Monday, February 25, 2013

Caaanbra: Voter Intent

If you believe the polls of the past few weeks, Prime Minister Gillard’s new semi-hipster specs will be undermined and overthrown by the smoother, newly oranged Tony Abbott and his team of non-communicators. The major Polls – Neilsen, Newspoll, Galaxy, Essential – are all indicating that last year’s steady ascent of Julia Gillard is just so 2012, and that this is the year of the Abbott. Snake. Abbottsnake.

Of course, none of that will happen if the wildcard entry, Mr Kevin “I’m still from Queensland, still trying to help” Rudd ascends to the top of the ALP tree once more. The would be a game-changer. Professional pundits are drooling in anticipation of an ALP Leadership spill, which they seem to believe Kevin Rudd will win. They’re not talking out of their fedoras either: they are reporting the fears of senior ALP ministers, who have stated that the latest polling numbers make it impossible for the ALP to win in September. Many seem to believe that they have to make some changes.
Labor MPs were rocked by recent polls, which showed the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, ahead of Ms Gillard as preferred prime minister, jumping nine points to 49 per cent with her support slipping by five points to 45 per cent.

It followed a poor start to the election year for Labor, which was marred by policy and political errors, the failure of the mining tax, and the prominent emergence of Mr Rudd even as he called on people to ''take a cold shower'' over the leadership.
I really don’t want to discuss polls – there are people far more qualified to talk about them than I am. What fascinates me is what on earth could’ve happened in the past few weeks to turn what was looking like a very close election into a Coalition sure thing, Rudd notwithstanding. It’s not Ms Gillard’s specs, and it’s not Mr Abbott’s fake tan. I doubt it’s the arrest of Craig Thomson, or the whole Peter Slipper/Mal Brough brou-ha-ha. Ha-ha.

Is it policy? Has someone announced something, other than the date of the election, that would edge voters one way or the other? Are Australians more willing to risk a future with Tony Abbott and a sketchy policy than a government without Nicola Roxon and Chris Evans?

Is it absence of policy? Has the Liberal “leak” of Mr Abbott’s plan to build a hundred damns to drought-proof Australia been a winner? Perhaps just a glimmer of a suggestion of the hope of a policy is enough to convince voters that it’s time for change.

Is it the separation of the “other” Coalition, when Greens leader Christine Milne virtually told the government to shove off? I honestly doubt that has much to do with anything, but I thought I should mention the Greens, in case we’re watching the end of their obituary right now. Still, it will be interesting to see how many voters are genuine greenies, and how many were voting green as a way of ensuring a government that was slightly to the left of the other guys, without actually voting for Labor.

Because I am a lefty, I very much doubt that many conservatives read this blog, but for the one or two of you who do, this question is for the conservatives: Can you honestly say that you understand what the lefties are on about? Do you "get" leftie-speak, or is it just JuLiar and nasally accent going "blah blah carbon tax, blah blah misogyny, blah blah Gonski, blah blah blah."

And now, the same sort of questions for my leftie readers: Do you understand the conservative side of politics and the people who support conservative politics? How about conservative priorities, their thought processes, their leadership? When you think of Tony Abbott’s recent public appearances, are you aware of anything other than him turning orange and avoiding any and all serious media interviews?

Perhaps you're one of those progressive types who likes to watch Fox News so you can feel superior to Bill O'Reilly and his Low-Fact Friends in the All-Spin Cycle. Perhaps, like the IPA's James Paterson, you only enjoy QandA for the obscenities that the irrelevant ponces on the ABC trot out week after week. Fine – I’m in favour of mocking, providing some degree of intelligence and awareness of the issues is involved. Without understanding what you’re mocking, it’s not mocking; it’s trolling.

I'm not asking if you agree with the other side; that would be weird, unless you're Malcolm Turnbull. I'm just fascinated to know if you understand what drives the conservative, as opposed to what drives the lefty. At some level, it must come down to "what's in it for me", but that can't be all, particularly when both sides are promising more than they can pay for.

As the disparate sides of Australian politics awkwardly two-step together towards the right, there's not much between the core party platforms. The action, the fun stuff, is at the extremes, with the extremists. Out there, a party’s values still drive policy. It's great television, but not relevant to most average voters. Most Coalition supporters probably don’t support the platforms of the Australian Christian Lobby or the Galileo Movement, just as most Labor supporters aren’t gay Marxist baby-killing tree-huggers. Most of us are here, in the middle, staring at eachother over a wet cigarette paper.

I despair at the level of political debate I hear around me, sometimes on media, sometimes at the water cooler. But what have we done to improve it? What has anyone done? Who has accountability for ensuring that the people in this country who are required by law to turn up at a polling place know what they’re voting for and why?

I support compulsory voting, where everyone has a single, equal vote...and yet, if I vote Liberal in my seat because I don't like Julia Gillard's glasses is it a valid choice? It's definitely a valid vote, but was it made by someone in possession of the facts?

That's one of those horrible questions that keep me awake at night.

Now it's your turn. You can thank me later. 

BTW, there's a silly little poll on this very subject in the right hand column of this very blog. What drives your voting decisions?

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