Now I know that many of you will have heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need, but for those who’ve never seen it, it looks something like this:
The basic idea is that one needs to meet the needs at the bottom before one aspires to the needs at the top. In order to demonstrate this, I’ll use a fictitious account of a young, homeless woman called Grace.
Grace is on the street and hungry when a man approaches her and tells her that he has a spare room and food and he hates to see anyone like this. While Grace is suspicious of his motives, sleeping rough isn’t safe either so she goes back to his house where she is fed and shown a room where she can sleep. With most of her physiological needs met, she barricades the door to make herself feel safe and gets some sleep.
After a few days, she comes to accept that the man has no ulterior motive and that she can come and go as she pleases and he is no threat to her. He gives her jobs to do so that she doesn’t feel like she’s relying on his charity. However, she feels no sense of belonging.
One day, on the way to the grocery store, she sees a guy rummaging through the bin looking for food. She approaches him and offers him some money so that he can buy food. He stands and looks her in the eye. He is strikingly good-looking. He tells her that his name is Pedro and that he has no need of her money because it perpetuates a capitalist system which is destroying the planet and that he prefers to scrounge for the wasted food and to live in the streets because that places less pressure on the planet.
Ok, I could go on for several pages with the love story that develops and how Grace is attracted to Pedro and all her dilemmas about whether she can leave her comfortable room to fulfil the next rung of needs: Love and Belonging. And how her decision to turn her back on the charity of the other man gives her Self-Esteem and that she rises above her need for food and shelter.
However, I’m not going to do that for three reasons: 1. I’d just be writing another sexist story about how a woman keeps getting saved by men. 2. It doesn’t fit with Maslow’s concept and 3. This is really more about elections and the story is just a vehicle for a lot of silly stereotypes that are so prevalent in the media.
I’m not suggesting that the Man is the government and that Pedro is The Greens, but I am suggesting that Grace is the electorate.
And this brings me quite neatly to the problem with how polls are used, viewed, analysed, and in the end quite meaningless unless we get to vote on things much more frequently. In the end, people are most focused on their immediate needs so they’ll vote for the party that appeals to their needs at the lower end of the hierarchy. This is why a fear campaign works well at times. And a party can scoop up some votes with the next step on the hierarchy with a sense of Love and Belonging. “As Australians…”
Before one allows something as important as battling climate change to affect one’s vote, one usually has to be high up on the hierarchy of needs. Consequently, Joel Fitzgibbon is appealing to those in his electorate who feel their jobs are threatened by any action, even though inaction won’t save their jobs in the long term.
When we start to look at the next election in terms of Grace, we can clearly see that it’s not that she objects to Pedro’s ideas about helping save the planet; it’s just that her more immediate needs are being met by the man who took her in. And so it is with the current Coalition government: they’ve taken a lot of people in.
But when looking forward to the next election, the question needs to be asked, does the electorate feel a strong sense of loyalty and gratitude to Scott Morrison and his merry men, or does it – like Grace – just feel that they’re better than sleeping on the streets. While the electorate may not embrace the extreme Pedro, it’s not because they don’t want to help save the planet. It’s just that they don’t want to put their own needs at risk. And any political party that can make them feel like it’s not threatening those needs can make the electorate aspire to feeling self-esteem and to do their bit for the world.
This is not just true of climate change. There are a whole range of issues where the polls tell us that the electorate would be behind a whole range of changes – take the marriage equality vote as an example – but we’re made to view them as risky by those opposing the particular change. In the case of renewable energy, we used to be told that people were against it because it was more expensive. Now that the costs are down, we’re told that it’s because it doesn’t deliver “base-load power” when the sun doesn’t blow and the wind doesn’t shine, or whatever that slogan is. What happens when batteries make that argument irrelevant? Well, I can just hear the PM telling us: “Isn’t it worth paying a few cents more for your power to keep coal-miners employed?”
Snigger at that if you think I’m being ridiculous, but remember that this is the government that had Dan Tehan tell us that the vaccine rollout “wasn’t a race”. Why not? Well, because the Melbourne Cup is a race, so…
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Ok, we all know that if Labor is elected that our borders will be weaker, the deficit will blow out, the tax cuts for companies won’t go through, it’ll rain all day except in drought areas and the chooks will stop laying. Not only that, we won’t have the stability that we now have because Labor changed Prime Minister twice in six years and the Liberal have only done it once in three years.
