Labor needs to win over suburban voters and not dismiss all social conservatives as “bigots” or “sexists,” a pair of right faction frontbenchers have said.
The party desperately needs to change because it has a structural problem with its low primary vote, shadow treasurer Dr. Jim Chalmers told a book launch in Melbourne on Thursday evening.
The election loss was a simple matter of not building a big enough constituency for the party’s ambitious agenda.
And he says Labor has an “ethical, economic and political imperative” to win in the suburbs.
“There’s no path to victory that doesn’t travel through the ring roads and growth corridors of outer-metropolitan Australia,” Chalmers said.
Earlier, his right faction colleague Clare O’Neil urged her party to engage in debate about political correctness, noting regional voters felt Labor talked down to them during the election campaign.
“There is a culture developing in the progressive movement where membership is granted with a box of ideas,” she told the John Curtin Research Centre in Melbourne.
“And if you don’t accept one of the ideas in the box, you do not merely have a different opinion, you are obviously wrong, probably stupid and possibly subhuman.”
While O’Neil agrees with most progressive ideals, she believes the tone of the conversation with voters needs to change.
“Not everyone with a concern about the immigration rate is a bigot,” she said.
“Not everyone with a hesitation about changing gender roles is sexist. Not every social change is inarguably a good one.”
O’Neil said political correctness is often used as cover for racism and bigotry, but warns against creating simmering resentment.
“I don’t know anyone who ever changed their mind because they got made an example of, or yelled at, or shamed.”
She said she backs Labor leader Anthony Albanese, who is of the party’s left faction, and supports efforts to bring the party to the political centre.
Chalmers commended O’Neil’s speech, saying it was possible to shape the centre ground without ignoring the progressive politics of the environment and social justice.
“Shaping the centre ground isn’t passive, isn’t defensive, isn’t triangulation and certainly isn’t small targets or tactical retreat,” he said, addressing some of the counter-arguments that have come from the party’s left.
Both Chalmers and O’Neil were touted as potential members of Labor’s post-election leadership team but each withdrew from the race, paving the way for left faction leader Albanese and Richard Marles as his deputy.
They’re the latest Labor MPs to offer post-election analysis, with right faction heavyweights advocating a shift to the centre and senior left figures calling for retention of progressive policies.
A review of the party’s election campaign is set to be released next Thursday.
By Katina Curtis and Matt Coughlan. Edited by Epoch Times staff.