With Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership terminal ahead of a looming Liberal party-room showdown between Right-wingers Dutton and Morrison, Malinauskas argues the views the pair has espoused were the “antithesis” of Labor values.
“Peter Dutton represents all the things that Labor rejects, particularly here in South Australia,” he told InDaily.
“I, and I think the party, genuinely believes in the value of immigration, that multiculturalism adds to our social and cultural fabric and contributes to our economic growth… we [also] believe climate change is real and that it is our responsibility to do something about it.”
But it would be an “elementary mistake”, he warned, for Labor “to somehow celebrate Peter Dutton or Scott Morrison’s election as a lay down misere for a victory politically on those key issues”.
“It’s absolutely critical that we learn the lessons of Hillary Clinton and the Democrats in the US when they were taking on Donald Trump,” he said.
“Everyone said Trump couldn’t win, and Hillary was criticising his supporters as ‘deplorables’ in a way that talked down to people and was patronising to their concerns about their own standard of living.”
Malinauskas warned the political Left “can’t be patronising” and must instead focus on “winning the argument on the basis of its merit”.
“If people have concerns about the level of migration – well, let’s talk about it, and about what we believe and why we believe it, instead of labelling people as ‘racist’,” he said.
On climate change, he said people were rightly concerned about electricity prices, which was “a fundamentally important issue to people” – and it was beholden to Labor to demonstrate that “having certainty on climate change will help lower power prices”.
Addressing reporters in Canberra this afternoon, Turnbull argued that in the event of a change of leader: “The public will be crying out for an election, clearly.”
Neither major party has finalised its federal candidates in South Australia, with both yet to preselect hopefuls in a range of seats held by their opponent.
A ballot to determine the Liberal candidate for Mayo, retained by Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie, will be held next month, with vanquished by-election challenger Georgina Downer expected to get the nod over challenger Reagan Garner.
Both parties will have to scramble in the event of a snap poll, but former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett warned against facing voters before the May 2019 deadline, telling the ABC it would be “political suicide to rush to an early election”.
Despite Morrison being seen as a consensus candidate, right-wingers in the SA party are confident the mooted leadership ticket of Dutton and newly-resigned Health Minister Greg Hunt would resonate in the SA electorate.
“Hunt is seen as pretty moderate, very considered, very down to earth and that balances out any Queensland influence,” one said.
“I think it’s good a conservative [will be] leading the party – we’re a conservative party… and the majority of the electorate is conservative – not reactionary.”
The insider said a Dutton-led government would see a greater focus on “smaller government, lower taxes and freedom of speech” that “by and large will appeal to a lot of people who live in suburbia and who don’t engage in the cut and thrust of politics”.
However, they suggested it may have been better to “maybe lose with Turnbull and then rebuild the party completely”, suggesting the internecine struggles may not be put to rest.
“This way gives the moderates the chance to spend the next term snarking,” the insider said.
But a view expressed in the conservative wing of the state party is that Dutton is not seen as “too extreme Right”, and that he was the best candidate to allow the party to “double down and own this shit sandwich”.
Despite not gaining the outgoing PM’s endorsement today, Morrison is seen as “too close to Turnbull”, and would be a soft target for Labor after “flipping on budget issues”.
Malinauskas doesn’t agree that there’s mainstream support for Dutton’s agenda in SA, but argues “his views are more likely to become mainstream if we play the man rather than the ball”.
“If we’re disparaging of those people who might gravitate towards Dutton’s message, rather than of his arguments, then his view might prevail,” he said.
He said there were also lessons from the US of a highly skewed political debate “on both sides of politics”.
“This leads to a polarising which is not healthy in my view, although compulsory voting [in Australia] perhaps mitigates against that.”
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