Writing in the SMH today, Edith Cowan Uni politics lecturer Peter Van Onselen and consultant Phil Senior call for Labor to focus on the bush. There are more rural/regional seats than outer metropolitan seats and Labor holds fewer of them.
But Labor can’t do that while the party is controlled by the inner-city latte set. It has become so narrow in its inner-city focus it has lost touch with its working-class roots in the bush as well as outer-metropolitan areas.
Yep – right, “working-class roots in the bush”.
Labor was strong in the bush in Queensland and New South Wales once upon a time because of the presence of a base of mine workers, railway workers, shearers and bush workers, often organised by the AWU. At state level, Labor is still competitive in rural and regional areas in NSW and particularly Queensland and Victoria where Beattie and Bracks won a swag of regional seats. So it’s true to say that Labor can do well here, but unfortunately too much of the argument sets up the tired old dichotomy of inner-city versus everyone else. There are also some fairly sweeping generalisations further on in the piece.
Our authors have apparently noticed that in outer-metropolitan areas:
Once the land of the blue-collar worker, probably a member of a union, voters in such areas are now more typically sub-contractors. Their increasingly aspirational outlook makes them less susceptible to the politics of class than the voters Labor traditionally has relied on. Their increasing small business bent draws them to the Liberal Party. Rather than reversing, this trend is only likely to get stronger.
Really? More typically? Is that so? It would perhaps have been helpful if the authors had a look at some of the ABS figures on employment category.
Oh, and the way to win over the bush? Labor “needs to tap into… fears”.
Fortunately, I suspect with Parliament having risen for the year, and Labor strategists dreaming of the beach and Christmas, no one but me is reading this kind of analysis…