From Labor rising star and shadow Treasurer, Jim Chalmers, at the annual Light on the Hill address:
“We need to listen to the message we were sent, and learn from the result.
Clearly, we won’t take an identical set of policies to the next election as we took to the last. We need to look ahead.
We took an ambitious program to the last election and we fought hard for it. But we weren’t able to build a big enough constituency behind that agenda to win. We mostly lost among middle-ground voters, not middle-income voters. People in outer suburban communities like mine, around Australia.
To win (voters) back, we need to acknowledge that we won’t beat populism of the right with populism of the left, especially not with warmed-up nostalgia for the 1970s, or even for the 90s for that matter, but with something new and different.”
More at The Australian:
In the speech, Dr Chalmers says that decay in the established “global economic order” has undermined prosperity and stability, and accelerated inequality. The “reactionary right” has benefited by appealing to populism, nationalism and isolationism while the “progressive left” has struggled.
Labor’s mission must be to “find a place for people” during an “inflection point” in politics, economics and society.
“Big transitions are always accompanied by big, defining anxieties,” he says. “Perhaps the overarching anxiety is declining faith that our politics and economics work for middle Australia.”
Re-establishing our growth credentials is part of reclaiming Labor’s rightful place as the party of aspiration and opportunity,” Dr Chalmers says.
And the answer is a more fulsome embrace of the very policies that are creating that anxiety as living standards fall? This is the key point. The anxiety is real because the underlying problem is real. It’s not a messaging problem. It’s a problem.
Labor had a pretty good platform for the times at the last election. A push back against the class wars of globalisation was appropriate and consistent with Labor values.
Some of the polices needed nipping and tucking, especially the franking credits and climate, but they weren’t fundamentally flawed. Nor did they lose “middle Australia”.
Labor lost the election in QLD. It did not lose it to the LNP. It lost it to One Nation and Clive Palmer, both nationalist parties that offered solutions, good or bad, to the very real anxieties of globalisation.
So, is the answer to get more globalist then? Only if you want to lose even more QLD seats next time around and guarantee LNP Government.
The answer is to nudge your platform towards the nationalists. The ALP should persist with its push from the left as a redress to globalisation issues but add another string to its bow in the form of tighter border controls, halved immigration and even greater focus on wages growth and productivity reform.
There is one problem with doing this in conjunction with the existing policies. Cutting immigration on top of negative gearing reform will terrify the horses about a house price crash. So dump the latter and go with the former. It’s a judgement call on whether or not to cut the capital gains reform as well. Probably keep it.
The main point is, making yourself into a ScoMo lite isn’t going to work. There’s already a ScoMo heavy. Labor needs to be Labor. It just needs to rediscover workers a little.
Tough, I know.
He is also a former gold trader and economic commentator at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the ABC and Business Spectator. He is the co-author of The Great Crash of 2008 with Ross Garnaut and was the editor of the second Garnaut Climate Change Review.
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