point of last-minute advertising and late campaign launches if so many votes have already been cast? Similarly, as online voting mechanisms become available, how are parties able to connect with these voters if they are no longer physically present at a booth?