Labor must help Coalition pass legislation even if it disappoints 'purists'
Labor must be prepared to disappoint its supporters by avoiding “manufactured parliamentary tests” and helping to pass Morrison government legislation, its deputy leader, Richard Marles, suggests.
In a draft of a speech to be delivered at the John Curtin research centre on Thursday, Marles has argued the opposition’s “clumsy” attempts to “walk the tightrope” on the Adani coalmine left blue-collar workers feeling abandoned at the last election and it must take a more pragmatic approach even if it risks disappointing “purists”.
Marles is one of a number of rightfaction Labor spokesmen and women to argue Labor must position itself as the party of “aspiration”, echoing calls by its communications spokeswoman, Michelle Rowland, on Thursday for Labor to “advance aspiration and better the lives of working people”, and unite in the face of public division over key policies.
The imminent review of Labor’s 2019 election performance and decision to scrap all its policy commitments pending the review has lead to an outbreak of competing views, with revenue-raising measures and climate policies the subject of most public debate.
Marles has argued that Labor has to “be prepared to ignore and avoid and look past the manufactured parliamentary tests, the stunts and the wedge politics the Liberals spend so much of their time constructing for us”.
“We know that sometimes that will hurt in the short term, sometimes it will sting our passionate supporters who might prefer a pyrrhic parliamentary victory. But so be it. That is pain we will have to wear.
“Because none of the people who count on Labor governments benefit if we all die in the first ditch the Liberals dig for us.”
In July Labor was criticised for passing the Morrison government’s income tax package, including elements which overwhelmingly benefited rich voters.
This week the former Labor leader, Bill Shorten, accepted responsibility for the election loss on 18 May and singled out Labor’s election policy on franking credits as a particular problem for the party.
However, the ALP president, Wayne Swan, has urged Labor to stay the course on economic policies that combat inequality.
Marles said in the draft speech that the Coalition won aspirational votes because Labor had attempted to quarantine its traditional base and offered “handouts rather than hope”.
He warned the party would not win the next election “simply relying on a big spending agenda” or “running on the policies of the past in glossy brochures promising a solution to everything for everyone”.
He was “no exception” to the party’s clumsiness on the handling of coal – a reference to his description of the decline of the global coal market as “a good thing” – adding that the Adani debate left “rock solid Labor voters as collateral damage”.
“We agonised over every word during press conferences on what at its heart was the business case of a private mining venture,” he said.
In her speech to a communications conference in Melbourne, Rowland suggested winning the next election was a “hard, but achievable, task”.
“We will need to be creative and ambitious in our vision for the country while displaying the pragmatism the collective public conscience seeks in times of uncertainty,” she said.
“It will also be important to remain true to our values while finding new ways of harnessing them to advance aspiration and better the lives of working people.”
On Wednesday the opposition climate change spokesman, Mark Butler, rejected a proposal by his frontbench colleague Joel Fitzgibbon to offer the government “a political and policy settlement” by adopting the upper limit of the Coalition’s target, a 28% reduction in emissions by 2030.
On Thursday frontbench MP Matt Keogh gave qualified support for a deal on an emissions reduction target for this term of government, suggesting Labor could then reassess ahead of the next election depending on how successful the Coalition was at reducing emissions by 2022.
“If you provide that certainty now about where we are aiming over this term of government, then the approach we take at the next election will be based on how successful the government has been on the government’s own policy as opposed to having competing policies over the course of this term,” Keogh told the Australian.
“Let’s not get in the way and con
tinue to haggle with them for the next two and a half years.”
Fitzgibbon said emissions had grown every year for the past four years, but the prime minister, Scott Morrison, “deflects questions about that by talking ad nauseam about Labor’s more ambitious targets”.
“So I say, let’s pull back … Let’s put the pressure on him to turn them around … to fulfil his Paris commitments … and in three years, it would leave us in a better place to build on something more ambitious,” he told Sky News.
Butler told Guardian Australia Labor remained committed to implementing the principles of the Paris agreement, to keep global warming well below 2C and pursue efforts around 1.5C.
“We will have a mid-century target of zero emissions and medium-term targets which are consistent with the agreement – and the government’s target, which was developed by Tony Abbott with no expert advice, is fundamentally inconsistent with the Paris agreement,” he said.
The deputy Labor leader, Richard Marles, says his party must be prepared to disappoint its supporters and help pass Coalition legislation.