A PROMINENT Labor MP has slammed his party's negative campaign tactics against the Greens, warning the ALP needs to be far more sophisticated heading into next year's state election.
Albert Park MP Martin Foley said adopting a "single-track" attack against the Greens cost Labor as many votes as it won.
"If it's the only strategy … it reinforces the notion amongst some that the Labor party is just an electoral machine like everybody else that doesn't really stand for anything other than winning seats," he said.
"We need a much more sophisticated strategy … than one that seeks to dirty up any political party."
Labor has been fighting a bitter campaign to stop the march of the Greens in inner Melbourne since the 2006 election, when the Greens won three upper house seats.
The battle between the parties at next year's election will focus on four marginal seats — Melbourne, Brunswick, Richmond and Northcote.
Mr Foley's comments are also a swipe at embattled ALP state secretary Stephen Newnham, who directed Mr Foley's 2007 byelection campaign for Albert Park.
The campaign for the bayside seat was dominated by a letter to voters — labelled a "deliberate deception" by the Greens and Liberals — attacking the Greens' policy on selective schools. The letter did not disclose it was funded by the ALP and written by its pollster.
Mr Foley said he was comfortable with highlighting Greens policy but was disappointed the issue became the focus of the Albert Park campaign. "Election politics is a contact sport and you have to be prepared to play hard … but before you do that you have to demonstrate the values you seek to promote," he said.
And in a reference to Mr Newnham's political future, Mr Foley said the "imminent change of key personnel in the party structure gives us an opportunity to re-engage in that, rather than (Mr Newnham's) single-track view".
Mr Newnham is fighting for his political future as he is believed to have lost the support of key Labor factions and the Premier's office.
Mr Newnham said Labor issued three direct mail letters promoting Mr Foley as part of the byelection campaign and the same number on the policies of Labor's opponents. "I welcome Martin's endorsement of the successful ALP campaigning," he said.
The Greens won 10 per cent of the primary vote at the 2006 state election. Labor's campaign against the Greens has focused on its vote preferencing. A Labor billboard for the 2007 federal election featured the Greens as a "Mini-Me" to the Liberals' "Doctor Evil". Labor has also targeted the Greens over their voting record in the upper house.
In face of the Greens challenge, Mr Foley said the ALP needed to speak to inner-city voters about the values the party seeks to promote through community activism and public policy.
"The real question is internal to the party — what is it we stand for? And if you've got that clear you can go out and have your argument with the Greens, the Liberals or whoever else," he said. "If you just stick to a less sophisticated single approach, you reinforce other less palatable notions."
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