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Jun 27, 2012
Essential Research

Tries Lies: More Carbon Porkies to Come

First published on The Drum 26 June 2012

The ‘lie’ at the heart of Labor’s carbon tax has assumed legendary status. Never mind that the realities of the supposed falsehood are highly contestable – Labor’s carbon pricing scheme is arguably not a tax at all – “there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead” has become the iconic political lie of our times.

Its ruthlessly successful exploitation by the Abbott Opposition has spawned a political craze in exposing opponents’ lies, in the hope of replicating this highly successful case study in trust-related brand damage.

But what about the Opposition’s penchant for stretching the truth on impacts of the carbon tax?

George Brandis’s assertion the carbon tax was responsible for 1900 job cuts at Fairfax was a cracker, but only a natural extension of years of dubious claims the carbon tax would wipe towns off the map, spark mass shut-downs of industry and send families to the wall under crippling power prices.

With not much else to look forward to, Labor hopes the sun rising on July 1 – towns and families intact – will expose the Opposition’s spurious rhetoric about the carbon tax. Who is calling us liars now, you liars?

The collapse in trust in politics as we’ve reported on before, is a defining feature of our current political culture, driven largely by the kind of negative politics that have characterised the carbon debate.

In this environment, Labor has been unable to win back support for its carbon pricing scheme, with support levels on the eve of its introduction at the same low level they were towards the start of last year.

Q. Do you support or oppose the Government’s carbon pricing scheme which, from July 2012, will require industries to pay a tax based on the amount of carbon pollution they emit?

 

7 Mar 2011

23 May

1 Aug

21 Nov

Total

25 Jun 2012

Vote Labor

Vote Lib/Nat

Vote Greens

Total support

35%

41%

39%

38%

35%

67%

13%

74%

Total oppose

48%

44%

51%

53%

54%

21%

81%

21%

Strongly support

9%

14%

15%

14%

14%

28%

4%

38%

Support

26%

27%

24%

24%

21%

39%

9%

36%

Oppose

19%

15%

19%

17%

19%

12%

24%

13%

Strongly oppose

29%

29%

32%

36%

35%

9%

57%

8%

Don’t know

18%

15%

10%

10%

11%

12%

7%

6%

 

If there’s a positive for Labor there, it’s that it has been able to win the support of its base on this issue, with two-thirds of Labor voters (admittedly a small pool – link to table) supporting the policy.

But despite Labor’s focus on selling the compensation elements of the carbon pricing reform, the public has bought the cost-of-living scare, with 71% believing their cost of living will increase moderately or a lot. A further 20% thought there would be a small increase and just 2% thought there would be no impact. Power, petrol, groceries and fruit and veg – people are expecting the introduction of the carbon tax to be a disaster for their hip pockets.

Q. And what impact do you expect the carbon tax to have on each of the following?

 

 

Increase a lot

Increase a little

Stay much the same

Decrease a little

Decrease a lot

Don’t know

Energy prices

67%

26%

4%

*

3%

Fuel prices

53%

31%

11%

1%

*

4%

Grocery prices

41%

41%

14%

1%

4%

Fresh fruit and vegetable prices

39%

39%

18%

*

*

4%

Unemployment

31%

27%

32%

2%

1%

8%

Interest rates

22%

18%

38%

8%

1%

13%

And herein lies the risk for Tony Abbott.

With the happy bonus that most of us aren’t really too sure what the carbon tax actually is, we can expect plenty more Brandis-style water-muddying as the carbon tax is blamed for job losses, power price rises, divorces and bad haircuts caused by completely unrelated factors.

But what if the Opposition can’t deliver carbon tax Armageddon? What if people accept that any moderate increases in prices have been offset by the one-off ‘cashforyou’ payments and associated support packages? Or, and this may be stretching it, what if the media starts questioning come of the tenuous links between price rises and carbon that the Opposition attempts to exploit?

If the world doesn’t end on Sunday, will people shift their opinion of the Carbon Tax or, worse still for Abbott, start to wonder whether they have been played for fools? Already the rhetoric is shifting from ‘death strike’ to ‘python’s grip’ but is this sustainable as a basis for the daily high-vis vest photo opp that has become the Oppostion’s modus operandi.

Another potential porky lies in the Opposition Leader’s promise to repeal the carbon tax.Abbott has pledged ‘in blood’ there would be no carbon tax under the government he leads.

