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.
If the mid-term drubbings and G20 currency fisticuffs with China are not enough, Barack Obama will return home with more bad news: Australians think his nation has lost its mojo.
While Julia Gillard and entourage were all smiles at the official photo call, they politely chose not to disclose they were representing a nation that thinks the USA is in decline.
In fact, 60 per cent of all surveyed in this week’s Essential Report see the American Empire’s influence becoming weaker, with just 20 per cent believing the USA’s influence on the world is on the rise.
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.
Joe Hockey is swanning around the airwaves like the coolest kid at school, convinced he’s discovered a new fad that’s sure to catch on. It’s called regulation and it rocks.
Of course many old hands may wonder whether all Joe has done is stumble upon a bit of retro, like some early Midnight Oil recordings, but right now Joe is stoked, he’s got a new tattoo and everyone is checking him out. Even the Greens want to play with him.
Still, if the old post-election cliche that the ‘people always get it right’ has any sort of credibility, Joe’s biggest risk is he’ll soon be overtaken by a bunch of converts who want to take the trend way more seriously than a wide-boy with a beat-box can.
As the latest Essential Report shows, there are votes to be won in regulating the bastard banks, especially in a week when Westpac is tipped to tip the Big Four’s profits over the $20 billion mark.
If political progressives want to stop the ALP from drifting to the Right, energetically backing the decision to move women and children out of immigration detention looks like a good place to start.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Immigration minister Chris Bowen took the new minority government’s first truly brave decision last week, yet all they got was a sullen acceptance from a Left still acting like jilted lovers after the disappointments of the election campaign.
As the Federal Government attempts to quell the backlash to its plans to save the Murray Darling by slowing the process to a crawl, it would do well to consider the lessons of the recently aborted Emissions Trading Scheme.
If there were a structured training program for politicians (and maybe there should be) the former Rudd government’s failure to deliver on its commitment to address climate change would be a required text.
It is a story of how tortured process can kill off reform, confuse would-be supporters, drain the public of confidence in their government and ultimately leave leaders in a no-win situation.
Attempting to manage public confidence in the war in Afghanistan, the Labor Party is exposing its left flank in a way that calls into question three decades of political centrism.
These are challenging times for the ALP, with minority control in Canberra, hand-wringing election post mortems and flagging state administrations around the nation. A key theme appears to be ‘Labor has lost its way’.
But what is the ALP way? Since at least the Whitlam era, Labor orthodoxy has been that the occupation of the centre ground was a precondition for electoral success. Careers were built on the tough work of shifting Labor from ideological dogma to more pragmatic policies.
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.
It’s time to put an end to all this partisan negativity. At a time when people are looking to our leaders for vision, it is great to see a political party step up with a long-term vision for the nation.
I am referring of course to the Coalition’s decision to destroy the National Broadband Network and all who promote it and instead uphold Australian values by promoting a more leisurely pace of download.
While the public may be firmly behind the NBN as detailed in today’s Essential Report, I wonder how many have really thought through the implications of faster efficient broadband on their already busy and cluttered lives.
Sometimes a response to a polling question comes along that makes you re-evaluate your preconceived ideas, where the public’s refusal to confirm your gut instincts forces you to have a fresh look at the evidence before you.
Asking people to cast stones at the media’s reporting of the federal election seemed like a simple enough exercise, the public would confirm the media did a poor job and we could all wring our hands about democracy once again denied.
But hold the presses. Something is amiss. Fewer than a quarter of respondents to the Essential Report join the party. One third rate the coverage at election time ‘good’, a further 40 per cent ‘average’. And far more say the media ‘gave fair coverage of all parties’ than thought they favoured a particular side.
Two Party Preferred: 20 May 2013
In this week's report:
19 Sep 2012
Lewis and Woods talk through this week’s polling numbers: voting intention, leader attributes, drug laws in Australia, and more…
12 Sep 2012
Ken Morrison says our cities need to be transformed for our ageing population – and it’s not solely about nursing homes.
11 Sep 2012
Tim Ayres wishes Clive Palmer and other mining giants would give local manufacturers a go instead of heading overseas.
11 Sep 2012
Nadine Flood questions whether governments take our science and other publicly funded breakthroughs for granted.