The Australian Labor Party needs to improve its appeal among practising Christians, according to a review of the party's 2019 election campaign. Source: The Australian.
The review, released this week, found that “identifying as Christian was associated with a swing against Labor”, noting “the most pronounced swings were among devout, first-generation migrant Christians”.
The report found the religious freedom debate sparked by the Israel Folau controversy put the then-Labor leader Bill Shorten on the back foot, while Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s public demonstration of his faith helped him connect with Christians.
The Craig Emerson and Jay Weatherill-chaired campaign review found the relatively high number of Christian voters in Queensland electorates contributed to the party’s nightmare result in the state.
“The groups of voters who swung most strongly against Labor were self-described Christians and economically insecure, low-income voters who do not like or follow politics. These voters are heavily represented in Queensland,” the review found.
It said Labor’s decision to announce its sexual and reproductive health policy 10 weeks out from the election, which included a pledge to lower the cost of abortions, had affected the party’s standing among some Christian voters.
“(It) enabled conservative groups to target Christian voters in marginal electorates around the country, and in traditionally safe Labor seats in western Sydney,” the review found.
It said the party “would be wise to reconnect with people of faith on social justice issues and emphasise its historic links with mainstream churches”.
The election post-mortem also recommended Labor “develop a coherent strategy for engaging more fully with culturally and linguistically diverse communities, including Chinese Australians”.
The campaign review cited ANU professor Ben Phillips, who found electorates with a high proportion of Christians swung away from Labor, while voters with university degrees or earning more than $100,000, swung towards the ALP.
It said Mr Shorten’s call for Mr Morrison to condemn Folau’s remarks – that gay people went to hell – left him “defending criticism he was seeking to embarrass Morrison because of his religion”.