It’s been a year of big political fights: about the future of the world; about the future of the nation; and then some that seem to be akin to war over a barren piece of rock in the middle of the Atlantic.
If carbon tax has been the battle for the planet and the mining tax the battle for the nation; then the fight over bringing the budget into surplus could well be the Gillard Government’s Falklands War.
Because while Tony Abbott huffs and puffs and Wayne Swan blows back over who has the littlest one, the presence of a budget deficit in 2012-13 is regarded as a matter of little consequence to most Australians.
For the recovering alcoholic, every day is defined by the decision not to have another drink. The Opposition leader should know how this feels as he attempts to swear himself off WorkChoices.
As the business lobby and former Coalition danger-men like Peter Reith urge him to take a tipple, Tony Abbott is attempting to stay off the juice even as every fibre in his being wants him to say ‘just a little one’.
And the public? They’re just waiting for him to fall off the wagon.
As our Prime Minister and Opposition Leader continue to struggle under the weight of negative approval ratings perhaps the time has come to draw guidance from the humble hagfish.
Tomorrow is official Hagfish Day, a day to celebrate the ‘beauty of ugly’ and make the point it’s not just cute and cuddly creatures that deserve our attention.
Haikus are written, songs are sung, school kids are encouraged to learn more about the slimy deep-sea scavengers.
It’s not that our political leaders are slimy scavengers. Hang on… it’s not that our political leaders bear any physical similarities that make Hagfish Day relevant; but their pursuit of popularity does end up reinforcing all the negatives that drive our disdain with politics.
People are tiring of the gruelling death struggle that federal politics has become and looking back wistfully to a time when the caucuses did not have blood on their hands.
This week’s Essential Report shows that voters are ready to jump into the Bloodbath Time Machine and return to a time when Malcolm Turnbull and Kevin Rudd ruled the political stage like two over-achievers at study camp.
2009 was a more civilised time, when everything had an acronym, the ETS, the GFC, the RRT, the UNHCR and the new PM had convinced the nation that government could address all the problems that had been written down on butcher’s paper at the 2020 Summit.
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.
Pollsters are regularly accused of treating politics like a sporting contest, so given there is no fresh data over Easter it’s time to indulge our inner footy fantasy.
Easter is bit like quarter time in a big game, the key contests are developing, both sides are giving us glimpses of their respective strengths and weaknesses while individual performances are coming under the microscope.
And if you look at the Two-Party Preferred scoreboard Tony Rabbit’s Blues are well ahead of Real Julia’s Reds after a scrappy start to a quarter that was ultimately dominated by one critical play.
The Scoreboard (2PP)
Here is the polling that is driving Scott Morrison’s subterranean attack on Muslims, confirmation that a majority of Australians are concerned about their numbers.
For too long conservative blowhards like Morrison have been running agendas that directly reference these findings but because they have remained hidden in a desk drawer they are merely debating an issue.
After much soul-searching, Essential has decided to commit an act of political interruption. We debated whether it was worth giving voice to these attitudes long and hard, but we believe getting this stuff out in the open is the only way to silence the dog whistle.
Q. Are you concerned about the number of Muslim people in Australia?
|Total||Vote Labor||Vote Lib/Nat||Vote Greens|
|Total not concerned||38%||46%||28%||68%|
|Not very concerned||21%||23%||19%||27%|
|Not at all concerned||17%||23%||9%||41%|
That philosopher to the common-folk, Tony Abbott, is this week dealing with his own slings and arrows as he enters the political twilight zone of disapproval from which some never return.
Despite ongoing difficulties within the Labor Government, Abbott is showing no signs of establishing himself as anything more than an attack dog whose fortunes rise when he runs negative on issues that happen to also be currently unpopular with the public.
This leaves him exposed when he has a bad week, such as the past one when he split his front bench by attempting to come up with a way of paying for flood reconstruction by cutting back anti-terrorism programs before nearly jobbing a TV reporter.
As this week’s Essential Report shows the response has been a sharp rise in disapproval to 46 per cent and drop-off in approvals to 37 per cent. To put this into perspective, the ALP moved on Kevin Rudd when his disapproval rating hit 47 per cent, with 41 per cent approval.
Q. Do you approve or disapprove of the job Tony Abbott is doing as Opposition Leader?
|18 Jan||29 Mar||5 Jul||16 Aug||20 Sep||18 Oct||22 Nov||20 Dec||17 Jan 2011||14 Feb 2011|
New paradigms notwithstanding, the first week of the 43rd Parliament of Australia has confirmed a continuation of the gladiatorial contests that have characterised Australia’s model of presidential politics.
And that means a confronting truth for both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott: the public’s perceptions of their personal strengths and weakness are central to the success of their respective political projects.
There was a time when character research was a dark art, the province of party focus groups, only dusted of at election time when attacks would be constructed around a candidate’s lack of ticker (read weight) or stubbornness (read age). The modern opinion polling means today it’s all out in the open.
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