Today, the Australian Labor Party is in crisis. Reduced to minority government after just one term, and at rock bottom in the opinion polls, the party seems to be at a defining moment in its history. The perception of the federal government is that it can’t deliver, can’t be trusted, can’t communicate what it stands for, and that it is beholden to independents and the Greens. How did it come to this so soon after Labor’s thumping election win in 2007?
Looking for the Light on the Hill argues that Labor is bedevilled by twin problems: the loss of its intrinsic culture of strong, bold, and innovative leadership; and an identity crisis that has emerged because Labor has failed to refresh its values, philosophy, and purpose for the modern era. Written by a party insider and former Rudd government adviser, the book draws on Labor’s history with fresh perspectives, and includes the secret components of the party’s recent internal review. It also includes new interviews with former party leaders, current and former ministers, and union leaders and party figures — and reveals astonishing opinion-poll results, commissioned exclusively for this book, that demonstrate the depth of the crisis.
Challenged by the Greens on the left and the Coalition on the right, Australia’s oldest political party is in real trouble. Looking for the Light on the Hill shows how Labor can get its mojo back with new policy ideas, a new political strategy, organisational reform, and a refreshing of the party’s values. This book couldn’t be more relevant, more timely — or more necessary.
‘Troy Bramston’s book is a stand-out. His elegant prose and bold criticisms make it hard to put down, and its blend of history, current affairs and ideas for the future make it impossible to ignore.’
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‘Bramston’s views should be taken seriously … he is a commentator in the best traditions of the NSW Labor Party, which has long seemed to take its history and traditions more seriously … Looking for the Light on the Hill is crammed with references to the party and leaders of yesteryear; in comparison, the modern party is often found to be wanting. This gives the book a slightly nostalgic quality, but one mitigated by Bramston’s conviction that party renewal means taking inspiration from the past rather than reliving it … an astute diagnosis of the ills afflicting the modern Labor Party, as well as some ways in which the party might set about trying to resolve its problems.’
Frank Bongiorno, Inside Story
‘Bramston argues for boldness, reinvention. He ... identifies policy timidity and the laziness of Labor’s lost decade in the Opposition ... a comprehensive effort: strong on Labor’s history, reverential towards the modern greats – Whitlam, Hayden, Hawke and Keating – and, in the end, more idealistic than fatalistic.’
Maxine McKew, The Monthly
‘Troy Bramston proffers a spirited analysis of Labor's problems and specific suggestions on how to address them … This is thought-provoking stuff from a passionate true believer.’
Roy Williams, The Weekend Australian
‘[Looking for the Light on the Hill] is stuffed full of quotes, references and stray facts that distil over 100 years of party history. It will stimulate readers to pursue some of these tendrils and track other books and build their knowledge of party history. More importantly it presents an agenda for party reform.’
Bob Carr, Thoughtlines