Tony Abbott’s attempts to turn the nation’s richest households into welfare victims has resulted in a self-inflicted political wedge that turns the Coalition’s creed of self-sufficiency onto its own support base.
It was the sideshow of budget week, reporters scouring the nation for hard-working Aussie families, victims of Labor’s decision to finally begin winding back the system of universal direct cash payments that became a feature of the Howard years.
Manufacturing outrage at the moves to cap payments to families on incomes of under $150,000 was always a big ask; after all a constituency of 15 per cent – concentrated at levels far above the threshold – is hardly a mass movement.
As results from this week’s Essential Report show, the measures had the majority support of not just Labor and Green voters, but also Coalition voters and families earning above the threshold.
Context is everything. All of a sudden Labor’s political predicament does not seem as dire; no-one is dead or missing; nuclear reactors aren’t melting down; the only after-shocks are electoral.
The enormity of the Japan catastrophe wipes everything else from public consciousness, allowing a wounded prime minister and her team to step back from the limelight, reflect and regroup.
As this week’s Essential Report shows, there is a path to repairing the damage the government has suffered and a way of setting up a debate that could, in the long-term, see it regain the political initiative.
Like so much in politics, the secret lies in the questions you ask. Ask whether people support a price on carbon and the answer is a decisive ‘no’.
The magic of Christmas lies in the expectation. You hang out the stocking, leave a piece of cake and a stubbie for Santa and head off to bed.
When you wake up, there it is laid out for you, something shiny and new that you really, really wanted.
In this spirit it should come as no surprise that the Federal Parliament’s final act of the year was the passage of legislation enabling the rollout of the National Broadband Network, the embodiment of Labor’s hope that something better lies around the corner.
And there are grounds for optimism. In an era of cynicism with nearly every aspect of politics – and despite a concerted Opposition attack – this week’s Essential Report shows strong and increasing support for the network.
As if dealing with four independent blokes, a Green bloke and a blokey bloke in charge of the Opposition is not enough, now Julia Gillard is developing a problem with blokes outside the Parliament.
Having politely indicated that they were happy with a female Prime Minister in the lead-up to the federal election, this week’s Essential Report picks up sharp moves in the attitudes of the brotherhood.
In the absence of any compelling policy development to explain the surge, we are left with the Bradley Effect, the theory created to explain why an African-American candidate lost the 1982 race for Governor of California despite having a massive lead in the polls.
The details of the Bradley Effect later, first some numbers from this week’s Essential Report.
Nations may rise and fall by the sweep of history but governments are decided at the kitchen table, where all politics becomes not just local, but personal.
This is the place where bills and mortgage payments are pored over, family budgets are scrutinised, jobs and school are discussed. It is the space in family life where things have to add up.
Anyone trying to dig Labor out of its current hole could start by turning their attention to the kitchen table, because if this week’s Essential Report is anything to go by, Labor is in the middle of an increasingly messy food-fight.
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