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Day to Day Politics: ‘A perfect storm’

Thursday 22 December 2016

The one thing in politics that always seems to be overlooked is the accuracy of the polls. The US election was a flop for the pollsters. So too was the British people’s decision to leave the European Union. And in Australia, Labor came within a whisker of winning. Historically though they do have a good record.

The one thing the three do have in common though is that they were all anti establishment. The Australian polls since the election have shown a clear, but not overwhelming lead to Labor.

One would have thought that given the performance of the conservatives since being elected Labor would be well ahead. But that’s not the case. The Crickey Poll Bludger end of year average has Labor on 52.3% and the Coalition on 47.7%. My normal expectation would be that Labor should be at least 10 percentage points ahead.

There are many ways one could analysis this but I was more intrigued by Tuesday’s Essential Report surveys on various aspects of Australian Life. And later I explore a survey by the ANU that supports my view that Australian’s satisfaction with its democracy has collapsed.

About the last 12 months. They asked; Thinking about the last 12 months, has it been a good or bad year for each of the following? They then listed a number of

Things from Trade Unions, politics, business and the planet.

Respondents believed that 2016 has been a bad year for all groups except large companies (+5), your workplace (+12) and you and your family overall (+12). It was considered a particularly bad year for Australian politics in general (-53) and the planet (-32).

Relative to 2015 (as measured in December last year), this year was considered worse for politics in general (down 12), small businesses (down 10), you and your family overall (down 9) and the Australian economy (down 8) but better for trade unions (up 9).

Expectations for 2017. Thinking about the next 12 months, do you think 2017 will be a good or bad year for each of the following?

The list was the same.

Overall, there was a positive outlook for large companies and corporations (net +8), your personal financial situation (+6), your workplace (+20), and you and your family overall (+21). Expectations were especially negative for Australian politics in general (-37) and the planet (-27).

Compared to last year, respondents were more pessimistic about all items measured except for trade unions (up 2) and particularly more pessimistic for Australian politics in general (down 32), small business (down 13) and the average Australian (down 10).

Whether Malcolm Turnbull understands issues. 13 Issues were listed including pensioners, students and people on high incomes.

57% think Malcolm Turnbull understands the issues of people who run large corporations and will act in their interests and 56% think he will act in the interests of people on high incomes.

37% think Malcolm Turnbull understands the issues for full-time workers and people who work for small businesses but is unlikely to act in their interests. 36% think he understands the issues for small business owners but is unlikely to act in their interests.

People whose issues he does not understand included people on low incomes (48%), pensioners (45%) and the unemployed (45%).

State of the economy. Overall, how would you describe the current state of the Australian economy? The usual good, fair bad applied.

23% (down 7% since September) described the economy as good or very good and 36% (up 9%) poor/very poor – 37% said it was neither.

This is the most negative result for this question over the past 4 years.

Liberal National voters were somewhat more optimistic than other voters. Among Labor voters 19% (down 11%) thought it was good and 40% (up 13%) poor; for Liberal/National voters 39% (up 3%) said it was good and 24% (up 3%) poor.

Economy heading in right or wrong direction. From what you have read and heard, do you think the Australian economy is heading in the right direction or the wrong direction?

26% (down 7% since September) of respondents think that Australia’s economy is heading in the right direction and 45% (up 9%) think it is heading in the wrong direction. This is the most negative result for this question over the past 6 years.

18% (down 8%) of Labor voters, 50% (down 2%) of Liberal/National voters and 11% (down 15%) of Greens voters think the economy is heading in the right direction. 54% (up 9%) of Labor voters, 24% (up 2%) of Liberal/National voters and 62% (up 22%) of Greens voters think it is heading in the wrong direction.

Job security. In the next two years, do you expect your job to be more secure, less secure or about the same? Less, more, somewhat etc. applied.

13% of respondents (down 1% since September) feel that their job will become more secure over the next two years. 30% (up 3%) feel it will become less secure while the largest proportion (51%) feel it will stay about the same.

Liberal/National voters were more likely to say their job security would be about the same (61%) and less likely to say it would be less secure (22%).

35% of part-time workers say they expect their job to be less secure compared to 27% of full-time workers.

