Opinion polls are NOT popularity contests!
Put simply. Imagine the following scenario: At your medical appointment you heard the surgeon berating his receptionist, telling her that she’s more useless than a Labor politician. You found him a thoroughly objectionable human being, but he’s the only person qualified to perform the operation that you desperately need. When I offer to perform the operation myself, you decline, simply because you figure that an objectionable surgeon is better than someone who finds it difficult to apply a band-aid if there’s too much blood, so would it be correct to say that Surgeon Sam is more popular than Rossleigh?
Ok, I’m sure that there are people who would like Surgeon Sam a lot more than me, but just you think that he’s a safer choice, it doesn’t mean that you want to invite him over for dinner. Approval of someone’s performance does not make them “popular”!
Similarly, when it’s a choice of two, it doesn’t mean that one actually likes either alternative. If I conduct a poll where I ask whether people would rather spend an evening listening to John Howard reminiscing about what a great PM he was, or have a red hot poker placed in their rectum, the fact that John Howard wins by a slight margin, does not mean that people actually want to hear him, any more than it means that the ones who chose the poker option are actually looking forward to the experience. Although to be fair, there may be some masochists in both categories…
Anyway, I’ve had a week of frustration when trying to get some people to engage in some healthy distrust of politicians when it comes to all things Covid-19 related. Now, I know that I’m perhaps more cynical than I should be when it comes to politicians. Something about the fact that they regularly lie to us and almost any politician who’s retired will readily admit that they had to say things that they didn’t believe, in order to toe the party line, makes me think that the question should always be: “Are you saying this because you believe it or because you feel it necessary to have solidarity with the idiots in your party who got to decide the policy?”
All right, they probably wouldn’t answer that honestly either, but at least if they did, they have a way out where they could claim that they weren’t aware that it was a secret that their party was run by idiots.
When nearly all media start the same thing, I find it strange. I don’t mean that they’re writing about the same thing, but when all their opinion pieces have a similar feel, I can’t help but wonder whether it’s some sort of instruction from the IPA, or whether it’s the groupthink of the Canberra bubble that our “popular” PM likes to reject while giving a press conference to the people in it. Lately, I’ve noticed that the narrative seems to be that Morrison made some mistakes over the bushfires and forced handshakes and announcing that he was going to the football and… well, I’ll probably miss something no matter how long I make the list, but lately he’s managed to bring the country together and his handling of the Coronavirus crisis has allowed him to reset his trajectory and just look at how well he’s doing now.
Without wishing to sow seeds of discontent in these troubled times, I can’t help but ask since when has not stuffing up been seen as leadership worth praising. It’d be like praising Barnaby for choosing a male as his press secretary so that he doesn’t make the same mistake twice. Let me compare this to the baggage Labor leaders are still carrying for the Pink Batts deaths even though they weren’t directly responsible.
And I can’t help but notice that nobody in the media has called out Morrison for the divisive way that he made the call for schools to be reopened. To explain what I mean, you may need to put your views on the subject to one side, because the rights and wrongs of the argument aren’t at issue, I’m talking solely about the approach here.
Schools were a state matter and different states had made different decisions. In Victoria, for example, Dan Andrews announced very early on that schools would be closed at some point in the future. Given every nearly other country affected had done this, it’s hardly controversial. The various states have various differences in policy but, in every state, arrangements are made for some students to attend school.
Then, while NSW is still on school holidays, the PM implores teachers to allow schools to be open for a variety of reasons.
Take a step to one side and ask yourself what’s going on here. We have a National Cabinet of state leaders meeting. They’re the ones making the decisions. Why ask teachers directly? It’s not as if the shutdown was directed by teachers or even teacher unions. This is like asking nurses to do more Covid-19 testing; it’s not their decision. Why ask teachers directly and not work it out with the National Cabinet?
Suddenly, the media are crying for schools to be open. Some kids need to go to school. What about health workers’ children? What about vulnerable students? Schools should be open for these children at least…
Nobody in the media seems to want to report that schools are supposed to be open for anyone in those categories. Nobody in the media is doing a follow-up and asking where it happened, when it’s suggested that children are being turned away.
No, the media are all suggesting that schools are “safe” because there was only a couple of transmissions when NSW Health did a study of fifteen schools which showed they were safe. Nobody in the media asks is this the same NSW Health that the federal government says were responsible for allowing the Ruby Princess passengers to disembark?
Like I said, my concern here is not whether or not schools should reopen. My concern is that there is an almost universal chorus in the media that they’re safe even though virtually every other country has shut them down. Singapore was cited as the exception and it was doing really well. Singapore is being used as example since their spike in the number of cases.
So while Dan Tehan is asking teacher unions to consider all the poor kids who desperately need school, nobody in the media is actually challenging the idea that it’s teacher unions who are making these decisions. While the unions have made various comments about trying to ensure teacher safety, I can’t find a single comment from any of the union websites or media releases suggesting that teachers should refuse to attend school if they reopen, unless the individual teacher is a health risk themselves. But by framing it as though it’s those bloody unions again, we overlook the simple fact that it’s not their decision, nor is anyone going to seek their permission for school to resume as normal.
Similarly, we have the Prime Minister calling for aged care providers to allow their residents to see their relatives. Yes, it’s hard to argue that they should be locked away and prevented from contact but if you were running one, you’d find it hard to justify that you took the risk and allowed visitors when the virus wipes out a number of your clients.
Which brings us to the app. We all need to download it to help end the lockdown sooner because it’s going to make us safer. Again I’m not going to discuss the pros and cons of downloading an app that seems to me the equivalent of showing one where to look for the horses that bolted before the stable door was shut. My concern is the way some people are simply saying that it’s the right thing to do, it’s the patriotic thing to do and anyone who questions it should take a good hard look at themselves because to ask questions is going to slow the return to normal.
When nobody is questioning anything, nobody asks the right questions.
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