Some numbers for the Labor deputy leader. There are around 1.8 million unionists – and more than three million Australians who are either self-employed or own small businesses. Do the arithmetic. Go figure.
Julia Gillard needs to watch the self-righteousness – and political myopia. She can’t write them all off as Liberal voters.
We all tend to hang out with people like ourselves to reinforce our comfortable viewpoints – greenies with greenies, Liberals with Liberal and Laborites with Laborites.
Politicians are supposed to seek out new ideas and widely mix to get all sorts of views. They don’t. Gillard and her Opposition colleagues spend too much time with the bosses of big companies and big unions.
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Even in the old days of high union membership, most small businesses never saw a union member, let alone a delegate. This is even more the case nowadays. And it won’t change under Labor.
Most small business owners are fiercely individualistic. They’re often antagonistic towards governments – of all colours. At the same time, though, many of them are joiners and doers, the key personnel of service, sporting and charity organisations. They worry about their families and their future. They just don’t like politics or the political parties.
It’s reciprocated. Most conservative MPs just pay them lip service. Most Labor MPs see them as opponents.
That’s a mistake. They’re a group of voters there for the taking. They’re an especially powerful group of voters as they influence community members, particularly in marginal and regional seats.
They may well largely vote Liberal – but when all you need is a uniform 3.3% swing to win government, Julia, it makes sense to at least engage them. Who knows. You might get some of them to change.