Fed­eral La­bor heavy­weights fight for the Right to party

The Australian - - FRONT PAGE - GREG BROWN

Se­nior La­bor Right MPs are push­ing for a wide­spread over­haul of poli­cies so the party can ap­peal to as­pi­ra­tional work­ing-class vot­ers and “en­tre­pre­neur­ial mi­grants”, amid warn­ings that vot­ers in tra­di­tional ALP stronghold­s were alien­ated by Bill Shorten’s pol­i­tics of envy.

La­bor front­bencher Michelle Row­land, who rep­re­sents the mul­ti­cul­tural western Syd­ney seat of Green­way, said mi­grants were turned off by La­bor’s anti-business rhetoric and tax poli­cies.

“I get the sense there were many as­pi­ra­tional in­di­vid­u­als in western Syd­ney who felt La­bor wasn’t sup­port­ing them,” Ms Row­land told The Aus­tralian.

“Part of that is be­cause the na­ture of work has changed so much, with small busi­nesses and mi­crobusi­nesses. You have got tradies who have an ABN. As­pi­ra­tion is not a dirty word — it is what my life has been. It is what my neigh­bour’s life has been.”

With An­thony Al­banese in the US, deputy leader Richard Mar­les used a speech on Thurs­day night to urge La­bor to “stake out the po­lit­i­cal cen­tre” and of­fer work­ing­class peo­ple who con­trib­uted to so­ci­ety the prospect of a bet­ter life rather than fo­cus­ing on wel­fare and sub­si­dies.

Mr Mar­les said La­bor’s work­ing-class base was dis­cour­aged at the last elec­tion be­cause Mr Shorten was of­fer­ing “hand­outs rather than hope”.

South Aus­tralian sen­a­tor Alex Gal­lacher told The Aus­tralian he wrote let­ters to Mr Shorten and then Trea­sury spokesman Chris Bowen be­fore the elec­tion, warn­ing them that the neg­a­tive gear­ing and frank­ing cred­its poli­cies were go­ing down badly with work­ing and mid­dle-class peo­ple. The right-wing sen­a­tor said La­bor was not talk­ing enough about is­sues that con­nected with mid­dle Aus­tralia and lashed the “sav­ing the planet” lan­guage used on cli­mate change.

“Neg­a­tive gear­ing and cap­i­tal gains tax changes in op­po­si­tion was fool­ishly brave,” Sen­a­tor Gal­lacher said. “As­pi­ra­tional vot­ers are on the move. They don’t want any­thing shut down that might be a chance for them to get up the lad­der and make a quid.”

Ms Row­land, a mem­ber of the NSW Right and La­bor’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions spokes­woman, said many peo­ple in western Syd­ney were “en­tre­pre­neur­ial mi­grants” who as­pired to a wealthy fu­ture.

“They didn’t come to Aus­tralia to lose money or to have a worse life; they came so they could have a bet­ter life for them­selves and their fam­i­lies,” she said.

“By the time the elec­tion came around, the gov­ern­ment was able to make an ar­gu­ment that La­bor wasn’t in it for them … the num­ber of peo­ple who came up to me say­ing ‘I nor­mally vote La­bor but I’m not this time be­cause I am a small-business owner’.

Op­po­si­tion re­sources spokesman Joel Fitzgib­bon, also from the NSW Right, used a speech on Wed­nes­day night to call on the party to adopt the gov­ern­ment’s 2030 emis­sions re­duc­tion tar­get.

At the May 18 elec­tion, sev­eral La­bor front­benchers suf­fered big

swings against them in heart­land western Syd­ney seats with high mi­grant pop­u­la­tions.

There was a 7.4 per cent pri­mary vote swing against La­bor in Mr Bowen’s western Syd­ney seat of McMa­hon, a 6.8 per cent swing in Ed Hu­sic’s seat of Chi­fley in the north­west and a 5.5 per cent swing in Ja­son Clare’s seat of Blax­land fur­ther south.

Anal­y­sis of AEC data by The Aus­tralian re­vealed that La­bor’s big­gest pri­mary-vote swings to­wards it were in wealthy, pro­gres­sive elec­torates, de­spite Mr Shorten’s class-war rhetoric, which saw the former leader la­bel business own­ers “fat cats”.

The party en­joyed a 11.7 per cent swing to it in the in­ner-Mel­bourne seat of Cooper (formerly Bat­man) and an 8.85 per cent swing in the bluerib­bon seat of Higgins, which has been held by Peter Costello and former prime min­is­ters John Gor­ton and Harold Holt.

La­bor’s third big­gest pri­mary vote swing was in the Lib­eral heart­land seat of North Syd­ney, held by Trent Zim­mer­man.

Vet­eran Vic­to­rian Right MP An­thony Byrne, who rep­re­sents the outer Mel­bourne seat of Holt, en­dorsed Ms Row­land’s com­ments and said the party needed to en­gage bet­ter with mul­ti­cul­tural com­mu­ni­ties.

“The La­bor Party en­gage­ment with our mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties is not good. It is sub­stan­dard,” he said.

“As a con­se­quence of that, I don’t think we picked up the level of dis­sat­is­fac­tion that peo­ple who were tra­di­tion­ally La­bor-sup­port­ing com­mu­ni­ties had with us and our po­lices. They felt they weren’t lis­tened to and they weren’t in­cluded in the con­ver­sa­tion. And they weren’t.”

Mr Byrne said the same eth­nic groups that voted for Vic­to­rian Pre­mier Daniel An­drews in the state elec­tion were turned off by the fed­eral party.

“When I asked them why, they told me they felt fed­eral La­bor didn’t un­der­stand them and didn’t sup­port them and their as­pi­ra­tions,” he said.

In his Thurs­day night speech, Mr Mar­les said vot­ers “sim­ply didn’t feel we went to the elec­tion of­fer­ing them the tools to move for­ward” and that La­bor “wanted them to set­tle for a range of sub­si­dies”.

“We must al­ways be the party of peo­ple who work hard, who con­trib­ute, whose ef­forts and sacrifice drive our eco­nomic suc­cess,” he said.

Ms Row­land’s NSW Right fac­tion col­league Kristina Ke­neally used ques­tions about La­bor’s direction to at­tack News Corp Aus­tralia, her former em­ployer when she was a co-host of Sky News.

“The last per­son with whom I would share my thoughts with is a News Corp jour­nal­ist. And you can quote me on that,” Sen­a­tor Ke­neally told The Aus­tralian in a text mes­sage.

‘The La­bor Party en­gage­ment with our mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties is not good. It is sub­stan­dard’ AN­THONY BYRNE VIC­TO­RIAN LA­BOR MP





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