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A Bill that Labor couldn’t afford

CLIMATE change is fuelling an identity crisis for Labor, with the official review of its shock election defeat declaring the party must win back mining communities who abandoned it while retaining one of the few demographics which turned towards it - well-off weather worriers in Australia's inner cities.

The review also blasted former leader Bill Shorten, labelling his unpopularity a central factor in the loss. He responded defiantly yesterday, saying he would continue "serving my constituents, the people of Australia … for the next 20 years".

Bill Shorten as he might look at 72. Source: FaceApp
Bill Shorten as he might look at 72. Source: FaceApp

A major conundrum identified in the 92-page report is that "Labor's climate change policy won … votes among young and affluent older voters­ in urban areas" but traditional­ supporters in mining communities "viewed the language of climate change as a threat to their jobs".

The review authors - former South Australian premier Jay Weatherill and ex-federal minister Craig Emerson - said ambiguity on whether Labor supported or opposed the Adani coal mine "sent a message to voters in parts of regional Queensland and in the Hunter Valley that Labor did not value them or the work they do".

They said Adani "presented the Coalition with an ideal opportunity to characterise Labor as supporting 'other' over 'self'. The 'self' being the mining communities of central and north Queensland and the Hunter Valley and the 'other' being southerners who demanded coal miners give up their jobs for the sake of the globe."

Seven of the 10 largest swings against Labor were at polling booths in the seat of Hunter, ranging from 20 per cent to 27 per cent.

"Labor refused to talk about coal," One Nation candidate for Hunter Stuart Bonds said yesterday. He got nearly 22 per cent of the primary vote in the May poll.

"They've got to learn from their mistakes and come back to a sensible centre. It ended up costing them the election."

Stuart Bonds with his wife Sini Ariell and their daughter Penny. Picture: Chris Pavlich
Stuart Bonds with his wife Sini Ariell and their daughter Penny. Picture: Chris Pavlich

Nationals candidate Josh Angus said "half the valley moved away from Labor".

"A few of them ended up volunteering for us," Mr Angus said.

"There was a lot of unknowns and a lot of things they couldn't explain."

The review said "Labor should recognise coal mining will be an Australian industry into the foreseeable future".

Labor leader Anthony Albanese will use a speech in Canberra today to address the review's findings. He is expected to emphasise the importance of simpler, clearer policies and messaging if the party is to attract different groups of voters.

The review found that Labor lost support among "devout, first-generation migrant­ Christians" and Chinese­ Australians.

A weak strategy - there wasn't even a campaign committee­ - and "cluttered policy agenda that looked risky" were also criticised.

"Almost-daily announcements of new, multibillion-dollar policy initiatives raised anxieties among economically insecure, low-income voters that Labor's expensive policy agenda would crash the economy and risk their jobs," the review said.

Mr Shorten yesterday said that, "were the universe to grant re-runs, I would campaign­ with fewer messages, more greatly emphasise the jobs opportunities in renewable­ energies, and take a different position on franking credits," which might have included dumping the controversial crackdown altogether.

Mr Shorten also said that, after the Coalition matched Labor's tax cuts, "we should have gone bigger again".