However, it’s the Labor Party who are running a scare campaign on Medicare. The Liberals have no plan to privatise it. Didn’t Malcolm say “never ever” and while some people are reminded of John Howard’s “never ever” on the GST or Tony Abbott’s “ironclad guarantee” on the Medicare safety net before the 2004 election, that’s rather unfair on Mr Turbull. He’s not the sort of man to say one thing one moment, and another the next. He said that he supports same sex marriage and the Republic and action on climate change, and he still supports all those things. Ok, he may not do anything about them but that’s because he’s been busy with the job of being PM. It’s a big job which involves working very, very hard to ensure that Labor isn’t elected because they’ve promised action on all the things that Turnbull supports, and if that happened there’d be nothing left for Turnbull to do if he ever actually gets into power instead of just being the figurehead.
Some people have unkindly suggested that the Brexit vote should be good for Labor because it should show the people the consequences of not thinking before you vote and just blindly taking your lead from the Murdoch papers. Only after the vote to leave the EU, the argument goes, did Rupert’s papers start to explain what the consequences of leaving would be. Surely it should be a wakeup call to the people of Australia. However, this overlooks the fact that most people who read Andrew Bolt will hardly be aware that the vote took place, let alone the fact that many of the “Leave” voters are rather unhappy now that they’re discovering that it may have consequences that they hadn’t considered. Not only that, but the leaders of the “Leave” campaign, such as UKIP’s Nigel Farrage now saying that they never promised that there’d be oodles of extra cash for spending on Health… Somebody else painted that “promise” on the side of buses.
But let me be quite clear here. Labor’s suggestion that just because the Liberals have a Medicare Privatisation unit set up is no reason to think that Medicare would ever be privatised. If you’ve still got doubts I suggest that you read this article from “The Guardian” written last year:
There now, what could be clearer than that. They don’t want to privatise anything. They just think it would be better if the whole thing were opened up to competition from the private sector. I mean, look how long you spend waiting to speak to someone at Centrelink, whereas when you ring any private company, your call is answered by the next available operator.
No, there’s no doubt at all. The Government has given us their assurance and they know that if they lied to us, there’d be consequences. Why just remember how people over-reacted when Tony Abbott’s “No cuts” statements were misinterpreted as meaning that they wouldn’t cut spending. People got very cross and they had to change Prime Ministers. If Turnbull was lying, why the Liberals would just have to change leaders again to appease people. And Malcolm certainly doesn’t want that. As he keeps saying, “It’s a very exciting time to be Australian now that I’m PM and anybody who isn’t saying how lucky they are is just an ungrateful whinger!”
So vote Liberal this Saturday. You know that Medicare is safe and will “never ever” be privatised and that the plan to let Telstra manage the data has been shelved and was never a real plan like the one where they support jobs and growth. You know the one; if we create enough jobs at $4 an hour then there’ll be a really big growth in the bank balances of the people employing them.
Six months out from both the US and Australian elections the polls were adamant that the incumbent administrations were doomed.
At home, Tony Abbott was rubbing his hands with glee at the certain prospect of a permanent move to Canberra.
In America last year, six months out from their election the opinion polls and much of the media were suggesting that President Barack Obama looked destined for only one term of office. America was in damage control and his popularity was plummeting to new lows. In May we saw that:
. . . polls indicate President Obama is trailing his Republican opponent Mitt Romney. The Rasmussen poll shows a 47 to 45 percent race with Republicans enjoying a 7 point lead in a congressional generic ballot. Meantime, the newest CBS News/ New York Times poll shows the president trailing Romney 46 to 43 percent among registered voters. The economy remains the most important issue to voters, with 62 percent voters and most Americans (67 percent) believing the economy is in bad shape, all troubling signs for the president. Romney leads the president among independents and women. The president had been leading with women last month in this poll.
They showed a commanding lead lead to Romney. If the election was held in May Obama would have been swept from office. But just three months later, as the polling day in November drew closer there was witnessed a sharp swing towards him.
Barack Obama has opened a significant lead over Mitt Romney in a Bloomberg National Poll that reflects the presumed Republican nominee’s weaknesses more than the president’s strengths.
