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Labor should target ‘unlikely’ voters, argues frontbencher

Since it lost the May 18 federal election, the Labor Party has been under pressure from within to move closer to its “roots”, particularly to working class voters.

New leader Anthony Albanese is on a “listening tour” to re-engage with Labor supporters and has also argued the party must rebuild its connections with business and industry.


Dr Leigh, who was demoted in Mr Albanese’s frontbench reshuffle, will say the party’s links to its “egalitarian” roots should be maintained but that Labor must also appeal to voters attracted by traditional Liberal Party values espoused by former leaders such as Robert Menzies, Malcolm Fraser and even Malcolm Turnbull.

He will argue the Liberal Party’s links to the liberalism of early prime minister Alfred Deakin were now at breaking point, giving Labor an opportunity to expand its potential supporter base.

A key criticism of Labor since the election has been its failure to reach voters in the resource states of Queensland and Western Australia, with complaints it has lost touch with people connected to the mining sector.

Dr Leigh, who references the trade union movement just once in the address and only in relation to its legalisation in Britain in 1871, will say Labor can maintain its long-term egalitarian focus while also offering something to voters turned off by the conservatism of the modern Liberal Party.

He will argue social liberalism means supporting the freedom of small businesses to work together to push back against larger firms that seek to exploit their market power and backing civil liberties including freedom of the press.

“We must recognise that parties need to renew. I believe that our renewal may be found in an unlikely spot: welcoming not only those inspired by egalitarianism but also those motivated by social liberalism,” he will say.

“Small-l liberalism involves a willingness to protect minority rights (even when they’re unpopular) and a recognition that open markets are the best way to boost prosperity.”

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