Poor planning has doomed Labor's media reform
This article was originally posted on The Drum.
Time and again Federal Labor loses the day because it fails to make a case for its reforms. When this happens it is left looking disorganised and weak.
The latest example of this failure to formulate a plan and execute a strategy is the furore over Stephen Conroy's proposal for media regulation.
The Public Interest Media Regulator (PIMA) and changes to the 75 per cent ownership rule were announced without laying the necessary groundwork with the public.
So, when the media proprietors loudly objected there was no firm foundation on which to build a campaign to win or reinforce positive public opinion.
As a result the Government has been swamped and the proposed legislation is unlikely to pass through the Parliament.
Compare this unsatisfactory state of affairs with the United Kingdom where the Labour and Liberal Democrats will force a media regulation bill through the Parliament after prime minister David Cameron started to backtrack on planned changes.
The difference between Britain and Australia is that in the UK there was a major scandal involving the hacking of phones by the News Of The World. So, the main political parties were responding to a public crisis of confidence in the British media and a major inquiry into the events surrounding those disgraceful invasions of privacy.
In Australia there has been nothing approaching the News Of The World scandal to excite public interest and generate calls for reform. In other words, there has been no big issue around which to build a strong campaign.
In my experience, the Australian public will react poorly to major reforms like this when there is loud opposition from powerful vested interests and when the case for change hasn't been made by reference to a scandal or some other notorious event.
The Liberals regularly exploit this cautious streak in the Australian public to create a sense that Labor are poor managers. It happens time and again - the Liberals aggressively and loudly denounce Labor's poorly executed reforms to create a sense of crisis where none really exists.
The lesson that we on the progressive side of politics constantly fail to learn is that it's much harder to convince people to support change than it is to stick with the status quo. If Labor wants to achieve lasting reform it has to identify the "wrong" that needs to be dealt with, then campaign over the issue, then build public support and then pass legislation.
This sounds simple enough but it's actually difficult and requires high levels of coordination and concerted campaigning.
However, when done well it can be very successful. This is one of the reasons why activist groups like Get Up! are so reviled by conservative activists - they understand the power of campaigning.
In Britain there was an effective campaign for media reform and they will have their legislation. In Australia Labor did not lay the necessary foundations and significant media regulation looks doomed.
Military strategists know that when an army is invading another country's territory it requires vastly superior force to make and hold its gains. It's the same for progressive political parties. If they want to achieve lasting change they have to work twice or three times harder than the conservatives.
It is an easier task to just chip away at your opponent's credibility than to make a comprehensive case for reform. If Labor wants to make big reforms it has to plan and implement major opinion changing campaigns.
Conroy's proposed media laws are an object lesson for Labor in how not to win over public opinion.