Currently, we’re fairly evenly split on whether a pledge in blood is actually a core promise, with a slight majority believing he’ll go through with it.

Q. If they won the next election, how likely do you think it would be that Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party would repeal the carbon tax?

 

Total

Vote Labor

Vote Lib/Nat

Vote Greens

Total likely

44%

28%

64%

42%

Total unlikely

40%

62%

22%

41%

Don’t know

17%

11%

14%

17%

 

But what if he can’t get the numbers through the Senate? What if he is forced to negotiate and, God forbid compromise, with those holding the balance of power? Will this be a case of a politician dealing with the hand they are dealt or just another example that all politicians lie?

While it’s easy to dismiss the dealing in truth and lies as business as usual politics, but in turning it into a Weapon of Mass Destruction it will be interesting to see if the Opposition leader has not set set his own future government onto a path of Mutually Assured Destruction.

 

 

May 28, 2012
Essential Research

Reasons Government is Unpopular

Q. Although Australia’s economy is doing very well, according to opinion polls the Government is very unpopular. What do you think is the main reason for this? *

 

Total

Vote Labor

Vote Lib/Nat

Vote Greens

Voters don’t trust the Prime Minister

28%

21%

35%

44%

The carbon tax will increase the cost of living

17%

17%

19%

8%

The economy is doing well for other reasons, like China and the mining boom, not because of the government

15%

13%

19%

5%

Voters are still angry about the treatment of Kevin Rudd.

12%

18%

6%

14%

Voters aren’t benefiting from the strong economy.

12%

10%

14%

8%

The government looks sleazy because of Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper.

4%

5%

3%

8%

Some other reason

8%

12%

3%

11%

Don’t know

3%

5%

1%

3

* Based on those who agree the economy is good.

Respondents who thought the economy was doing well, thought the main reasons for the Government’s unpopularity were that voters don’t trust the Prime Minister (28%), that the carbon tax will increase the cost of living (17%) and that the economy is doing well for other reasons, not because of the Government (15%).

Both Liberal/National and Greens voters said trust in the Prime Minister was the key issue, while Labor voters were somewhat more likely to nominate anger over the treatment of Kevin Rudd.

Apr 2, 2012
Essential Research

Attributes to describe the Prime Minister

Q.  Which of the following describe your opinion of the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard?

 

5 Jul 10

4 Oct 10

7 Feb 11

27 Jun 11

2 Apr 12

Difference

Intelligent

87%

81%

75%

73%

61%

-12%

Hard-working

89%

82%

76%

75%

65%

-10%

A capable leader

72%

59%

52%

42%

38%

-4%

Arrogant

37%

39%

44%

48%

53%

+5%

Out of touch with ordinary people

35%

44%

50%

60%

65%

+5%

Understands the problems facing Australia

68%

55%

52%

44%

41%

-3%

Visionary

48%

38%

30%

26%

25%

-1%

Superficial

51%

52%

54%

+2%

Good in a crisis

61%

46%

46%

41%

36%

-5%

Narrow-minded

28%

35%

43%

46%

53%

+7%

More honest than most politicians

45%

37%

37%

29%

26%

-3%

Trustworthy

49%

42%

40%

30%

25%

-5%

Julia Gillard’s key attributes were hard-working (65%), out of touch with ordinary people (65%) and intelligent (61%).

Major changes since this question was asked in June last year were decreases for intelligent (-12%), hard-working (-10%) and an increase of 7% for narrow-minded.

(more…)

Apr 2, 2012
Essential Research

Attributes to describe the Opposition Leader

Q.  Which of the following describe your opinion of the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott?

 

 

5 Jul 10

4 Oct 10

7 Feb 11

27 Jun 11

2 Apr 12

Change

Intelligent

70%

71%

64%

61%

56%

-5%

Hard-working

76%

78%

72%

75%

68%

-7%

A capable leader

47%

52%

48%

45%

41%

-4%

Arrogant

59%

60%

58%

60%

61%

+1%

Out of touch with ordinary people

57%

53%

54%

57%

54%

-3%

Understands the problems facing Australia

50%

53%

50%

48%

49%

+1%

Visionary

32%

31%

27%

27%

26%

-1%

Superficial

45%

49%

49%

Good in a crisis

40%

42%

41%

40%

36%

-4%

Narrow-minded

56%

53%

51%

54%

54%

More honest than most politicians

33%

32%

31%

32%

30%

-2%

Trustworthy

33%

35%

34%

32%

32%

Tony Abbott’s key attributes were hard-working (68%), arrogant (61%) and intelligent (56%).

