Labor’s pain as voters wish left warriors would GetUp and go
The Labor Party is fracturing internally under pressure from leftwing activists and the centre-right Coalition as the Australian public drifts away from ideological antimining protests and GetUp’s progressive social agenda.
Anthony Albanese was forced to shut down internal division in his partyroom on Tuesday after opposition MPs spoke against Scott Morrison’s farm vandals legislation, telling colleagues “vegan terrorists” do not reflect Labor’s support base.
The latest clash over Labor’s future agenda follows months of splits inside the party over its policies on mining, taxes, social reforms, climate change, border protection and approach to China, with Mr Albanese declaring the ALP needed to embrace change to avoid another defeat at the next election.
“If you do the same thing in politics you can expect the same outcome,” he said.
Victorian Left faction MPs Kim Carr and Ged Kearney called on the party to open up a fight on the farm invaders legislation, which they claimed could have unintended consequences, including preventing media and union officials from attending farms. Labor MP Julian Hill also urged legal affairs spokesman Mark Dreyfus to address concerns raised in the partyroom.
As Labor struggles to present a coherent policy platform and stay focused on its attacks on the government over the economy, new polling obtained by The Australian reveals voters are turning on GetUp and anti-mining activists.
Liberal Party polling conducted shortly after the May 18 election indicated a growing number of voters were hardening their opposition to GetUp’s claim of “independence”.
The polling, based on a sample size of 2000 voters across the nation, revealed 50 per cent of Australians regarded GetUp — which also ran campaigns against coalmining and Adani — as working either mostly or entirely in the interests of Labor and the Greens.
The Liberal Party data showed that, even among Labor and Greens voters, only 22 and 30 per cent of supporters respectively believed the left-wing activist group was “fully independent”.
Post-election research released by the Minerals Council of Australia today also highlights a surge in support for the sector, which continues to drive the
economy, with favourability for mining growing six points since March and net support up to 55 per cent across the nation.
Opposition to mining, a central campaign issue in Queensland where Labor slumped to a disastrous election result, also dropped to its lowest level in recent years, down from 13 per cent in March to 10 per cent in July.
Mr Albanese, criticised internally over his support last week for a Tamil family facing deportation, told colleagues “we are not the Liberal Party, we are not the Greens”.
Following speeches from ALP national president Wayne Swan and Labor frontbencher Mark Butler in the past week — who clashed over the need to change the party’s unpopular economic policies — Labor MPs expressed concern the party was rolling over too often on legislation, including the government’s $158bn income tax package.
Senator Wong, a Left faction powerbroker, slammed suggestions Labor should be concerned about perceptions it was too quick to “capitulate” to the government on legislation, telling the partyroom: “The argument we are capitulating is a Greens tactic and we must take it on.”
The government’s bill targeting farm vandals, which has already passed through the lower house, is expected to pass through the Senate this week, with Labor moving amendments but not opposing the legislation.
Eight Labor MPs spoke in favour of the bill, including frontbenchers Senator Wong, Joel Fitzgibbon and Catherine King.
Opposition NDIS spokesman Bill Shorten said Labor did not have a choice but to support the bill: “There are a lot of farmers out there who feel anxious that somehow their livelihoods are being targeted by militant protesters.”
As new polling shows Australians hardening in their sentiment against anti-mining activists and GetUp, Mr Shorten yesterday declared he was “proud” of the policies he took to the election but conceded “change was inevitable”.
The former Labor leader would not name policies that needed to be reconsidered but declared the party must show the public it had learnt the lessons of the election.
“We didn’t get enough votes at the last election so some change is inevitable and I think if Labor didn’t change some of its point of view then that would be showing we didn’t learn the lessons from the election,” Mr Shorten said.
Liberal Party federal director Andrew Hirst said more Australian voters were hardening their views on GetUp, whose claims of independence were attacked by Scott Morrison last month.
“It’s good to see a growing number of Australians see GetUp for what it really is — the campaign arm of the Labor Party and the Greens. GetUp claims to be independent but it only ever campaigns against Coalition MPs and governments,” Mr Hirst told The Australian.
Minerals Council chief executive Tania Constable said the majority of Australians were “backing mining and regional communities instead of a noisy minority of activists”. She referenced protests in Brisbane where climate protesters glued themselves to roads, causing disruption in the CBD.
“While activists block city streets and bully and intimidate resources companies and their suppliers with extreme tactics, the quiet Australians are getting on with their lives while recognising the value and importance of Australian mining,” Ms Constable told The Australian.