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‘Don’t boil the ocean’: Labor Right plots the party’s return to power

In a call to arms for the opposition to strip back its next election agenda and focus instead on a handful of agreed priorities, Mr Bowen, who oversaw Labor’s contentious policies to end negative gearing and scrap franking credits, says the party must develop a “workable plan that people trust”.

In another admission of Labor’s errors during his time as shadow treasurer, Mr Bowen says a small but ambitious agenda would be “less disconcerting” and have the advantage of being easier to explain as well as digest.

The book's release comes amid ongoing debate over the party's direction under current leader Anthony Albanese (left).

The book’s release comes amid ongoing debate over the party’s direction under current leader Anthony Albanese (left).Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

“Such an approach also reduces the capacity for scare campaigns to sow doubt or distrust with our agenda and allows us to more readily address these head on in discrete battles rather than defending a broad front,” he writes in his essay.

The book’s release comes amid debate over the party’s direction under current leader Anthony Albanese and fears from some MPs its ambitious climate change promises have alienated the party’s blue-collar voter base in suburban and regional Australia.

Mr Bowen says Labor must acknowledge the fears of workers who are concerned that their jobs and communities are already insecure enough without the “added insecurity caused by action on climate change”.

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“But concerns about insecurity in the face of climate change action mirror the concerns many had about floating the dollar, tearing down tariffs, competition policy and financial deregulation (some of which occurred during a recession)”, he writes.

The book is edited by Nick Dyrenfurth, head of Right faction think-tank the John Curtin Research Centre, and Australian Workers’ Union assistant national secretary Misha Zelinsky, who are both touted as future Labor MPs.

South Australian senator Marielle Smith, widely viewed as a future frontbencher, warned Labor risked alienating Australian families if it did not support their “dreams, goals and aspirations”.

30 senior Labor members have written essays in The Write Stuff: Voice of Unity on Labor's Future.

30 senior Labor members have written essays in The Write Stuff: Voice of Unity on Labor’s Future.

“Labor politicians must never look down on the vast majority of Australians who identify financial security among their top goals,” she writes.

“Financial security for family is a core goal and failing to feel this anxiety and respond to it fulsomely can make Labor seem aloof or not connected with what is occurring on the ground in Australian communities.”

In her chapter, Family Is Everything, Senator Smith writes Labor should show more respect to parents who choose to send their children to faith-based schools.

“There are valid reasons so many families work countless overtime shifts and make significant financial sacrifices to send their children to low-fee private schools,” she writes.

“We can be the party of public education without being a party that scoffs at those who seek something different to the public system and who are prepared to make sacrifices to provide that for their kids.”

Jim Chalmers warns in his chapter, The Future of Labor, that it cannot continue to live in its past glories.

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“Labor’s only path to victory is as the party of the future,” he writes. “Our task is not just to celebrate a long list of Labor achievements but to lengthen it. Not to retrace the steps of our heroes but to walk forward and further in their direction.”

Former treasurer Wayne Swan says Labor needs to be “ruthlessly and relentlessly fixated” on winning elections because it will remain powerless unless it is in government.

Mr Swansays the recent experience of progressive parties in Britain, the United States and Europe is that the rise of the populist right has hollowed out centre-left voter support among working-class and lower-income earners.

Victorian senator Kimberley Kitching writes in her chapter, Australia in an Authoritarian World, that a future Labor government needs to do more to empower students and staff to resist authoritarian politics and foreign influence in our universities.

Senator Kimberley Kitching says a future Labor government needed to do more to empower students and staff to resist authoritarian politics and foreign influence.

Senator Kimberley Kitching says a future Labor government needed to do more to empower students and staff to resist authoritarian politics and foreign influence.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

She says this could be done by implementing compulsory civics classes in schools, instituting ethics and morality standards at universities and by better engaging with immigrant communities.

The review into the ALP’s 2019 federal election loss identified that economically insecure, low-income voters in outer-urban and regional Australia moved against Labor while tertiary-educated, higher-income Australians swung strongly towards the party. Labor needed to reconnect with people of faith on social justice issues and emphasise its historic links with mainstream churches, it found.

“There is no question a robust economic message is a pre-condition for winning back working-class votes, but it doesn’t clinch the deal. In 2019 we failed to convince working people we would protect and lift their living standards.”

The Write Stuff: Voice of Unity on Labor’s Future, edited by Nick Dyrenfurth and Misha Zelinsky, is published by Connor Court Publishing.

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