Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Damage Done

One of my colleagues, Anne, asked me today if I’d blogged about Craig Thomson. No, I hadn't. I wondered why,  and I’ve narrowed it down to three possibilities:

1.      I don’t care about Craig Thomson or his credit card
2.      I don’t know enough to feel confident I know enough about the details
3.      I have nothing new to contribute to the conversation

It’s really a little bit of all three.  A sitting MP has been accused of serious wrong-doing in a job he held prior to being elected to parliament;  he has been investigated, has been expelled from his political party…but not convicted of a crime. Yet. 

If that’s not intrigue enough, the precarious state of our hung parliament means that any movement - by Thomson, Slipper or any other member of the lower house - could tip the balance and set up a chain reaction leading to the new election Tony Abbott wants so badly.

Overlay that with last night’s Newpoll figures, and Mr Thomson’s situation is simultaneously a Labor nightmare...and entirely irrelevant.

Why irrelevant? Because even though  Labor’s numbers showed some bounce last night, all that is left for the ALP is their rusted-on supporters. Just about everyone who's going to desert the ALP has already gone. Craig Thomson's slow motion political implosion probably won't do a lot more damage.

As for the Newspoll result, it's not easy to determine whether it was simply a correction after the horror story in the last poll, or whether it was a genuine ‘budget boost’. The next set of Newspoll numbers will give a clearer picture of how deep the ALP's hole is...but it won't tell them how to fix it, and might even stabilise Julia Gillard as Leader.

Right now, I can't think of anything that could convince voters to trust this Labor government for another term with Julia Gillard at the helm. 

In the 20 or so months since the last Federal election, the situation has only become more dire for Labor, and despite that, the Coalition has failed to offer a viable alternative. On current numbers, the Coalition would win an election held now, but not because they are liked, or trusted or respected, because they are disliked less, considered less untrustworthy and disrespected less than the ALP. Note that I haven't mentioned Coalition policy: they don't seem to think policies matter, and maybe, in the end, they won't.

Right now, if given a choice, many Australians wouldn’t vote for either of the major parties. In the past three months, the Labor primary has decreased from 35% to 30%...but while the Coalition primary has been above 50%, it's fallen back to 45%, exactly where it was three months ago. The Greens have picked up a whole percentage point, but “others” have picked up 4%.

And really, Craig Thomson's mess is not relevant. While the Coalition makes loud, monotonous and ultimately fruitless calls for Prime Minister Gillard to disregard Thomson’s vote, we know it won’t happen. Thomson is another convenient ALP failure that the Opposition can use to embarrass the Government. Thomson is still a member of the parliament, and his vote is valid. 

Of larger concern is the damage this disgraceful series of events within the HSU has done to the union movement, and to progressive, people-driven, policy in Australia. Organisations like GetUp! will continue to gain relevance and influence, long after Craig Thomson has lost both.

1 comment:

  1. Joe Hockey admitted that the libs would accept Thomsons vote in the unlikely event that he sided with them in a no confidence motion at the National Press Club today.