Labor rethinks tactics to reach voters

Labor's strategies will be updated after a review by party elders Craig Emerson and Jay Weatherill.
Labor's strategies will be updated after a review by party elders Craig Emerson and Jay Weatherill.

Obama-era election campaign tactics are no longer effective in a modern age where people won't answer their phones or read pamphlets.

One of the lessons Labor will grapple with after reviewing its May election loss is what should replace those tactics.

The campaign post-mortem by party elders Craig Emerson and Jay Weatherill says Labor rolled out its largest ground campaign ever, with more than a million phone calls and a million doors knocked on.

But it did not win the electorates where this effort was concentrated.

And the review calls for the party to urgently improve its digital campaigning.

It said Labor's senior people lacked digital literacy and failed to grasp the opportunities, seeing it as a junior job of running some social media accounts.

Frontbencher Michelle Rowland, who holds the marginal western Sydney seat of Greenway, says the campaigning model based on Barack Obama's tactics to speak with voters personally no longer seems to be effective.

"I'm not one of these people that believe direct voter contact is dead but I think that we have to get a lot smarter about how people choose to communicate these days and what cohorts we want to communicate with," she told AAP.

While previous elections used the number of phone calls as a key metric, this time around she found she could spend two hours making calls and barely reach anyone.

Ms Rowland believes engagement is still important but it has to move with the times and these days, people are used to doing so much online.

"Who knows? By the time of the next election it might actually be novel for people to meet their MP," she said.

She pointed to the reach that messaging apps like WhatsApp provided, saying one person could quickly send something to 50 people who each forward it 50 more.

"I saw some of the material that was being put out by some interest groups during the campaign that had gone viral on Labor's reproductive health policy," she said.

"It was inaccurate and it was astounding the scale of its reach."

Leader Anthony Albanese has set out a clear process for overhauling the Labor machine and taking a measured approach to policy development in the lead-up to the next election.

A lack of strategy was one of three factors the review pointed to as underpinning the loss.

"I found it quite confronting to see the statement that there was no strategy that was set out in a document. Now that's campaigning 101," Ms Rowland said.

"It's disappointing for all those thousands of volunteers and all those really good MPs and candidates ... that by not getting the campaign right, it really let down good people who were out there trying to connect with voters."

Australian Associated Press