Major changes since this question was asked in June last year were decreases for hard-working (-7%) and intelligent (-5%).

(more…)

Apr 2, 2012
Essential Research

Comparison of Leader Attributes

 

Julia Gillard

Tony Abbott

Difference

Intelligent

61%

56%

+5%

Hard-working

65%

68%

-3%

A capable leader

38%

41%

-3%

Arrogant

53%

61%

-8%

Out of touch with ordinary people

65%

54%

+11%

Understands the problems facing Australia

41%

49%

-8%

Visionary

25%

26%

-1%

Superficial

54%

49%

+5%

Good in a crisis

36%

36%

Narrow-minded

53%

54%

-1%

More honest than most politicians

26%

30%

-4%

Trustworthy

25%

32%

-7%

Julia Gillard rates higher than Tony Abbott on out of touch with ordinary people (+11%), intelligent (+5%) and superficial (+5%).

She rates lower than Tony Abbott on arrogant (-8%), understands the problems facing Australia (-8%) and trustworthy (-7%).

(more…)

Mar 27, 2012
Essential Research

Should we ban coal?


Greenpeace campaigner John Hepburn says a move away from coal to renewables is essential and urgent. That’s why his organisation is shifting up a gear to make it happen.

With a tripling of coal exports over the next 10 years, Hepburn says it is more important than ever that Australian communities are prepared to examine mining proposals in their local area.

Responding to the recent controversy over plans for a $6 million fund to challenge the expansion of the coal industry, Hepburn tells 3Q that communities need to have legal assistance to do due diligence on the thousands of documents which accompany new mining proposals.
At the same time, Australia needs to invest in renewable energy technologies, especially as the prices of wind and solar come down while coal and oil prices go up.

Find out more

A recent international study ranked Australia 16th out of 19 countries in being ready to deal with a low-carbon world — ahead of just India, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.

The International Energy Agency – a conservative organisation not known for being ‘green’ – released a report earlier this year concluding that, if we are to have any chance of staying below the 2 degrees Celsius limit governments have set, the last coal fired power station in the world will have been built by 2017 and global coal use will plunge between then and 2035.

Greens senator Christine Milne says Greenpeace’s legal challenge is legitimate despite the condemnation it received from politicians and the coal industry.

Greenpeace has released this blueprint for changing from a dependence on coal to renewables with breakdowns for each year

Mar 5, 2012
Essential Research

Creating a Climate for Change on Carbon

All this fighting and cussing in Canberra has at least silenced the elephant in the Lodge, that $28 per tonne price on carbon.

It seems weeks since Tony Abbott strapped on a reflective vest and imposed himself on a Queanbeyan lunch room, but it’s only months until the price takes affect.

At this point one of two things happens – the sky falls in and Abbott blames the carbon tax or the sky doesn’t fall in and Abbott blames the carbon tax.

So as Julia Gillard prepares to strap on the safety helmet and assume (resume?) the position, here are a few clues from the polling to help her though the difficult times ahead.

1. Never again call the Carbon Price a Tax – It’s not and your concession that a price on carbon as part of the transition to an Emissions Trading Scheme was one of the most spectacular own goals in recent political history. Language does matter.

2. Take it Back to the Science – our polling shows that the biggest single determinant on supporting action on climate change is not party affiliation, age or gender but belief in the reality of climate change. The ability of the denial movement to cloud the science on climate change was decisive. Once the facts were clouded science never really had a chance, being a discipline based on scepticism as it is. Giving science a voice and then finding a forum to spread its word may be too important to trust to the media.

3. Tell the whole Story – support for a carbon price shifts from majority opposition to majority support if the question changes from support for a price on carbon, to include the compensation and investment in renewables that are part of the package. Getting the airtime to get the whole sentence out is vital to selling the measure.

4. Focus on the Car not the Carburettor – the great myth about the carbon price is that the public went from supporters to opponents in one fell swoop of Abbott vitriol. The reality is that the decline in support was first based on confusion as the Rudd-Wong dream team (and we’re talking sleep here) got obsessed with the detail of the CPRS. After 12 months of technical debate most had lost interest and drifted into indifference and confusion. From there they were easy pickings for a scare campaign.

5. Remember the best response to a scare campaign is a scare campaign – Running the high road of caring about future generations will never trump fear and loathing. Better point out as the most carbon-exposed economy in the developed world there are huge economic dangers if we sit back and wait for others to act. Get the markets scared, there is nothing rational about denial.

