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Labor Must Hold its Nerve on Climate


Steve Murphy


There’s a particular energy around the movement when we feel an election around the corner. Often, it feels like we’ve heard the crack of the starting gun to focus our minds sharply to the task of winning.


This conference has that kind of buzz about it. Even though we’re virtual, and much of the substance and theatre has been cast aside, it feels as though we are genuinely united on the importance of building the policies, candidates and campaigns that will win.


In the left, there is a steely resolve to do more than just win, but to build a platform and campaign that will deliver a generous mandate for sweeping social and economic progress.


For those of us who have been around the movement for a few of these cycles, we know that even the best crafted positions or plans can be dismantled when there is a perceived need for compromise as we get closer to polling day.


We need to be honest on what is nonnegotiable amongst our movement throughout the federal election campaign. As a blue-collar unionist, the right to strike and fair bargaining laws are always front of mind. There’s also the important issue of secure jobs and a healthy work/life balance – jobs we can rely on. I could write about the importance of public education and health, why we must oppose privatisation in all its forms and an approach to international trade that lifts us up, not races to the bottom.


But right now we need to think bigger about the significant challenge we face and the legacy we will leave after this election cycle is over. Labor must hold the line on climate.


The Labour Movement should be proud of the work we’ve done together to make climate action and job creation central to both upcoming elections.


By organising our constituencies outside of the election cycle, we have made significant strides in shifting Labor as the logical choice if you want job creation and climate action.


We have slowly but surely evaporated the fiction of a climate culture war, and have found ways for both environmental activism and an Aussie made jobs plan to co-habitate within our party.


Labor can now talk on behalf of both groups loudly, and most importantly, proudly. It would be a strategic misstep, and a betrayal of our base to get gun-shy about our position at the 11th hour.


It’s pretty clear now exactly what our working-class blue collar base expect of us, and we know what progressive thinking environmentalists expect of us too.


The rank and file, and the broader labour movement have rolled up their sleeves and done the hard work on this.


Energy is building for change and action.


It’s now over to the Parliamentary wing to hold the line.


We can have climate action and job creation.


Steve Murphy is the National Secretary of the AMWU.