Monica Doumit: Drop the lunatic policies, Labor

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Activists gather outside Bill Shorten’s electoral office in 2018. PHOTO: Takver/Flickr, CC BY-LSA 2.0

Labor could still win Christian voters back

I know we have already had a couple of opinion pieces on the review that the Australian Labor Party did in relation to its loss at this year’s federal election, but I am unable to resist making some comments as well. Because it is clear from the review itself that Labor still doesn’t get it.

As has been quoted numerous times, the review chaired by Craig Emerson and Jay Weatherill found that when all other variables were controlled for, identifying as Christian was associated with a swing against Labor.

“On the whole,” the report read, “people of faith did not desert Labor, but Labor lost some support among Christian voters – particularly devout, first-generation migrant Christians. Other religious denominations did not swing decisively one way or the other. Labor as a whole did not project an image that was appealing to devout Christians.”

Thank you, Captain Obvious. As a first-generation migrant Christian myself, I tried numerous times to give this message to my local Labor MP, as well as Labor MPs in other areas, but it fell on deaf ears. And I was not alone.

Labor didn’t lose votes from first-generation migrant Christians because it didn’t focus enough on ‘social justice issues’.

From this starting point, it seemed that Labor was beginning to understand what went wrong with the Christian vote and had the motivation to address it. But then the wheels began to fall off the wagon. Straight after admitting that Labor did not project an image that was appealing to devout Christians, the report went on to say: “Announcing Labor’s sexual and reproductive health strategy 10 weeks from the election enabled conservative groups to target Christian voters in marginal electorates around the country, and in traditionally safe Labor seats in western Sydney.”

This was the first clue that the reviewers had missed the point. It wasn’t a “sexual and reproductive health strategy,” it was a pro-abortion strategy that included a push for the decriminalisation of abortion across Australia (we saw how well that was received in NSW), the requirement that all public hospitals provide abortions, and the establishment of an abortion clinic in Tasmania.

The problem wasn’t a euphemistically-named health strategy, it was a firm commitment to abortion, even reaching into state issues like decriminalisation in order to further this particular ideology. The review would have been more honest if the real problem had been named.

Secondly, it also misstated the problem as being that the strategy “enabled conservative groups to target Christian voters in marginal electorates.”  Again, this isn’t the case. Christian voters were not upset because they were targeted by “conservative groups,” they were upset because they believe the taking of unborn human life is wrong in all circumstances.

But probably the biggest clue that Labor had missed the point was in the proposed solution. “The Party would be wise to reconnect with people of faith on social justice issues and emphasise its historic links with mainstream churches,” the review concluded.
I hate to break it to you, team, but that’s not going to fix it.

Labor didn’t lose votes from first-generation migrant Christians because it didn’t focus enough on “social justice issues” or failed to hearken back to the good old days when Labor had a good relationship with the churches.

Labor lost elements of the Christian vote because it turned its back on traditional marriage, and sought to ridicule and even demonise those who did not. Labor lost elements of the Christian vote because its “sexual and reproductive health strategy” had nothing to do with sexual or reproductive health, and instead focused solely on contraception and abortion.

Labor lost elements of the Christian vote because its members endorsed programs like Safe Schools and Drag Queen Story Time, and labeled anyone who expressed concern about gender ideology being pushed on to children who are barely old enough to tie their own shoelaces as ‘bigots’ and ‘transphobes.’

It wasn’t only the Christian vote. As an Islamic friend of mine described it, “Labor lost my vote because they care more about the LGBTI than they do about us.” I could go on, but you get the point. Focusing more on “social justice” is not going to win back what was lost in the last election.

If Labor really want to reconnect with people of faith, they are going to have to do it by demonstrating that even if they don’t share the values of “first-generation migrant Christians,” they respect them and will defend them.