For the full report go here.

Besides people’s view on the economy which was negative to say the least the one that stood out like dogs balls to me was that 62% of people thought it was a bad year for politics and 50% see the same next year.

The survey by the Australian National University and published in The Canberra Times lists 10 charts that show just how much our trust  in politics and politicians has collapsed. It also suggests that the populace has little faith in our politicians ability to improve the country’s economic performance.

“You are seeing the stirrings among the public of what has happened in the United States with the election of [Donald] Trump, Brexit in Britain and in Italy.

“This is the start of something that has happened overseas and it’s coming here.”

Now if the decline continues up to the next election, that is, if institutionalized politics in Australia does not come to terms with the fact that they no longer represent a vast majority of the electorate then we may very well create a prefect storm, a wave of ‘Trumpish’ proportion might hit our democracy. It only requires the political planets to align and anything might happen. Goodness, the Nationals in Essential Poll are on 2% of the vote and are running the country. It’s a joke and something needs to be done. The seriousness of the situation cannot be underestimated. It is said that when America catches a cold that we get the flue. Might I suggest we are about to get pneumonia.

My thought for the day.

“You cannot expect that when you place people in a theatre of war to at the same time think that they will always act rationally. The same goes for incarceration.”


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  1. Arthur Tarry

    There is certainly widespread cynicism in my community about Australian and Queensland politicians, though considerably less about our local government councillors. It is very difficult to see how these politicians are governing for the community as compared to the interests of lobby groups. Parliament Is a farce, grabbing of so-called entitlements is rampart, and outright lying is endemic. It’s a total disgrace. So many things need to be fixed – transparency in donations to political parties for instance, the list is too long to include here. I’m mightily disenchanted, though I would find it very difficult to vote for nut jobs, populists or weirdos. Perhaps I’ll do what a lot seem to have done – disengage.

  2. Phil

    Hi Jon,
    Regarding the ANU Poll and the Essential Poll, they all started heading south at around the time Abbott became LOO and then PM and Sir Melcolm De Abbottlite, they have continued down.
    Must be Labor’s fault.

  3. Ella

    When one considers the ADANI mine fiasco ,
    how on earth can anyone believe in a government that wants to give this company
    anything other than higher taxes.

    Needless to say if this were to happen, they will find a way of avoiding paying it, because the loopholes will not be closed by a government beholding to it’s vested interests.

    Why would we have faith or trust in such a government?
    The sad thing is ,that, it is not just the political system that is being damaged but our democratic way of life.

  4. Michael Brooke

    I am not convinced Australian’s satisfaction with its democracy has collapsed. Data in your essay suggests Australian’s doubt the proficiency of their political leaders. My own gleaning of information indicates Australian’s do respect the democratic process, but distrust politicians and political parties who use it for circuitous self advantage. The ‘establishment’ people have come to so mistrust should not be mistaken as representative of democracy — most analysts of the Trump ascendency fail to notice this. It is not democracy that lies and spins and deceives, it is our mainstream politician — voters know this.

  5. helvityni

    Ms Leigh asked visiting Kevin Rudd about Labor values. Rudd replied by saying that Shorten had many good people on his side, and then went on to list some names. I agree with Kev, and have to say once again: there are NO competent politicians on Mal-Turn’s side, and what’s more he’s pretty hopeless too.

    Never mind, Mal, MSM and ABC are on your side whatever the polls say.

  6. Ella

    Michael, “voters know this”
    Do they… then how can you explain Pauline Hanson ?
    How can you explain to voters that when voting you don’t really know where you votes will end up ?

    With regards to “lies and spins and deceives ,it is our mainstream politicians”….I agree but perhaps we need to add to this list,
    main stream media and vested interests.
    I worry that the distortion of what is and hence our understanding of what is …..democracy is threatened because we are voting on a false understanding.

  7. townsvilleblog

    That’s the trouble John, they come within a whisker of winning, then silence for 6 months, those of us who voted for them expect them to be out hammering their message at every opportunity, but not a peep?