Obama leads Romney 53 percent to 40 percent among likely voters, even as the public gives him low marks on handling the economy and the deficit, and six in 10 say the nation is headed down the wrong track, according to the poll conducted June 15- 18.
If voters considered that Obama hadn’t handled the economy and was heading the nation down the wrong track, why then did they favour him over Mitt Romney? Sampling of the people who were polled provided us with the answer. It was, simply, Romney’s irreparable image:
A majority of likely voters, 55 per cent, view him as more out of touch with average Americans.
He hasn’t fulfilled a lot of his campaign promises, but I would vote for him (Obama) anyway because Romney would be extremely destructive for this country.
His perspective is you just let the free market take care of everything, and we’ll go right down the toilet drain, and everything — all the jobs — will go straight to Asia.
I think the guy is a little bit out of touch, because he has too much money to understand what a guy like me deals with.
It was crunch time for Romney at home. It was not much better for him on the international stage:
The British were offended, the Palestinians accused him of racism and even in friendlier Poland, Mitt Romney’s union policies drew criticism from the current leaders of the movement that toppled communism.
Romney’s visit to Britain, Israel and Poland was never expected to produce the same media frenzy as then-candidate Barack Obama’s extravagant, eight-country tour of 2008.
Obama received rock star treatment from international media and world leaders as he travelled from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan to the glittering chancelleries of Europe.
Nevertheless, comparisons were inevitable and much of it was less than favourable to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
“The designated Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney wanted to demonstrate foreign policy expertise and diplomatic skills with his trip to Britain, Israel and Poland,” the Swiss newspaper Tages-Zeitung said Tuesday. “Today, on the last day of the tour, he must be made to admit that he clearly missed this target.”
Despite their previous history of perceived arrogance and assumptions that the rest of the world can be damned, it seems Americans now expect their leader to stand tall on the international stage. Romney doesn’t.
It was clear that as the election loomed on the horizon the blowtorch was finally applied to the alternative President and people were seriously taking a long hard look at the challenger. After a long period of condemnation towards Obama they eventually turned their glare to Romney. When it counted – on the eve of the election – they were expressing doubts about having a President who was out of touch with them, who had no understanding of the issues faced by them, who was unable to generate a feeling of trust and security, and who would not represent them proudly on the international stage.
That’s what happened in America.
In Australia, many of us in the Fifth Estate similarly see in Tony Abbott a person who is out of touch, who has no understanding of the issues we face, who is unable to generate a feeling of trust and security, and who would not represent us proudly on the international stage. Our glare has been fixed for some time, but as the election here looms closer will the public and media blowtorch finally be applied to him.
I have no doubt that, if it is, he will quickly go the way of Mitt Romney. In the year leading up to their respective elections they have traveled similar paths. The stand out is their shared value of being out of touch with the average voter.
The international expectations of being Prime Minister of Australia certainly are not the same league as being President of the United States, however, that should mean nothing to the Australian voters who will be more likely to vote on local issues. At home, to quote Douglas Evans:
To me we stand on the brink of a social/political/economic/environmental catastrophe of unparalleled proportions.
In Tony Abbott we have an unusual case. He is against every social, environmental and economic reform imaginable. Surely this is an indication that he is out of touch with much of the electorate.
How out of touch? Let’s consider some of the issues:
Same-sex marriage: Mr Abbott has said marriage is between a man and a woman not just to fulfill their own personal happiness ”but because we have obligations to the children that come with families”.
Homosexuality: Federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott has defended comments he made about homosexuality on 60 Minutes, saying gays and lesbians “challenge” the order of things.
Mr Abbott said he felt “threatened” by homosexuality on the program, a comment that has angered the gay and lesbian community and something he tried to back track from during an interview on the ABC.
“There is no doubt that it (homosexuality) challenges, if you like, orthodox notions of the right order of things” Mr Abbott told Lateline.
Abortion: “Christians aren’t required to right every wrong in the political arena, but they can help change the nation’s culture, suggests Tony Abbott despite the debt that political institutions owe to the West’s Christian heritage, there is the constant claim that Christians in politics are confused about the separation of church and state. There’s also a tendency among Christians in the community to think that Christians in politics have to sell out their principles in order to survive. Christian politicians are often warding off simultaneous accusations that they are zealots or fakes. Indeed, the public caricature of a Christian politician is hypocrite or wuss, in denial about the ruthlessness and expediency necessary to wield power, or too sanctimonious to be effective. Take the challenge of abortion. The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience”.
