Labor powerbroker Kim Carr has urged the party to think twice before “junking the platform we took to the election” including franking credit reforms and negative gearing.
In an essay published in the John Curtin Research Centre’s journal, Senator Carr warns Labor must not run up the white flag on reform because of the so-called “retiree tax” or adopt a “small target” political strategy.
Senator Carr said voters had a right to be “sceptical” about Labor’s agenda but the party should not revert to the “knuckle-dragging” arguments of opponents.
“The most misleading way of portraying the election result would be to see it as an emphatic rejection of the proposed tax reforms by those materially affected by them,” Senator Carr said.
“On the contrary, the Coalition’s scare tactics about dividend imputation and negative gearing worked best in electorates where voters owned the least number of shares and the fewest investment properties.
“People in the 10 seats that recorded the biggest swings to Labor get four times the amount of franking credits each year as people in the 10 seats that recorded the biggest swings to the Coalition.
“The NSW south coast seat of Gilmore – the only seat Labor won, as opposed to two gained by redistribution – has one of the highest densities of self-funded retirees in the nation.”
Controversially, Senator Carr argues some of the voters who backed the Liberals did so at a personal cost.
“We cannot assume that people will always vote in their best interest,” he said.
“We must understand that voters are entitled to be sceptical about people who insist on telling them what is good for them. That does not mean turning our backs on science and becoming knuckle-draggers. It means that we can’t be arrogant in the assertions we make in arguing our case.”
Senator Carr argued it was Bill Shorten and Labor’s “messaging” and failure to appeal to working-class voters that was the real issue, not simply policies.
“Does any of this mean that Labor’s redistributive agenda, paid for by reform of the taxation system, was a fundamental mistake?” Senator Carr writes.
“Of course not, but clearly there was a massive failure of messaging.”
Senator Carr said the shock nature of the result, which defied polls, was also prompting a different narrative about a similar result.
“In 2016, Malcolm Turnbull was dismissed as a failure because the Coalition was returned with the thinnest of majorities – 76 seats – yet now Scott Morrison is hailed as a political genius and conservative messiah for winning 77,” he said.
Senator Carr also said it was clear that a big surge for the Liberal Party was not the reason why Mr Morrison won.
“It came from a surge in support for populist parties of the far-right, One Nation and the United Australia Party among blue-collar voters,” he said.
“What does their reluctance to support Labor’s reform agenda tell us about our campaign?
“It says that we paid insufficient attention to the anxieties and insecurities that working-class families have about the future.
“This is about cultural identity as much as it is about economics.”
The far right
Senator Carr writes than in, “an unscrupulous way, the far-right made assertions that were not taken seriously but which magnified Coalition scare tactics about ‘retirement taxes’ and ‘rental taxes’, and blatant lies about ‘death taxes’”.
“It was Trump-like in its absurdity, but it appealed to the darkest elements of Australian political culture – to people who don’t believe that the political system works for them anyway,” he said.
Senator Carr has emerged as a contrarian voice in Anthony Albanese’s caucus after retiring to the backbench following the election loss.
On Tuesday, he raised concerns about the ALP proposing to abandon its opposition to mandatory sentencing in relation to government legislation on child exploitation.
The debate prompted a rare contribution by Labor frontbenchers, including Mr Shorten, Mark Dreyfus, Kristina Keneally, Jason Clare and Joel Fitzgibbon, “effectively all making the argument that the bill is implementing the royal commission, which is a critical part of Labor’s legacy”.
The ALP’s policy platform is clear in its opposition to mandatory sentencing on principle.
Mr Albanese warned MPs that Labor needed to work within the reality that the government had a working majority in the Senate and the bulk of its agenda would pass.