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Political leaders must discard rusted-on ideologies and embrace compassion, Albanese says | Labor party

Anthony Albanese says political leaders must not “walk past those who are in need or suffering” while declaring the Covid-19 pandemic has dispelled some “dangerous fantasies” about individualism.

In a speech aiming to reach out to faith groups on Monday, the Labor leader will cite the parable of the Good Samaritan and say that “our care for others should be neither conditional nor transactional”.

Taking a veiled swipe at the Coalition, Albanese will observe that the pandemic has resulted in “political parties that are more instinctively tilted towards individualism setting aside their ideology as an indulgence ill-suited to the current reality”.

Albanese will also argue the declaration that “we’re all in this together” – something that Scott Morrison has said multiple times – must be a guiding philosophy rather than an empty mantra.

The speech, to an event organised by the Australian Christian Higher Education Alliance in what could be an election year, marks an attempt by the Labor leader to reach Christians through an appeal to social justice principles.

A review of Labor’s performance in the 2019 election found that, on the whole, “people of faith did not desert Labor, but Labor lost some support among Christian voters – particularly devout, first-generation migrant Christians”.

Albanese, who has previously claimed credit for the Morrison government’s embrace of policies such as wage subsidies and an increased rate of the jobseeker payment, will say on Monday that everyone must strive for “the common good”.

“If there is a positive to have come out of this pandemic, it’s that when push came to shove, the fundamental truth of this spilled across political and ideological lines as surely as a river breaking its banks,” he will say, according to speech notes provided to media in advance.

“We have seen even some of those political parties that are more instinctively tilted towards individualism setting aside their ideology as an indulgence ill-suited to the current reality.”

Albanese says such ideology has been “superseded by the spirit of inclusiveness, of togetherness, of compassion”, based on an understanding that “the bond of our common humanity is what is going to get us through” the crisis.

“It is the spirit of society, something that some ideologues of the past tried to reject as a concept all together,” he says.

“The pandemic has edged out some of these dangerous fantasies and guided us back towards the truth.”

Albanese points to Pope Francis’ observation, in his encyclical last year, that the tragedy of the Covid-19 pandemic “momentarily revived the sense that we are a global community, all in the same boat, where one person’s problems are the problems of all”.

Albanese argues there is “a powerful overlap between those values and Labor values as [we] work on how to get through this pandemic” – but contends that those values should also influence how Australia contemplates life after Covid-19.

The Labor leader says the country has “a once-in-a-lifetime chance to shape the future and emerge from the pandemic as a better, fairer nation”. He says it is “a sense of fairness that Jesus’ teaching radiates throughout the books of the New Testament”.

Albanese says his mother raised him “in three great faiths: the Catholic church, the Australian Labor party, and the South Sydney Rabbitohs”.

He says going to school at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney “reinforced for me the values of social justice and equal opportunity”.

Albanese says that in the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus teaches the lesson “that we shouldn’t walk past those who are in need or suffering; that our care for others should be neither conditional nor transactional; that we should be driven by our own humanity”.

The comments come at a time when the government is considering the rate of the jobseeker allowance that will apply after the coronavirus supplement winds down at the end of March, amid speculation of a permanent increase.

The review of Labor’s 2019 election performance by former trade minister Craig Emerson and former South Australian premier Jay Weatherill said the party “would be wise to reconnect with people of faith on social justice issues and emphasise its historic links with mainstream churches”.

“More generally, the rise of the Christian Right within the Liberal party and Morrison’s elevation to the Liberal leadership will ensure the Liberals will continue to connect with devout Christians,” the report said.

Albanese’s speech is not expected to outline any new position on the government’s stalled religious freedom bill. It coincides with the release of an open letter from Christian leaders to Morrison on Monday in which the writers vow to “stand in solidarity with the vulnerable” after the nation faced an “awful year”.

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