Author and National Secretary of the Australian Workers Union (AWU) Misha Zelinsky says a return to Labor government is vital to achieving outcomes for working people, but there are challenges ahead.
Speaking with On the Job with Francis Leach and Sally Rugg, Zelinsky explained that reconnecting with traditional supporter bases is one such challenge.
“Look at the 2019 election…the stark lesson there was that Labor did very poorly with people who lived in regional communities, people who had lower incomes, people likely to have not completed past high school education, and those that have more of a high level of religious beliefs
“That is the traditional backbone of the Labor movement, so what are we getting wrong? How do we actually reconnect to those people?”
In Zelinsky’s view, to reconnect to the base, the ALP must resist being dragged into culture wars, believing this to be a deliberate tactic of the right.
“The right want to fight culture wars,” explains Zelinsky, “When you have an economic debate…we talk about rising wealth inequality, the lack of good permanent job creation, and they don’t want to have that debate because they lose that debate. They want to drag us into a phony culture war.”
“I think a lot of the time, rather than seeing through it, we take the bait. Politics is about storytelling and framing and we continually allow the right-wing prism to be dictating terms rather than us saying, no that’s not the fight we want to have, we want to talk about it in these ways.”
Rather than engaging in culture wars, Zelinsky believes both the union movement and the ALP needs to rebuild trust that they can deliver what they promise and focus on the issues that matter – primarily secure jobs.
“A good job means a better life. Fundamentally, good jobs are the cornerstone, the foundation of communities, families, and livelihoods.
“People that were on their economic margin, didn’t trust Labor to deliver. They were worried that Labor might do some damage to the economy.
“If you’re on the margin, just hanging on and your life is really hard and you work potentially two jobs and families struggle to make ends meet, you haven’t got any risks to take. You’ve got to be really sure about the decisions you make. You can’t take a hit at all.”
“Whether it’s union organising one to one or on site, or whether it’s talking to voters, it really needs to be a question of with. And what I mean by that is you need to be doing things with people, not to or for.