IPA Today

The Liberals Need To Embrace Their Working Class Voters To Win Over The Outer-suburban Freedom Fighters

Written by
3 June 2022
Originally appeared in Sky News Australia

Rather than complain about the ‘boganisation’ of the Liberal party, as some wealthy pearl-clutchers have been, the best solution is to just embrace it, not just for the sake of their electoral future.

The massive protest vote against Labor in the Melbourne outer-suburbs shows us why there are growing calls for Daniel Andrews to step down as Victorian Labor leader ahead of the state poll in November.

Preliminary analysis of the primary votes for the 2022 election by the Institute of Public Affairs identified a significant vote share going to the three main freedom parties, One Nation, United Australia, and the Liberal Democrats.

There are five Labor-held federal seats in outer-metropolitan Melbourne which registered 15 per cent or more primary votes for one of the three freedom parties: Bruce, Scullin, Holt, Hotham, and Calwell.

The seats take in outer-metropolitan working-class suburbs including Narre Warren, South Morang, Cranbourne, Mulgrave, Craigieburn.

Driving this protest vote are gargantuan swings against Labor, which is unheard of given they just turfed out the Coalition to form government.

The average swing against Labor in those five seats was 8 per cent, and reached as high as 14 per cent in Scullin.

Across Victoria the swing against Labor was eight times the modest swing against Labor nationally.

There are two main reasons for this swing.

The first is that this is a fierce reaction against Labor because of two years of lockdowns, which disproportionally hit outer-suburban working-class Victorians, especially those with school-aged kids and those who run a small business or who are self-employed.

There is no doubt there is a massive anti-Dan Andrews vote out there.

The second is Labor at the federal and state level champions anti-working class policies, pursuing net zero emissions by 2050 – which is destroying manufacturing jobs – and regressively pushing up power bills.

The interesting thing is that most of the votes which Labor are shedding are not going to the Liberals. They are going to the freedom parties.

Why? Because the Liberals have not given outer-suburban traditional Labor voters a reason to vote Liberal.

The Liberals backed lockdowns and mandates to the bitter end, departing from their bipartisan support only when it became safe to do so once the media had changed its tune.

And Liberal leader Matthew Guy failed to stand up for the legitimate grievances expressed by tens of thousands at the freedom protests held at the end of last year.

These protestors were not catching the 58 tram down Toorak road to get to the protests. They were on the Frankston and Craigieburn train lines and who have now given up on the majors altogether.

But the message from the 2022 election is clear: by default, if not by design, the Liberal and National Parties are now the parties of the working-class at the federal level.

The Coalition federally now represent 16 of the 20 poorest electorates around the nation.

On the other side of the coin, the Coalition represent just 4 of the 20 highest-income electorates. Labor represent five, and teals and greens represent 11.

This means the party of Ben Chifley, of Gough Whitlam, of the working-class, now represent more wealthy electorates than the Liberals.

Rather than complain about the ‘boganisation’ of the Liberal party, as some wealthy pearl-clutchers have been, the best solution is to just embrace it, not just for the sake of their electoral future. But for the sake of our state and our nation.

It is not healthy to have around one in five voters who feel they are without a voice in the major institutions of our society.

Firstly it saps them of the dignity of having their voice heard to which every Australian is entitled.

Secondly, it means a growing share of the population do not have a stake in the liberal democratic institutions of our society because they see their lot in life going backwards.

But the state Liberals are still trying to win the affluent inner-city vote, in the same way that a bloke lavishes ever more expensive gifts on his former lover, who happily takes the gifts while seeing someone else at the same time. The thing is that rich people just aren’t that into the Liberals any more.

Just over a week ago, for example, Shadow Minister for Environment and Climate Change James Newbury claimed Labor had the right policy on electric vehicles but only the Liberals could deliver on meeting the target.

Newbury, who represents the wealthy electorate of Brighton said in a press release, “Electric vehicles are inevitably the way of the future, and yet Victoria is falling behind. We need the government to supercharge uptake and actually aspire to reach this achievable goal.”

As a result of the 2022 election, at the federal level the Victoria-based liberals are now without at seat with tram tracks running through it. They can either seize the opportunity end embrace the working-class, or risk becoming a minor geographic party.

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Daniel Wild

Daniel Wild is the Deputy Executive Director at the Institute of Public Affairs

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