  8. wam

    The decline is surprising as the rabbott confessed that he lies to avoid pressure. Yet he was believed in his almost 6 years as leader of the libs, and even now much of Aust mourns his loss to trunbull.
    Perhaps trump and trunbull are right in their assessment of polls?
    The margins of error and/or the skew of the choice of wording and participants have always led this non-academic cynic to ignore any poll that doesn’t fit with my assessment of the situation.
    The septic and pommie results are not applicable in Australia where we have labor, libs, nationals, one nation, the greens and independents as choices rather than the two party system found in most countries. Brexit and Italy were also yes/no.

    Ella do you think Hanson is not speaking truths?
    I think the only way you lose control of your votes is above the line in the senate?
    As for false understanding, I don’t know anyone who understands why the fact that a number like 30000 goes to 29986 is significant enough to be included in any, much less every, news bulletin. So any answer whether the economy is going up down or around is irrelevant.

  9. Terry2

    Such good news just before Christmas, there really is a Santa !

    Cori Bernardi, George Christenson and Tony Abbott have put Turnbull on notice that if he doesn’t toe the far-right Conservative line they will set up a new Conservative Party, bank-rolled by everybody’s favourite heiress, our Gina. That would also mean that Barnaby Joyce will be taking the Nationals with him into a bright new Conservative future.

    This has the potential of splitting the Liberal Party in two with fallout to One Nation and, if he plays his cards right, an opportunity for Bill Shorten to do a Steven Bradbury and take the gold.

    I couldn’t be more satisfied !

  10. Jexpat


    Considering the results of the ANU survey, a Steven Bradbury is about the only way Shorten could become Prime Minister.

  11. Phil Atkinson

    Agree with Michael Brooke’s comment, that it’s not democracy that voters are disillusioned with, it’s rather the usurping of democracy by the current regime. George Brandis is the one primarily responsible for this, aided and abetted by his cabinet colleagues, none of whom inspire me with confidence. We desperately need a Federal ICAC and any political party that refuses to back that idea has to answer some serious questions regarding its ethics and credibility.

  12. guest

    All this talk about Shorten not doing enough is ridiculous. Labor came within an ace of winning the last election. The Coalition lost 14 seats.

    Labor’s policies, by and large, are not the same as the Coalition’s. Labor is wedged with public opinion whipped up by alarmists. Listen to Hanson, for example. Listen to Roberts. Pure ignorance.

    So what do we get in some of the media? Something about 18C, or whether someone could not remember accurately, or how LGBTI people do not need to be protected from bullying, or how we need to be top of the world in education, or how we do not need taxes – just less spending, or how paying $1bn to Adani to build a railway line is a great idea, and how we need to put Christ into Christmas. It is a madman’s grocery list.

    Meanwhile, we have suicides every day and others who make an attempt. We have more working couples than ever before while their kids are looked after by someone else and the economy goes backwards. Next year we lose the car industry and supporting industries. We go into a massive arms building program supposedly essential to the security of Oz, obsolete before it is begun. People are coping with an array of drugs.

    In the Middle East we see the results of the attacks made by the Coalition of the Willing. Utter madness and chaotic destruction.

    In the USA the rust belt has voted for a narcissistic buffoon to save them from poverty. Good luck with that. And in the UK they are going to go it alone while the EU promises not to make it easy for them.

    The poor half of the world is flooding into the richer part because the poor part has been largely ignored except as a source of labour and resources to feed the rich half. Now the poor half wants a share. Are we surprised?

    So what is the big issue for Turnbull? The electricity supply and the cost of energy. The cost is too high, he says. Coal, coal is the answer. “Cheap energy”.

    Looking around the world we see the destruction of the environment in the quest for “progress”. How long can we keep that going?

    One question for Malcolm: What is the cost of cooking the planet?

    (And, please, no lies about the “great” climate change program developed by the Coalition to save the world.)

  13. Resist Trump

    The US election was a flop for the pollsters.

    I don’t see how. Reliable national polls had Clinton winning narrowly to comfortably narrow. She won the national vote by roughly 2 million. The national polls, therefore, were pretty much right. State polls in a U.S. election are so complex and vexed no-one outside a party machine could be expected to get them right. The states where the Republicans gained were no surprise to the Republicans because their own polling showed they were going to win.

    Polls cannot be stereotyped.

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