Given the infrequency of Labor federal election wins, a cynic might observe that an inquiry would be more appropriate on those rare occasions when Labor emerges victorious. Of course, the surprise nature of the 2019 defeat meant that more questions than usual would be asked and that some of the answers might prove uncomfortable.

Craig Emerson and Jay Weatherill’s review seeks to dispose of the argument that Labor’s policies on franking credits and negative gearing played a decisive role, citing the swing to the party in more affluent seats. This may well become the accepted wisdom, although it continues to be challenged by Labor’s triumphalist opponents. On the best interpretation for Labor, though, it is surely ironical that the policy seems to have cost it more votes among those who’d never heard of franking credits than among those likely to be most disadvantaged by the proposal.

The more general point made in the review — that the policies were vulnerable to misrepresentation and reinforced perennial concerns about Labor’s economic management skills — seems sound. Remarkably, it seems that none of the party’s strategists anticipated such a danger, naively assuming that they could control the direction of the ensuing debate.

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