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.
Goldfish have a neat survival mechanism to prevent them ever getting bored – by the time they have swum around the bowl they have forgotten the previous lap. It makes them a lot like voters at election time.
This is why we are grateful when our failed candidates enter the fray to remind us of why we voted against them. And while Mark Latham has rightly been drawing attention, like onlookers to a car crash, another leader took centre stage over the weekend to take us back to meaner and trickier times.
As he moved in to give Tony Abbott a man-hug at the Liberal launch, John Howard reminded us of many of Australia’s most forgettable moments. Given that Abbott is running on a “re-elect the Howard Government” ticket it is worth dwelling on our former Prime Minister’s Ten Most Notable Contributions to the Nation.
Downward Envy – John Howard trained Australians to look down the chain when we were feeling low – welfare cheats, single mums, dole bludgers, these were the people making life hard for decent Australians. As profit levels soared and CEO wages sky-rocketed, we tut-tutted the Paxtons. (more…)
Our Prime Minister has joined the bandwagon complaining that this is a focus group- driven election – but isn¹t this the way of the Wiki? After all, books have been written about how the wisdom of the masses provide a more compelling truth than the voice of authority.
With the major parties flexing their muscles on border protection, the Australian public has sent Canberra a message that it is the protection of Australian jobs that is the real security issue for them.
In what looms as the sleeper issue for the 2010 election campaign, a quarter of all voters placed “Australian jobs and the protection of local industries” as key election issue, behind only economic management and health.
As the latest Essential Report shows that economic protectionism towers over headline-grabbing issues like climate change, asylum seekers, housing affordability, industrial laws and population growth as a priority election issue.
Q. Which are the three most important issues in deciding how you would vote at a Federal election?
What is striking about the high rating for protecting Australian industries is that it comes at a time of relatively low unemployment and a period where there has been little or no media attention on Australian jobs being sent offshore.
Instead the issue is emerging from the grass roots, the thousands of Australians in manufacturing industries – and a growing number of workers in white-collar industries like the banking sector – who see their jobs under threat from lower wage economies.
And while our leaders can crow about “turning back the boats”, 25 years of economic deregulation makes it very hard to turn back the corporate people smugglers.
It is an issue where the Liberal Party, with its knee jerk support for big business, pledges to cut government spending and reductions to the size of the public sector is struggling to gain any traction. While it leads on issues like managing the economy and asylum seekers, when it comes to Australian jobs, people trust the ALP to the tune of 42 per cent to 28 per cent. (more…)