Boat people: Tony Abbott claimed boatpeople were acting in an un-Christian manner. So is sinking the boats.
Euthanasia: “Legalising euthanasia in Australia would put elderly people at risk of being “bumped off”, federal Health Minister Tony Abbott has warned, after an Australian man traveled to Switzerland to legally end his life”.
The needy: “We can’t abolish poverty because poverty in part is a function of individual behaviour”.
Women’s rights: Tony Abbott warns women against sex before marriage. And how about this brain fart: “I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons”.
Recognition of Indigenous culture: “Western civilisation came to this country in 1788 and I’m proud of that . . . Aboriginal people have much to celebrate in this country’s British Heritage”.
Climate change: As a climate denier, Tony Abbott is most famous for his statement that climate science is “absolute crap“. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg – he actually has a long history of denying climate change science. “The fact that we have had if anything cooling global temperatures over the last decade, not withstanding continued dramatic increases of carbon dioxide emissions, suggests the role of CO2 is not nearly as clear as the climate catastrophists suggest.”
Technology: “There is no way on God’s earth that we need to be spending $50 billion plus of borrowed money on what is going to turn out to be a telecommunications white elephant – school halls on steroids.”
Foreign investment: Tony Abbott made headlines recently when during a visit to China, he declared that “it would rarely be in Australia’s national interest to allow a foreign government or its agencies to control an Australian business”.
In other words: foreign direct investment by such entities would not be welcome.
Divorce: Liberal Party frontbencher Tony Abbott wants laws toughened up to make divorce harder. The opposition families and Aboriginal affairs spokesman has called for a return to the fault-based system of divorce discarded in 1975, which was replaced by a “no-fault” system. Mr Abbott’s plan, outlined in his book Battlelines, would see a grounds for divorce reintroduced, including adultery, cruelty, habitual drunkenness and imprisonment. It would be similar to the defunct Matrimonial Causes Act.
Pensioners: “Tony Abbott’s Liberals have re-confirmed they will claw back hundreds of dollars from Australian pensioners. The Member for Curtin, Julie Bishop confirmed on Channel 10 Breakfast that an Abbott Government will rip away the latest increase to the pension – $338 a year for single pensioners on the maximum rate and $510 a year for pensioner couples on the maximum rate”.
Low paid workers: “The Coalition has today confirmed that they would re-impose a 15 per cent tax on Australia’s lowest paid workers (earning below $37,000) including 2.1 million women”.
Democracy: In his address to the National Press Club this week he told us he likes democracy and: “Government is important – my colleagues and I are in the parliament because it matters and because we care about our country – but, in a democracy, the people must come first”.
Yes, of course. That’s why he has tried every trick in the book to bring down a duly elected Government; a Government he calls “illegitimate”, “inherently unstable” and “toxic” to name a few.
Small business: “Tony Abbott has confirmed that the Liberals will cut vital tax breaks for Australia’s more than two million small business men and women if elected in September. Mr Abbott has pledged to scrap the instant asset tax write-off, which allows small businesses to claim a deduction for the full value of each new asset costing up to $6,500 after one year”.
With such a suite of archaic views he belongs in a museum, not politics.
According to the opinion polls Tony Abbott now has a more formidable opponent. But this might mean zilch if the blowtorch isn’t applied to him like it was to Romney in the latter stages of the US campaign. As noted above, 55 percent viewed him as being out of touch with average Americans. Locally, how many Australians would consider Abbott to be out of touch with them if Abbott’s views (above) were given more prominence in the media?
The other big move against Romney was the perceived embarrassment he would cause on the international stage. Abbott is more safe in that regards. As yet he hasn’t had the opportunity to make a global fool of himself. It’s up to the Australian voters to decide if they think he would.
Personally, I think there is enough evidence mounting that Abbott will continue down Romney’s path: One that started out leading to the highest office in the land to one that did a U-turn at the last minute. The key of course, is dependent on Australians seeing in Tony Abbott the same as Americans saw in Mitt Romney those negative aspects that they ignored for so long, until it mattered. I will repeat them: a person who is out of touch, who has no understanding of the issues we face, who is unable to generate a feeling of trust and security, and who would not represent us proudly on the international stage.
Could it only happen in America?
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