If we are to take the latest Fairfax Poll at face value and try to analyse the sudden voter turnaround it conjures up a number of possibilities. Those on the right might argue that’s its all the bad news that has confronted Labor since Christmas. One writer lists the following.
Craig Thomson finally got arrested. Other union identities (Williamson, etc) going through their own court proceedings, legal issues, etc. In NSW, two senior former ALP ministers, Eddie Obeid and Ian McFarlane, are in ICAC accused of defrauding NSW of $75 million. Nova Perris “captains pick” looked tokenistic. Long-standing Senator Trish Crossin dumped in the trash through no fault of her own. Makes Gillard look ruthless. PM announces longest election-campaign in the nation’s history. If nothing else, it seemed “weird”. Two senior ministers resign days later. This terrible timing is a strong indicator that they had no idea Gillard was about to announce election-date. Suggestive of secretive and dysfunctional cabinet. Treasurer Swan finally admits that the surplus he promised 200 times won’t be delivered.
If we accept these as legitimate reasons (and they are) then we also need to look at what the electorate is prepared to reject in order to strike a balance. So if this poll is correct it also means (given the margins involved) that the electorate has overwhelming rejected every government policy. Let’s go through them at the same time remembering that the Coalition has none. Well other than a maternity leave policy that economists say is unaffordable. Considering this point is important if we are to understand voting intentions. Otherwise the voter is being asked to make a decision based on incomplete information. If this is so, how seriously do we take this poll? Is it actually saying that the electorate fundamentally rejects all of the following policies in favour of Mr Abbott’s unknown ones? That none has any merit and that they don’t care what his policies are. They will accept them anyway. I think not.
They overwhelmingly reject the need for a price on carbon. This in spite of the fact that it is bedded down and working well. They are prepared for the opposition to rip it up in favour of a plan that economists and environmentalists say will not work. And they are even prepared to go to a double dissolution.
They overwhelmingly reject the need for a broadband network of the standard the government is building and would be happy with a Mickey Mouse network that the experts say is inferior.
They overwhelmingly reject the need for a better and more equal education system for their children and think that the Gonski report is not worthy of implementation despite it receiving loud applause from academics and the public. Remember the Coalition had said they are happy with the current system.
They overwhelmingly reject the need for an NDIS and are happy with the status quo. Again this policy has received widespread community support. The Coalition while supporting it say it is not in their immediate plans.
They would overwhelmingly forgo any possibility that gay folk would ever achieve marriage equality.
They would overwhelmingly forgo any possibility that Australia might ever become a republic with its own head of state. Not even a plebiscite.
They overwhelmingly think it’s fine for families to lose their school hand outs that help to pay for school fees etc.
They overwhelmingly accept that a large portion of the population (3.6 million and mainly women) will have their taxes increased.
They overwhelmingly say that they are not interested in a 3% increase in their superannuation.
They overwhelming think its fine for the Opposition to rip up the Murray Darling agreement.
They overwhelmingly reject the Government’s handling of the economy which most observers believe to be amongst the best in the world. If not the best.
They overwhelmingly want to get rid of the mining tax despite it having the potential, repeat, potential to spread the wealth of the nation.
They overwhelmingly could not care less that between 13,000 and 20,000 public servants will lose their jobs.
So they have decided overwhelmingly to reject all this even without an Opposition card on the table.
Now I could probably go on and some might also add some other policy areas but these suffice to make my point.
And of course we have a judge finding that members of a political party (The LNP) conspired with James Ashby to use the courts to bring a false claim against the speaker of the house with the eventual intent of bringing down the government. Do I take it that this means nothing to the electorate?
Or do I argue that the average punter has not yet had enough information to make a considered judgement and the ramifications of what a vote for the coalition might mean in real terms? Is the poll seriously suggesting that the electorate has already overwhelmingly rejected all of these policies? That none are worth a pinch? Could it mean that they don’t care and they simply dislike a women in The Lodge and are prepared to forgo any policy at all? It could also mean that the bias of the press and the media in general has been extremely persuasive. And how does one explain the turn a round in the popularity of Tony Abbott from one the most disliked opposition leaders ever, to being more popular than the Prime Minister? You simply cannot.
So all this is strange. There was a Morgan Poll after Christmas that showed the government one percentage point behind the opposition. Was it so far out as to be worthless? On the Café Whisper’s blog in the piece There’s something odd about the Nielson Poll the writer lists in chronological order the political events since Christmas and suggests that there is nothing out of the ordinary that might be a reason for Labor’s demise in the polls. I agree, except that the manner in which the media reported them demonstrated a bias that colours the public’s perception of both the Prime Minister and her Government. The resignation of two ministers was but one example. The media response to this was a complete and utter disgrace and the ABC were at the forefront. And of course there is the ever present Rudd challenge that has developed into some sort of media fetish. Every article is written in a manner to suggest objectivity but there is little of it and they are full of unsupported statements. It has reached the point in this country where the media believes its own unsubstantiated bullshit. It has gone from reporting news to making it and in the process prostituted itself.
Could it be that opinion polls are about a perception in time and not a reality of it? Going by this one, hundreds of thousands of people came back from their Christmas holidays after giving much of their time to deep thoughts on the political process and decided that Tony was a good bloke after all. If I were a swinging voter how could I reasonably be expected to say who I might vote for? I would inclined to say: “More info please”.
Opinion polls are now the news. Bring on the next one. WHOOPS, sorry I said that.
And an afterthought. Why not simply ask this question: “How to you think the Coalition’s policies stack up against the governments?” That might confuse the punters.
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