Wayne Swan says Labor must fixate on winning government

“There is nothing gained by winning the argument but not government.”

Mr Swan makes his points in one of 30 essays written by senior members of the party’s Right faction and contained in a new book, entitled The Write Stuff.

Other contributors include shadow health minister Chris Bowen, deputy leader Richard Marles and shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers.

New ideas

In his essay, Mr Chalmers says the economy cannot afford to resort to the neo-liberal principles that governed it before the pandemic, but nor is that a reason for Labor to propose “permanent big-state socialism”.

Labor has to come up with new ideas that address problems and inequities exposed by the pandemic, such as the insecurity of work.

“In this coming contest, Labor’s only path to victory is as the party of the future. We will not succeed as a throwback party, nor have we ever succeeded as the party of the past,” he writes.

Mr Swan’s essay urges the party to strip itself back to core beliefs and to never forget it represents the workers, a demographic which has deserted the party in recent times.

This includes not having a fixation on niche social issues.

“Too frequently the underlying economic issues of these workers are lost in the noise of wider moralistic and identity issues, leaving them to think their priorities of jobs and wages and a better life are not on the agenda,” he says.

“When your primary concern is economic insecurity of your family, hearing constant debate and conflict over social issues makes you feel like you don’t count.

“So if we have learned anything about the last election it’s that we cannot assume economic discontent will push support our way. In fact, it may be the opposite.”

On climate change, Mr Swan tends towards the argument put forward by Joel Fitzgibbon that Labor must not lose blue-collar workers along the way.

Mr Swan says Labor’s climate agenda cost it votes in some working-class, resource and regional communities.

“It is possible to support blue-collar jobs and reduce emissions across our economy but proposals that talk about shutting down the export coal industry or demonise entire sectors instead of focusing on the hard and tough policy which includes reducing emissions across the whole of our economy are entirely counter-productive.”

He notes that the unwieldy policy agenda Labor took to the last election, which was designed to raise huge amounts of revenue, actually drove away those voters who Labor had pledged to help with that revenue.

He said this, in part, was due to an effective scare campaign run by the Coalition with assistance from Clive Palmer and the Murdoch media.

“We have to dramatically improve our campaign machine and we have to get much better at winning the battle of ideas,” he said. “Just having the better ideas is clearly not enough.”

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