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?
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When the floods have receded, the cyclone has blown, the bushfires have burned out and Sydneysiders can sleep again, one question will remain: what if the hippies are right?
Willingness to convince the public there is a link between extreme weather and climate change will go a long way towards determining whether the Prime Minister can meet her own KPI of securing a price on carbon.
Recent history shows that the public responds to the need for action on climate change when warnings are being reinforced by their own experiences and observations. It is no coincidence that support for action peaked in the middle of the last drought and fell away as weather patterns returned to something close to normal.
Now we have a summer from climate apocalypse central casting – but as this week’s Essential Report shows – climate change is barely on the radar.
The nation opened their hearts to Queensland as floods threatened communities and cities over summer, but now they are being asked to open their wallets it appears to be a very different story.
After more than two decades of being conditioned to expect prosperity without sacrifice, Australians seem in no mood to kick the can when it comes to rebuilding Queensland’s infrastructure.
In the first public polling of attitudes towards the proposed floods levy, Essential Research has found majority opposition to the modest impost proposed by the Prime Minister.
Q. Do you approve or disapprove of the Government introducing a one-off levy on taxpayers to pay for damage caused by the recent floods?
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If our politicians are feeling bloody and bruised after a torrid year of spills and thrills, spare a thought for the one group on the national stage that had a harder time of it in 2010 – the humble pollster.
This was the year when hand wringing about the malign impact of political research became a national sport; if there was a problem with politics, political research was the cause. We were to blame for the uninspiring election campaign; for the dumbing down of political reporting; for robbing the ALP of its soul.
So as a purveyor of the Dark Art I want to end the year with a plea for understanding for the minority group I am part of, stealing the catchcry of the Shooters Lobby in the 1990s to proudly declare ‘polls don’t kill people, people kill people’.
Before doing so, I will readily admit that political research can be put to poor use – running focus groups to get ‘permission’ from the electorate to pursue particular policies is to misunderstand the point of such research.
Read Essential's ongoing research on the public response to Covid-19.