6. Remember this is the great moral challenge of our times – on this K Rudd was K Rect; it was the backflip that killed him. Dealing with the challenges of climate change is why we entrust our nations to governments – we expert them to make tough decisions in our long-term interests, even if we don’t always like the medicine.

7. And finally, stop pretending you didn’t do something that was brave and right – Like taxing our natural resources, building a national broadband network and giving the disabled a better deal. These are the anchor points of a Labor Government to be proud of. If only it would let us.

Feb 29, 2012
Essential Research

One more promise to break

As Labor attempts to re-unite after its very public family spat there is one more piece of dirty linen that needs to be aired – the self-imposed strait-jacket that is the government’s pledge to bring the budget into surplus by 2012.


Listening to both the victor and the vanquished shift the focus to, ermm, moving forward after yesterday’s spill, there was a list of good works that the government insisted it will pursue with renewed vigour: at the top of the list disability reform, education funding, health reform.

Labor does have a strong set of progressive policy positions ready to roll – the Productivity Commission report into a National Disability Insurance Scheme will revolutionise the delivery of services to society’s most vulnerable; the Gonski review sets out a radical reshaping of schools funding that will shift resources to the public system, the Productivity Commission has also produced a major report into improving services of aging Australians.

All of these are potentially great Labor reforms that speak to Labor values; they will all set up key sectors for the decades to come and they will all benefit big slices of the electorate.

But they also come with significant price tags – NDIS $6 billion per year; Gonski $5 billion, with $%1.5 billion from he feds) and the less-known Aged Care reforms a further $6 billion.

With Labor tied to a 2010 election promise, reinforced last year, to bring the Budget back to surplus – regardless of external economic conditions – by 2012-13, all these initiatives are likely to be left in the starting blocks. Worthy reports gathering dust.

Walking away from the surplus would clearly be a big call for the Government – it would play out in the tabloids as another lie; and as the PM has learnt to her chagrin despite their low level of trust in politicians, the punters will pounce on a lie.

But in insisting it will deliver a budget surplus, no matter how wafer-thin, the Gillard Government is sucking up to the wrong crowd.

Give voters a choice between concrete improvements in key policy issues and delivering a surplus to the books and you get a very clear answer, as this week’s Essential Report shows.

Q. The Gonski report recommends a $5 billion increase in education funding with $1.5 billion of this additional funding coming from the Federal Government and the rest from the State Governments. If the Federal Government provides this additional funding it may mean they will not be able to return the budget to surplus next year.

Do you think it is more important to provide this additional funding for schools or more important to return a budget surplus?

 

 

Total

Vote Labor

Vote Lib/Nat

Vote Greens

More important to provide additional funding to schools

61%

63%

58%

83%

More important to return a budget surplus

24%

25%

29%

11%

Don’t know

15%

12%

12%

6%

This is not just a matter of flaky lefties walking away from self-imposed fiscal confines; indeed Coalition voters are nearly as keen as Labor voters for funds to be released to institute the Gonski reforms.

These findings back more general questions on the budget deficit we asked last November where 69 per cent of respondents favoured delaying a return to surplus if it meant cutting services or raising taxes.

‘Returning the Budget to Surplus’ has become one of those bumper sticker policies that hamstring governments. Like ‘Turning Back the Boats’ it is not only impossible to deliver, it creates a series of knock-on effects that compound the problem.

Worse for Labor, it keeps the economic debate in the abstract frame, the natural territory for conservative governments, rather than placing the economy in its proper context – the forum for improving the lives of ordinary people.

Could they win the argument? Australia’s current debt to GDP ratio is under 10 per cent – many developed OECD nations have levels ten times that rate;  so actually explaining why Australia has set itself this target at a time of falling revenues could shift the conversation.

Indeed, not even Tony Abbott is tying himself to a 2012-13 surplus, so while he would cry ‘liar, liar’ he would not do so from a position of fiscal purity.

Of course, walking away from the surplus guarantee would inflict more pain on a government whose leader already suffers credibility deficit issues. But it might just be that delivering the goods on reform in education, disability and aged care is a better way to establish credibility with the electorate than delivering a wafer-thin surplus as a sop to the business pundits and tabloid press.

After all the hurt and tears for leadership status quo, surely a shift that opened the way for the next wave of social reforms for the young, the aged and the disabled would be a porky worth wearing.

 

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