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London: Conservatives must focus on economics to overcome cultural divisions like those exposed by Australia’s Voice to parliament referendum, federal shadow treasurer Angus Taylor has said.
The Voice was rejected by every state and more strongly in suburban and regional seats, while inner-city electorates, including many seats held by teal independents, backed Yes.
Shadow treasurer Angus Taylor addressing the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship Conference in London.Credit: James Whatling / Parsons Media
This has triggered an internal debate within the Coalition about whether the Liberals should abandon inner-city supporters to the left and pursue Labor voters living in traditionally working-class areas.
After addressing the conservative Alliance for Responsible Citizenship conference in London this week, Taylor told this masthead that good economic policies such as fighting inflation and building more houses were critical to avoiding polarisation.
“This referendum divided the country and that is not a good thing,” he said.
“I’m deeply concerned about the divisions that we saw in that referendum, they are divisions that we should all be worried about. Anthony Albanese brought forward this referendum and in the process, we saw deep divisions in our country.”
Taylor’s address followed speeches from Coalition colleague Jacinta Nampijinpa Price – who identified transgender issues as her next campaign – and former Liberal prime ministers Tony Abbott and John Howard.
Abbott told the conference that the “climate cult” would one day be defeated, while Howard said he had “always had trouble” with the concept of multiculturalism because immigrants should “adopt the values and practices” of the country they move to.
Taylor warned fellow conservatives that if they didn’t focus on national unity, they would struggle to get into power and hold on to it.
“Forget electorally successful – what is right for the country? Australians want to be part of a united country, not a divided country,” Taylor said.
“We’re never going to agree on everything and we shouldn’t, but a core set of shared beliefs and values is really important to a successful nation.”
Taylor said that conservatives around the world had to return to talking about aspiration and opportunity.
“Aspiration has to be absolutely at the centre of our agenda if we’re to restore faith in our market-based democracy. It’s the key to making sure that we don’t have economic divisions and cultural divisions across the country,” he said.
“Conservatives around the globe need to rediscover the importance of aspiration as the key to bringing their populations along in the debate about our institutions and our cultures because economics does matter so much.
No advocates have claimed the Voice to parliament referendum stoked division in Australia.Credit: Flavio Brancaleone
“At the end of the day, voters want the opportunity to get ahead. And if that’s not the centrepiece of our economic agenda, then I think conservative oppositions or governments or parties across the world will find it very difficult to get into and to stay in power.”
Taylor said it was vital for the Liberals to try and appeal to inner-city voters who had switched their votes to Green, Labor or teal at the last election, but said that would require some compromise from those voters too.
“That does mean hard decisions for some in metropolitan areas. The mining industry and the agriculture [sector] have been hugely successful for regional areas and yet, there are some in the metropolitan areas that don’t like some or all aspects of those industries – let’s face it,” he said.
“So this is where we’ve got to find common ground, and I think we can.”
Cut through the noise of federal politics with news, views and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley. Subscribers can sign up to our weekly Inside Politics newsletter here.
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