UK election shows centre-left can’t win by ‘preaching’ to base, Labor’s Jim Chalmers says


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Australia’s shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers says the thumping repudiation of Jeremy Corbyn in the British election shows centre-left parties don’t win elections by “preaching” to their base or by projecting a lack of competence on economic management.

Chalmers told Sky News on Sunday the main lessons from Labour’s defeat in Britain late last week was “you don’t beat populism of the right with populism of the left” and centre-left parties needed “to build much bigger constituencies of support, and that begins with a bedrock of economic credibility”.

He said the lessons from the British election, and the Australian contest in May, were similar. “It’s self-evident we didn’t build a big enough constituency for change in our own election and our counterparts in the UK similarly – and we need to think long and hard about how we do that.”

Chalmers said Labor needed to project to voters it was a safe pair of hands on the economy, and it needed to connect with people “who wanted to get ahead, not just get by”.

The shadow treasurer was asked on Sunday about climate change, given Labor was caught between constituencies in the May election, with voters in the cities wanting meaningful action while voters in coal regions were concerned that meaningful action meant an end to their livelihoods.

Chalmers did not commit to keeping the same emissions reduction targets Labor took to the election in May, but he said Labor would take a more ambitious policy than the Coalition to the next election.

Labor took a 45% emissions reduction target to the May contest, while the government’s 2030 target is a 26% reduction, but after taking the Labor leadership post-election, Anthony Albanese said all of Labor’s election commitments were up for review.

The shadow climate change minister Mark Butler told Guardian Australia in September Labor would implement the Paris agreement, look for policies that will keep warming below 2C, move to net zero emissions by 2050 and set medium-term emissions reduction targets “that are consistent with these principles and guided by the best available scientific and economic advice”.

Chalmers said climate change was difficult for Labor because “this debate has become unnecessarily polarised, and I think Scott Morrison has fed that, because he is always looking for an excuse not to do anything on climate change”.

“We’ll come up with a climate change plan that is more ambitious than the government’s, which takes genuine action, which is mindful of people’s lives and livelihoods, which recognises we can create new jobs in renewable energy without abandoning our traditional strengths,” he said.

Asked about his right faction colleague Joel Fitzgibbon’s view that Labor should adopt the same emissions reduction targets at the government, Chalmers said while he “respected” everybody’s views, that wasn’t an option. “My personal view is we can take a more ambitious approach to the election than the government.

“I think the government has been twiddling their fingers while Australia has burned, literally,” he said. “I think we need to have a proper conversation about what can be done here because whatever the Morrison government is doing is insufficient to deal with the real challenge we have about climate change in this country.”

He said the majority of Australians wanted Labor to listen to experts and to take genuine action on climate change “in a way that is respectful of people’s lives and livelihoods in places like regional Queensland. I think that closely accords with what people want from Canberra”.

The Indian Telegraph
Established in 2007, The Indian Telegraph is a multi award winning digital media company based in Australia.

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