La­bor must help Coali­tion pass leg­is­la­tion even if it dis­ap­points 'purists'

The Guardian Australia - - Front Page - Paul Karp

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.

Pho­to­graph: Mike Bow­ers/The Guardian

The deputy La­bor leader, Richard Mar­les, says his party must be pre­pared to dis­ap­point its sup­port­ers and help pass Coali­tion leg­is­la­tion.

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