Workplace Minister Bill Shorten has urged Labor supporters to have courage and believe in their party, proclaiming they can win the next federal election.
In the annual “light on the hill” speech in honour of Labor legend and former prime minister Ben Chifley, Mr Shorten said Labor’s vision was defined by its core principles of prosperity and equal opportunity for all Australians.
“I know Labor’s best days are ahead of us as we look to our light on the hill,” Mr Shorten told the gathering of party faithful in Chifley’s hometown of Bathurst on Saturday night.
“Labor can and must win the next election. All we need is courage.”
The address, which marked Chifley’s 127th birthday, is a centrepiece in Labor’s calendar and has previously been bequeathed to Gough Whitlam, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating.
More recently, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan have used their moment at the lectern to put forward Labor’s case for the future.
Mr Shorten’s turn comes just days after Labor climbed to its strongest public approval rating this year as concern over the carbon tax eased and voters gave the thumbs-down to Liberal state government budget cuts.
While the coalition would still win an election based on recent polling figures, it’s the narrowest gap between the two major parties since the start of 2012.
Mr Shorten made no mention of Labor’s bounceback, only to say Chifley understood strength and success came not from polls but from working people.
He talked up the economy and praised Mr Rudd, Mr Swan and Ms Gillard for ensuring Australia’s working middle class remained a “triumph” despite the European crisis and a high Australian dollar.
A number of Labor initiatives - including the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the National Broadband Network and action on climate change - would ensure national benefits long into the future, he said.
Mr Shorten also expressed his support for marriage rights for same-sex couples, extending Labor’s “fair go” metaphor and suggesting the debate is far from over within the party.